Evaluating Medical Transcription Billing Methods:

Vol. 13 •Issue 24 • Page 22
Evaluating Medical Transcription Billing Methods:

Does the BMP seal help?

When shopping around for medical transcription services, evaluating billing methods can be a daunting task. Does the service charge for every keystroke? Are we being charged per line? How many characters define a line? There are many questions about consistency when it comes to pricing among transcription service providers. However, the Medical Transcription Industry Alliance (MTIA) has taken a first step to clarify this process by introducing the concept of billing method principles (BMPs) among supporting MTIA member companies.

“After the 2000 MTIA Conference, the organization’s president formed a work group of directors to focus on the industry’s issues with billing practices and measurement standards,” explained Sean Carroll, MTIA’s current president and CEO of Webmedx Inc. “During the first six months we looked at many different ideas, including the possibility of a standard measurement for billing purposes.”

Carroll explained that the work group looked at the issue from all constituents’ vantage points and came to a universal conclusion. “The work group found that its best focus would be on defining a set of principles that could be used as measurements against any proposed billing method,” he stated.

The MTIA work group developed this set of principle statements to provide a means by which any medical transcription billing method or internal transcription cost accounting method, whether existent or proposed, could be evaluated. These principle statements do not, in and of themselves, suggest a preferred billing method. Rather, they seek to acknowledge and preserve a creative, broad spectrum of methods while simultaneously reaffirming strong fundamentals on which the medical transcription industry can flourish.

The application of these principles is totally at the discretion of those who would apply them. They have, however, been developed with all industry constituents in mind, including buyers of transcription services, providers of medical transcription services (of all size and construct regardless of location), medical transcriptionists, caregivers, medical patients and all those who would enter the field of medical transcription in one facet or another.

The Launch

Last April, MTIA launched the BMPs and its representative Seal in a starter kit for interested MTIA members. “To date, 59 companies have ordered their starter kits and are actively promoting the BMP and the Seal as part of their day-to-day activity with their current and prospective customers,” assured Carroll.

“I think the five areas covered in the BMP Seal definitely cover the broad base. It still allows flexibility and creativity for companies in how they want to best deliver their services,” expressed Ray Dyer, vice president of marketing for ACUSIS.

“There’s nothing objectionable about the principles and besides, it makes good business sense to promote them,” explained John Langley, president and CEO of MedScribe.

In addition, Langley pointed out that for customers, the seal sends out a buyer-beware message.

It encourages the medical record directors to understand the billing method used by their outsourced medical transcription vendor. “More importantly, before choosing a vendor the customers need to find out how each potential vendor bills and how they each count lines, enabling them to make an accurate comparison between companies,” Langley told ADVANCE.

“The purpose of these methods is not to define good companies and bad companies; it’s a forward looking tool to help business people talk through a very important topic,” explained Carroll. “It’s a bridge between those who want to buy based on a strong foundation of trust and those who want to sell on that same strong foundation of trust.”

Carroll assured that as long as people understand that the seal is a tool to facilitate an effective dialogue between a vendor and a customer, and that it’s not a certificate of compliance, there really should be no abuse issues with the seal.

It’s Not Just a Seal

The BMP Seal is not a stamp of approval, but a hallmark of standards. It is truly up to the customer to make sure the vendor follows these principles. “We definitely need a set of methodology principles,” assured Dyer. “It’s important for there to be a clear definition of methodology, whether it be billing, principles of operations or how you conduct business; the customer has to understand what they can get from a company.”

And MTIA launching the seal and asking its members to support the notion is the first step, explained Dyer.

“The seal will certainly add to the company’s quality, but it’s really only the beginning. BMPs are only one piece of how a company does business, and I hope that this is the first step MTIA is taking to support quality performance, HIPAA compliance and medical transcription services,” Dyer stated.

He hopes that these principles will encourage the industry to not necessarily have one set method of billing, but to clearly communicate its standards. “The launch of the seal is sort of a challenge and promotion of best billing practices,” Dyer explained.

It’s All Relative

Questions are better than nothing. If the seal encourages the customer to ask the questions, then it has done its job. MTIA clearly states that it is a tool, and the organization hopes it will be used equally by vendors who are looking for customers and by customers who are looking for vendors.

“MTIA is not a policing organization. We’re not offering certification. The real accountability comes between any given vendor that says their methods are consistent with the BMPs and the customer who is considering that method. The vendor can now say, ‘Here are the BMPs that MTIA has designed to help discuss how my proposed method of billing carries the definability, measurability, integrity, verifiability and consistency that you deserve from any method of billing. So by the end of the conversation it should be clear if the billing method proposed is a good method,” Carroll explained.

There’s no doubt that MTIA created the standards with the best of intentions, but it’s hard to predict the outcome. Will the BMPs and the seal need more concrete policing to build further the credibility of the project and avoid potential abuse? Carroll states that the manner in which the BMPs have been developed and launched doesn’t preclude moving in this direction. “This approach was designed to leave options open for MTIA to respond to the marketplace as needed. It’s a first step, and it’s working,” he said.

Dyer makes a suggestion to help influence one’s own outcome. “Vendors should openly post their pricing methodology on their Web site,” he suggested.

“My company does this and displays the seal, and answers any and all questions regarding how we bill. We also openly share and provide access to parties that would want to review any data we have.”

A vendor can ensure its own credibility and a customer can enforce credibility if they both use MTIA’s newest tool correctly. The seal is purely a tool to offer an additional way for the customer and vendor to establish a strong foundation on which to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Tricia Cassidy is an assistant editor at ADVANCE.

Billing Method Principles

Verifiability: A medical transcription billing method should be subject to verification, with such verification being available to parties to the transaction.

Definability: A medical transcription billing method should accurately define all measurements and be free from definitional ambiguity.

Measurability: A medical transcription billing method should allow for complete understanding of the formulas used in its calculation and result in a clear and concise invoice.

Consistency: A medical transcription billing method should be generally reliable and consistent in its application.

Integrity: A medical transcription billing method should be fair and honest, resulting in invoices that accurately reflect and charge for service rendered.

–Information courtesy of MTIA

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