Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) recently launched Project SwipeIT. This is an ambitious project to motivate the entire healthcare industry to adopt an electronic patient ID system by the end of 2009! The initiative asks insurers, providers, vendors and professional groups to commit to the deadline, as outlined by the Project SwipeIt portal on MGMA’s Website.
MGMA, a trade association of medical practice management professionals, estimates a nationwide electronic patient ID system could save providers $1 billion annually in unnecessary administrative costs and denied claims. Pathologists and laboratory administrators know that adoption of electronic patient ID would be a great benefit for clinical laboratories and pathology group practices.
Electronic patient ID systems reduce redundant administrative tasks and human errors, while also supporting real-time verification of coverage. Laboratories, for example, would know if the patient has eligibility and if a test is covered before collecting the specimen.
Electronic patient ID also supports real time eligibility verification and claims settlement, an essential benefit should healthcare reform encourage more enrollment in Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHPs). CDHPs provide high-deductible, catastrophic medical coverage, and allow members to pay for routine care with Health Spending Accounts (HSAs) or Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).
MGMA’s Project SwipeIT is actually a simple proposal and requires no major information technology adoption. Health insurers are simply being asked to replace member ID cards with a standardized, machine-readable strip compliant that is compliant with the mandates of the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI). This is a health industry advocacy group concerned with improving healthcare through electronic commerce.
The new cards cost 50 cents, slightly more than plastic cards now used by payers. MGMA contends that savings from a reduction in: 1) provider inquiries; 2) claims reprocessing; 3) labor associated with these tasks will more than offset the additional cost. Each provider also must invest $100 to $200 in card readers and software to link their computers with payer electronic systems nationally.
Nearly 300 physician practices and professional groups, along with vendors and other providers, have pledged a commitment to the program. The trade association admits, however, that it will be difficult to get 100% of its 13,500 member practices to sign up without broad participation by both commercial and government health plans.
Currently MGMA is focusing efforts on insurers. It has signed up Humana and UnitedHealth Group. MGMA has also sent a letter to President Obama explaining how the program fits into his call for a national electronic health exchange and asking for his support in getting the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare onboard. The idea is the rest of commercial plans will follow if Medicare signs up.
Dark Daily observes that this is a simple proposal and shows how many improvements in healthcare can come from gaining widespread agreement over formatting and adoption of relatively inexpensive information technology. – P. Kirk