Digital Pens Help Doctors Speed Claims

Teaming with Accenture, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield tests a digital pen solution by Logitech that improves its refund-processing cycle.

Although many insurance claims that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield gets each year are handled electronically, about 20 percent are handwritten forms sent through the U.S. Postal Service by doctors offices that have yet to go digital.

As such—and as anyone whos tried to decipher a doctors handwriting can imagine—managing those paper claim forms can be problematic for the insurance company and lead to, among other things, long payment delays.

With paper claims, doctors offices typically have to "batch em up and send them through snail mail," said Jane Niederberger, CIO for Anthem, in Indianapolis. "Then we send them back through U.S. mail if we cant read them. It takes a while to get a clean claim."

To try to remedy the problem, Anthem met with systems integrator Accenture several months ago. The companies scheduled the meeting to collaborate on an overall IT strategy for the insurance company, but the paper problem was too big to ignore.

Anthem was convinced that by moving more doctors offices to electronic systems, it could save money, as well as improve turnaround times on refund claims.

Accenture, of Reston, Va., wasted no time in suggesting a solution that would enable doctors to fill out paper forms with digital pens. The Logitech io Personal Digital Pens from Logitech Inc. capture the information as its being written. Once a form was completed, a doctor would only have to dock the pen in a docking station for the forms information to be downloaded to back-end systems for processing.

Within weeks, Accenture had developed a pilot program with channel partner Standard Register and its ExpeData Digital Pen and Paper solution.

While Standard Register chose the Logitech pens for the first phase of the pilot, it will likely switch to pens from Nokia Corp. for a second phase that will involve testing a Bluetooth wireless version of the system, said company officials in Dayton, Ohio. A wireless process would eliminate the need to dock the pen and even allow doctors to file claims directly from a cell phone.

/zimages/3/28571.gifDirect filing of claims could hurt WebMD Corp.s push as a provider of transaction services. Click here to read more.

From concept to deployment, it took Anthem and Accenture about a month to implement the pilot program in 10 doctors offices across Kentucky and Indiana.

To the doctors filling out forms in those offices, the Logitech digital pen resembles a ballpoint pen in feel and function, allowing them to fill out digital paper forms naturally. But under the pens hood, an internal camera takes 50 pictures a second, capturing all the doctors pen strokes.

Vicki Van Meter, office manager for the Indianapolis-based pediatrician Dr. Gerold Butler, has been testing the system for about three weeks. Butlers office, which sees about 20 patients a day, files approximately 15 to 20 claims a day. It typically receives refunds on paper claims in about four to six weeks, she said.

"It cuts two to three weeks off of the mailing time, and it wipes out mistakes for us right away," said Van Meter. "If we messed up on the claim, they can tell us the next morning, This claim doesnt make any sense."

"The pen works perfect. All we see is a ballpoint pen. It looks just like youre writing with a ballpoint pen," Van Meter said. "It saves on postage, too."

Anthems Niederberger estimates that the digital pen solution takes about one-third of the time needed to process comparable paper claims, which boils down to significant cost savings. For example, paper claims typically cost $2.50 each, compared with the electronic version, which costs 14 cents a claim, she said. Using the digital pen and optical character recognition falls in between, at 49 cents a claim, she said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about WebMD building access to payers with its purchase of ViPS Inc.

Niederberger added that the company is always looking for opportunities to streamline business. "And when you find something like this thats very easy, cost-effective and nonintrusive, its like, Why not?" she said.

"By the physician using the pen and directly transmitting, we get immediate feedback, a very quick turnaround time and cleanliness of claims," Niederberger said. "Were delighted by how fast we can turn around claims, and it costs less money to process."

Van Meter said her office would use the technology only if it were provided for free by the insurance company. Niederberger said the results of the pilot test will determine how the company will roll out the technology.

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