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The NetMinder Blog

Four Ways to Improve Your Provider Directory’s Accuracy

Posted by Laura McMullen on Fri, Dec 15, 2017

Initiatives to Improve accuracy in provider directories are gathering steam in companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans. Because the federal government pays for these plans, it’s no surprise that regulations and the vendor approval process are driving the improvements. CMS audits online directories and if inaccurate data is found, it can affect the plan’s star ratings. Regulations allow for civil monetary penalties, notices of noncompliance, and warning letters for deficiencies – which affects Past Performance Analysis results that could lead to denied applications.

provider data.jpgThere’s also a promotional impact. Star ratings are used by beneficiaries to choose between Medicare Advantage plans, so a drop there could discourage enrollment in favor of a plan with a higher rating. And the enrollee “grapevine” is sure to spread the word about how difficult it is to make appointments because the provider directory is inaccurate which can also affect enrollments.

Perhaps more important than the downside of inaccurate data is the upside of better business results. “Plans need accurate, complete provider data to run their business, especially with value-based care arrangements and things like that,” Lucia Giudice, Deloitte Consulting’s managing director and government programs practice leader told AIS Health for an October article in Medicare Advantage News (registration required). For ACOs and other organizations better data translates directly into better revenues.

AIS Health/Medicare Advantage News interviewed Kenneth Wrzos, senior director for operational excellence at EmblemHealth, about their provider directory information. Here are some tactics they find useful that can be applied to any provider directory for any line of business or type of plan:

  • Use a “front-end validation team” to assess the quality of provider data from delegated entities before adding it to the network. This team calls a sample of providers and then a network management team works with the providers to correct any inaccurate data.
  • Audit internal directory data periodically. This proved so helpful EmblemHealth increased the frequency from quarterly to monthly.
  • Analyze claims data to target records for cleaning. Locations that haven’t been paid at least one claim in 12 months get special attention. This has proven helpful in reducing dental directory inflation.
  • Reconcile rosters with large groups regularly. Staff at large group practices change frequently which can have a big impact on your network. Getting ahead of these changes by periodically comparing the provider’s office roster to your provider directory makes things easier for everyone.

Clean provider information in your directory is a competitive advantage. What are you doing to make it easier for current and prospective members to find what they are looking for?

Tags: provider directories, medicare advantage, healthcare providers, healthcare networks

If You Think All Provider Networks Are Basically The Same, Think Again

Posted by Susan Donegan on Thu, Oct 19, 2017

After years of insurance companies and PPOs building and maintaining provider networks, the prevailing wisdom is that “all provider networks are basically the same.” A closer look at the composition of provider networks reveals something very different, however.

A comparison of two well-known, established provider networks in Florida shows that, while they both have almost the same number of access points (provider locations), the overlap between the two networks is only 47%. More than half of the access points in each network are unique to that network.comparison similarly sized networks.jpg

In order to better understand the differences between these two networks, we need to drill down to the specialty level. As you can see in the chart below, both networks have basically the same composition of Primary Care, Medical Specialists, and Surgeons. However, they vary significantly in other specialties such as Dental and Vision, Nursing, Therapists, and Behavioral Health.

specialties.jpg

It’s important to know which specialties are included in a provider network in order to be able to make an accurate, fair comparison.

Download our whitepaper, All Provider Networks Are Not Created Equal to learn how to use network data to demonstrate your competitive advantages for a specific client's needs.

Tags: provider networks, network comparisons, provider network, access points, provider locations, network comparison tool, provider directories

The Provider Directory is a Valuable Marketing Tool

Posted by Susan Donegan on Fri, Aug 25, 2017

A dental provider directory can be a valuable marketing tool for a dental plan. A large provider directory means more access to care for the members of the plan. And the conventional wisdom is the larger the directory the better.

dental-networks-over-stated.pngA provider directory grows in two ways:

  • by adding providers (dentists), and
  • by adding provider locations (places the dentist practices at).

The combination of providers (dentists) and all the locations they practice at is commonly referred to as access points, or provider/location combinations where a member can “access” care.  

The Industry Is Concerned That Access Is Overstated

One of the concerns in the industry regarding the access points counting method is that providers are being listed at more locations than they actually do or can practice at. This phenomenon is due to a few factors. First, just the like rest of us, dentists retire, sell their practices, or die. Second, associate dentists (employees) tend to move from practice to practice. In both of these situations, it is difficult for dental plans to stay on top of this information, and there may be a significant lag when updating provider directories.

Finally, and most importantly, large dental groups with multiple offices ofen require that dental carriers list all of their dentists at all of their locations, even though they may only regularly practice at 2 or 3 locations. This is so that they can easily move dentists around without disrupting claims payment from the carriers. There are more than 1,300 dental groups nationwide with 5 or more locations, with the average group having 13.7 locations, resulting in overstated access in provider directories. (NetMinder, March 2011) 

Download our whitepaper,  Are Dental Provider Directories Overstated?  to learn more about using "practicing" locations to get a better picture of network access.

Tags: provider directories, dentists, access points, network access, practicing locations, dental plans

Studying the Accuracy of Provider Directories

Posted by Laura McMullen on Thu, Jul 27, 2017

Many people have had this experience – you’re looking for a new healthcare provider in your insurance plan’s directory and when you call, that doctor (or dentist or optometrist) doesn’t work at that location any more or the office isn’t accepting new patients. So you move on to the next name on the list and keep calling. As market forces, government regulations, and rising costs combine to focus more attention on every aspect of the health insurance industry, two recent initiatives examine provider directory accuracy.

provider-directory-4.jpg

CMS Online Provider Directory Review

In a previous post, we shared the preliminary findings from a CMS project designed to assess provider directory accuracy. CMS released the final report which confirmed that 47% of the 5,832 provider records reviewed in Medicare Advantage networks had at least one deficiency and listed the names and results of the 54 health plans involved in the audit along with the compliance actions taken. Fierce Healthcare summarized the results here.

AHIP Provider Directory Initiative

Between April and September 2016, AHIP executed a large-scale project to evaluate a variety of ways to update directory information. This issue brief summarizes the project including background on the vendors, methodology, and results of an independent evaluation by NORC at the University of Chicago. A blog post from March 2017, What It Takes to Improve Provider Directories, discussed the findings and offered potential solutions in actions that could be taken by providers and networks:

  • Provider side: enforce contractual requirements and offer incentives to providers
  • Network side: use multiple channels and media to connect with providers such as email, phone, mail, fax, and provider one source to update data for multiple plans

The prevalence of inaccurate data that CMS found and the low response rates plus lack of information about the importance of updating directory information underscore the complexity of maintaining this information. “The root cause of the problem isn’t the directories themselves; it’s the underlying data. Capturing, storing, and retrieving provider data has always been a complex process,” writes Mark Martin, Availity’s director of payer solutions, provider data management, and Dianne Wagner, senior director, provider engagement and enablement at Guidewell, in Managed Healthcare Executive.

The importance of accurate provider directories to the whole healthcare industry – consumers find providers and make appointments easily, providers earn the advertising and publicity benefits of inclusion in provider directories, and networks improve customer satisfaction, compare provider directories, and avoid compliance actions – make fixing this problem a chronic priority.

What steps are you taking to improve the accuracy of your provider directory?

Tags: provider directories, healthcare providers, healthcare system, provider networks, health insurance

Accurate Provider Directories Make Network Comparisons Easier and More Compelling

Posted by Laura McMullen on Mon, Oct 17, 2016

Provider directory accuracy is an important topic for consumers, providers, and payors. It’s obviously very important to us, too – in fact, nearly half of our employees are focused on data accuracy and integrity every day.healthcare_directory.jpg

That’s why we’re following the progress of federal and state regulatory initiatives around ensuring accuracy very closely. I came across an article from Medicare Advantage News (login required) recently that summarizes official remarks at the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan fall conference discussing the pilot program conducted by CMS’ Medicare Drug & Health Plan Contract Administration Group to assess directory accuracy. In this initial program, they found:

  • Nearly half (46%) of locations had errors meaning that at least one data element in the directory for that location was inaccurate. Most of the organizations reviewed were 20%-60% inaccurate.
  • Two-thirds of the deficiencies involved listing providers at locations where they don’t practice.
  • Ten percent of the deficiencies were incorrect phone numbers.
  • Twelve percent of the deficiencies were incorrect addresses, including incorrect suite numbers.

The study focused on large organizations with multiple locations and many providers, ultimately contacting nearly 6,000 primary care physicians, oncologists, ophthalmologists, and cardiologists at 11,646 locations. Based on our experience with directory data, inaccurate data is more likely with large practices that include many providers and locations. Take a look at our whitepaper about overstated access in dental directories for more on this subject.

Inaccurate provider directories frustrate members and providers and they also make it hard to compare your network to your competitors’ networks. Here are five best practices for managing your network data that will help you find inaccuracies in your network and make your network stand out:

  1. Review your directory data regularly. Be sure that provider names, addresses, and phone numbers are up to date. Transparency in your reporting will be to your advantage in the long run as it increases member and provider satisfaction by making your directory more reliable.
  2. Check for duplicate records that can be consolidated, especially if you are stacking networks, since it can be hard to identify providers from the vendor network that are already in the carrier network. This will also help streamline your directory validation programs.
  3. Adopt data standardization practices, particularly for numeric fields. For example, make sure leading zeroes on ZIP codes have not been dropped and replaced by the first digit of the ZIP+4. This is common in ZIP codes in New England, New Jersey, and US Caribbean territories. Cleaner data is easier to manage and compare.
  4. Consider including competitor network data in your analyses so that you understand your competitive position, predict results, and prepare for the future.
  5. For Disruption Reporting and Repricing, make sure that provider name data is properly parsed and address data is standardized. Use the same processes for claim and provider data files to give best chance of identifying valid matches.

How are you validating the provider demographic information in your online directory?

Tags: network comparisons, provider directories, data analysis, network data, directory accuracy

Claims Data Makes Provider Directories More Accurate

Posted by Laura McMullen on Thu, Jan 21, 2016

“About 70% of plans sold on the exchanges in 2014 featured a limited network, and their premiums were up to 17% cheaper than plans with broader networks, according to a study by consulting firm McKinsey & Co.”, reported Modern Healthcare in March 2015. In response to consumer complaints about narrow networks, network adequacy regulations set criteria for distance to providers; the quantity of providers in a network; and the inclusion of essential community providers in a geographic area and, beginning January 2016, fines for inaccurate data.

Accurate provider directories are a problem for all networks. Providers retire, sell their practices, change jobs, and die, just like everyone else. It’s difficult to stay on top of this information, especially if you have several networks and/or network partners. The credentialing process, where provider credentials are reviewed at least once every three years to evaluate their practice histories and qualifications, and self-reporting are the primary methods network managers use to update their records. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology found that these methods aren’t working:

  • Among 4,754 total dermatologist listings in Medicare Advantage networks in 12 US metropolitan areas, 45.5% were duplicates in the same plan directory.
  • Less than half (48.9%) of the unique physician listings were reachable, accepted the listed plan, and offered an appointment.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General found similar results when looking at Medicaid networks in 2014. When they surveyed 1,800 primary care providers and specialists, “35 percent could not be found at the location listed by the plan, another 8 percent were at the location but said that they were not participating in the plan, and an additional 8 percent were not accepting new patients.”

Some experts suggest improving the accuracy of provider directories by including only providers to whom you’ve paid claims within 12 months. “Since 2013, New Jersey health plans must attempt to contact any provider who hasn't filed a claim in 12 months. If a provider fails to respond in 30 days, the insurers must remove that listing. Since then, ‘the number of complaints has gone down,’ says Larry Downs, CEO of the Medical Society of New Jersey,” in “Insurers Race to Avoid New Fines” on nasdaq.com.

Overstated access has been a problem in dental PPO provider directories for several years; access points are growing twice as fast as unique providers and unique locations.

top_15_dental.jpg

We’ve seen success using claims to verify locations where providers are practicing in our dental network analyses. In general, we find that about 75% of dental access points can be validated through claims analysis. Demonstrating clean data vs. your competitors is a definite advantage when selling your network to clients and brokers and also helps focus recruiting efforts, saving time and money. Learn more about our approach in our whitepaper Are Dental Provider Directories Overstated?

What steps are you taking to ensure accurate provider directories? How do you figure out which providers are really available in your competitors’ directories?

Tags: narrow networks, provider networks, dental PPO networks, medicare advantage, provider directories, claims data

 

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