The right partner, the right solution: A practice management success story

The days before Radiology Imaging Associates (RIA) employed a comprehensive practice management solution were challenging, to say the least. Extracting billing data was a struggle for the community-based radiology practice in Englewood, Colorado, but much has changed since implementing Merge Financials™, especially when it comes to billing workflow. 

“We had too many manual processes,” said Cindy Fisicaro, RIA’s director of business systems. “We were the masters of workarounds and finding creative ways to get the system to give us some of the information our organization and our C-level administrators needed. The whole process was very challenging for us, because those administrators wanted data, and in our legacy system, it was very difficult for us to obtain.”

Cindy Fisicaro

In addition, said Fisicaro, RIA’s legacy system created frustrating limits to how much data her team could access. For example, information within the system had to be archived as RIA brought in new business. This created what the team described as a “reporting nightmare.” Archived data had to be saved in a different location than the current data, so it was always difficult to get a quick and clear picture of all the organization’s billing information.

“I don’t think we could have grown our business the way we are growing today with the system we had,” Fisicaro said. “There were several limitations, and we had reached the point where we couldn’t even retain 18 months of data on our system because of our organization’s size. And we do a lot of analytical reporting and comparisons, so to not even be able to look at two years of data was a real problem.”

Moving to Merge Financials quickly fixed this problem for RIA. New business could be added to the system without automatically archiving other information immediately just to make space.

Sheila Carroll

Sheila Carroll, RIA’s lead business systems analyst, said the company tested Merge Financials early on by adding an entire new practice to the fold. Volume increased by 25 percent, but the system handled the influx of new information so well that no new staff were needed.

“We were able to absorb all of that volume and we didn’t have to do anything on our side to compensate for that,” Carroll said. “We’ve actually grown tenfold since then, and Merge Financials has been able to keep us at the same level with regards to staffing as we’ve grown.”

The benefits of strong working relationships

While statistics are perhaps the most concrete way to express the impact of implementing Merge’s solutions, RIA is also very pleased with their working relationship. 

Fisicaro said she and her team have always emphasized the importance of establishing strong connections with vendors. After all, if you can’t depend on a business, why would you want to work with them in the first place?

“Having that solid working relationship enables us to reach the person we need to resolve any problem,” Fisicaro said. “When my team calls Merge and says there is an issue, they recognize the importance of the matter and escalate it to the appropriate individual. Overall, Merge has been willing to work with us, partner with us, and when we do encounter issues, they help us find a resolution.”

Carroll recalled one experience with Merge she’ll never forget. The company wanted to watch RIA use its solutions in person, so they sent representatives to RIA’s Englewood offices, asked for any and all feedback, and then used that feedback to redesign its system where necessary.

“I can’t say I know of another practice management software that would go to that extent, to come to the corporate office, meet with the users, and see how the users are responding to the product,” Carroll said. “That’s why we choose to work with Merge.”

Fisicaro was quick to add that as a rule, she does not believe in blind loyalty to any company. For each solution RIA has needed over the years, she and her team have weighed the pros and cons of every available option. And when it came to Merge Financials™, Merge RIS™, Merge Dashboards™, Merge’s iConnect® Network Services, and others, RIA’s evaluation pointed to Merge as the best solution available.

“We always do our due diligence to evaluate other products, but Merge has always been very competitive and solved our problems,” Fisicaro said.

The importance of flexibility and control

Another major benefit of working with Merge, Fisicaro and Carroll agreed, is that Merge’s staff makes them feel that they’re in control. Instead of pushing customers to buy all of their solutions or none at all, for example, Merge lets providers choose the approach that works best for them.

Given how disjointed the healthcare IT space can be, many companies, including RIA, appreciate working with a partner that focuses on solving specific problems, instead of simply trying to sell more widgets.  Having a holistic solution is important for connectivity purposes, but offering practices a flexible suite of solutions that work seamlessly with existing systems can go a long way toward building trust and confidence while improving systemic workflow challenges.

“For any radiologist, the ability to have choice is huge,” Carroll said. “If you have to buy a full suite, but you encounter one module you struggle with, that puts a sour tone on the whole package. But Merge doesn’t work that way. They’ve always been very flexible, and that is key.”

Merge also understands just how complex radiology can be, especially from a billing perspective. By focusing on particular specialties during its research and development, Merge has created solutions that address radiologists’ specific needs, their workflow, and the intricacies involved in securing payment.

While RIA employees are doing their best to juggle the many rules related to such topics as PQRS, MIPS, and meaningful use, they know they are working with products developed with their best interests in mind.

“Radiology does function very differently from other specialties,” Fisicaro said. “That we don’t have to go back into a system and manipulate it to make it work the way we want it to for radiology, that’s one of the big advantages for us.”

Trouble on the horizon? Life after the ICD-10 grace period

Frequent changes in government regulations can further complicate an already challenging set of protocols for billing and reimbursements. The grace period for ICD-10 implementation—which has kept Medicare claims from being denied solely due to ICD-10 coding mistakes—officially comes to an end on Oct. 1, 2016, leaving providers across the country with several significant questions. Is my billing solution in order? How will it handle denials? Are my employees ready?

RIA originally implemented ICD-10 with another vendor, and Carroll said that relationship became so stressful it often felt like heartburn. Of course, when one door closes another one opens, and Merge was there to help RIA through that time of uncertainty.

“Every day, they gave us a call, because everybody was anxious to move forward,” Carroll said. “The fact that we’re moving away from other vendors and doing everything out of the Merge Financials package gives me confidence that when the grace period is over, we won’t have that same heartburn. If we need to make changes, we’ll have control, and a true partner to bring them to life.”