The client billing process is integral to any business, but it rarely gets more complicated than in the mental health sector. Even compared to other medical services, mental health billing still wins the race thanks to its set of unique challenges.
Though health billing processes can be time-consuming and arduous, not least because it involves third parties like insurance companies, new technology has found a way to streamline at least some of the legwork.
Countless client billing software solutions can automate most tasks that previously had to be done manually by mental health specialists or practice administrators. But how much do they truly help?
Why Is Mental Health Billing More Difficult?
Mental health billing differs from other health services billing for a few reasons. For example:
- The particular nature of services involved
- Time spent with the patient, and often,
- Unique restraints that are placed on mental health treatments by insurance companies.
To illustrate, medical check-up visits tend to be fairly standardized, with lists of specific medical services such as weight checks, blood pressure, or routine checks. These exams may look rather similar for most patients and take a set amount of time, notwithstanding unique medical needs that may also need attention.
As treatment here is more or less standardized, billing becomes standardized as well. For the most part, the same costs that must be added, as are the resulting bills to insurance companies.
But standardized treatment isn’t really an ideal option in mental health. For a mental health solution to be effective and beneficial, the methods employed must be personally designed to suit the patient and their unique challenges.
Two patients with depression, for instance, may have more or less the same treatment, but when analyzed closely, one patient may respond better to integrated video therapy, while another patient may not.
The therapist, counselor, psychologist, or other experts involved in their mental health program must decide the treatment based on the particularities of each of the cases in front of them.
That, along with other variables such as:
- Number of sessions required
- Therapy methods employed
- Patient willingness to participate, and
- Frequency of sessions, etc.
…can ultimately influence the billing process, making it almost impossible to standardize mental health treatment.
Not to say that standardization hasn’t been tried before.
Insurance companies have had a history of trying to influence the mental health treatment in such efforts, for example by proposing an ideal session or weekly session frequencies.
In practice, they may not call therapists directly to enact such measures, they can be reflected in a patient’s policy. As such, insurance restrictions often make billing fairly difficult for practices.
The availability of human resources is also often an issue for smaller mental health practices and e-clinics, who often lack the necessary staff for complex mental health billing.
In many cases, the burden falls to therapists or mental health providers themselves, ultimately reducing how much time they can dedicate to patients.
To compound the problem, billing tends to differ between patients, as multiple insurance companies get involved. That, in turn, means different:
- Preferred billing formats
- Insurance restrictions around session frequency and duration
- Claim policy numbers
- Pre-approval procedures, and
- Preferred methods for claims submission.
When insurance claims are rejected, a billing process often needs to be completely redone. As well as taking up more time, this can spell delays for patients awaiting reimbursement.
What Is Client Billing Software?
Where insurance claims were once faxed or snail-mailed, companies now require them to emailed or submitted through an e-service.
Client billing software describes a program or app that handles the better bulk of the billing process, so that information no longer needs to be manually entered into claims. As a result, it can speed up the whole billing process considerably.
Many of these programs come with an array of templates, easily customizable to meet insurance company demands.
Once a patient file is created and filled, that data is stored – next time you bill for a service, it’s automatically be included in the claim. From here, all you that’s needed is to change a few variables.
What To Look For
Client billing software is a rather vague term, however, and can refer to any type of program that streamlines payments and billing for businesses. For mental health practices, it’s best to opt for a program specifically designed as a behavioral health system, especially as they will deal with sensitive patient information.
When comparing potential solutions, therefore, look for a system that:
- Is secure
- Can encrypt data
- Is HIPAA-compliant, and
- Has an established authorization process.
Benefits of Client Billing Software for Mental Health
The right medical software for billing can do a lot for your mental health practice.
For a start, it tackles common medical practice admin issues by helping to:
- Reduce administration errors – cutting stress and protecting your practice
- Centralize patient information – for more organized records
- Reduce paperwork – with environmental, as well as efficiency benefits
- Lower operating costs – compared to outsourcing billing processes or staff time, and
- Customize paperwork – helping practitioners create personalized documents and build their brands.
Below, a little look inside these benefits.
Billing errors create a lot of issues for practices, and that risk increases when claims are being filled manually.
Some estimates even claim that there are around 289 chances for a billing error in a hospital on any given day.
Errors can lead to patient retention problems if clients are:
- Forced to raise insurance disputes, or – for serious errors –
- Threatening a malpractice suit.
But with billing software for therapists, all the information needed to generate bills comes from a centralized system and is checked automatically, lowering these risks.
While double-checking is still a good idea, the right therapy software can make it much easier to check documents for inconsistencies.
Centralized Patient Information
With a mental health billing system, important patient information can be stored in a centralized location, making timely access much easier.
Practices using more comprehensive suite can also add other important information such as:
- Therapy notes
- Patient medical history
- BIRP and SOAP notes
- Important events
- Intake forms, or even
- Upcoming and canceled sessions within the same system.
When a patient changes a key piece of information, such as their last name if they get married, their contact information, or even insurance information, therapists only have to update data in one location, and rest assured the correct information of the patient will be transferred to their billing as well.
This leaves less room for mistakes. It’s very easy to forget the patient changed, for instance, their contact info, but this type of mistake can lead to the insurance claim getting denied.
Traditional billing systems can drown a practice in paper. Documents are also easily misplaced and in the healthcare system, frequently require secure physical storage and management – something lots of small practices struggle with.
Plus – whether it’s monthly reports, assessment archives, or all of the above – paper often:
- Costs more
- Requires extra equipment (such as printers and copiers), and
- Has a negative impact on the environment
Billing alone often requires several forms, usually containing the same information time and time again.
This means printing out identical forms each time a patient claim is sent to their insurance company, so a digital billing system creates a lot less hassle in this department.
When compared with companies that offer billing services to therapists, the right app or suite can help many practices save money long-term.
Many billing solutions for mental health professionals don’t come free.
In fact, if you require one designed for larger practices, or even opt a larger mental health Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, the cost can add up. Starting at a few hundred a month, ongoing costs greatly depend on the features you are looking for.
Still, there are a lot of affordable options out there too, even though you have to add software fees to your monthly expenses.
When compared with companies that offer billing services to therapists, the right app or suite can help many practices save money long-term. This applies especially to practices that already have one or two staff members to handle part of the administrative and billing tasks.
A lot of billing software for psychologists offers some level of customization, meaning you can effectively create claims based on the requirements of the insurance companies.
What’s more, these ‘profiles’ can be saved, so you don’t have to re-do them every time you’re billing your patients. Less room for mistakes, less time spent catering to your particular practice requirements.
3 Top Client Billing Software for Therapists
If you’re in the market for billing software, or a larger practice management service, do check that they offer relevant features for your practice while analyzing their costs.
Here are 3 of the best programs with billing features.
|AdvancedMD offers extensive medical billing services such as:|
Additionally, this digital clinical solution allows patients to make payments online at any time, which can even reduce the likelihood of unpaid bills.
Pricing is set based on the specific needs of your practice, and how many features you want to be included.
|Good For||Appointment Scheduling, Patient Portal, e-Prescribing, EHR, e-Clinic Software|
|Power Diary is an EHR that includes billing services. With it, invoicing can automatically include details about the services you provide, such as how long a session lasts, when it took place, or the price.|
Invoices can be easily customized to meet necessary requirements or even branded details with your practice’s visual identity. Bills can be scheduled to be sent to the relevant parties, or even easily re-send if needed.
Power Diary also offers a 14-day free trial where you can test out its services to see if they fit your practice
|Good For||Video conferencing, Invoices, Payments, Analytics, Reports, Billing, Coaching Management|
|WRS Health is an EHR billing and RCM unified in a single treatment software. This allows practices to automatically create claims or charge patients for services.|
Once the claim is created, the therapist can send it to the payer directly through the program’s interface. If a claim is rejected, the program will immediately show information about it, which you can correct on the spot and submit again for approval.
Pricing depends on the plan you choose, and the number of features you think are relevant to your practice.
|Good For||Appointment Scheduling, Client Management, e-Prescribing, Claims Processing, Billing|
With the boom in electronic health records (EHR), mental health software tools, and other digital solutions meant to help practices automate and improve some of their processes, it’s not really a stretch to see billing software for mental health services growing in popularity as well.
Given that billing in mental health can be quite difficult, any tool that claims it can ease the process is worth considering, even if its effects are only minimal.
The simple fact that some of the information on a claim can be automatically dragged from a patient’s profile cuts the administrative hours therapists have to set aside tremendously. Coupled with fewer administrative hours spent on calculating and chasing payments, client billing software provides a quick and effective way to streamline any mental health practice.
- ^ Lake, J., & Turner, M. S. (2017). Urgent need for improved mental health care and a more collaborative model of care. The Permanente Journal, 21, 17.
- ^ Sakowski, J. A., Kahn, J. G., Kronick, R. G., Newman, J. M., & Luft, H. S. (2009). Peering Into The Black Box: Billing And Insurance Activities In A Medical Group: Standardizing benefit plans and billing procedures might help reduce complexity and billing/insurance costs—but only if applied strictly. Health Affairs, 28(S1), w544.
- ^ Kahn, J. G., Kronick, R., Kreger, M., & Gans, D. N. (2005). The cost of health insurance administration in California: estimates for insurers, physicians, and hospitals. Health Affairs, 24(6), 1629.
- ^ Woolhandler, S., Campbell, T., & Himmelstein, D. U. (2003). Costs of health care administration in the United States and Canada. New England Journal of Medicine, 349(8), 768.
- ^ Cleveland.com. (2012). Medical Billing Errors: What can go wrong? What can you do?. Retrieved from https://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/2012/06/medical_billing_errors_what_ca.html