Business process outsourcing (BPO) involves contracting specialized external companies to handle essential business functions like billing, customer service, or IT support. For optometry and ophthalmology practices, partnering with a healthcare-focused BPO can enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve patient care by offloading time-consuming administrative work.
However, transitioning to a BPO model involves careful planning and consideration around staffing, data security, costs, integration, and contractual commitments. This guide provides an in-depth look at everything you need to know to make the transition successful:
- The BPO landscape
- Transition process
- Overcoming common concerns
- Delivering additional value
- Change management
- Building client-provider partnerships specifically for optometric practices
Understanding the BPO Landscape in Optometry
Not all BPOs are equal when it comes to the healthcare domain. Optometry-specific experience and customization make a big difference. Look for providers with expertise in eye care, not generalists handling many industries.
Customization and Specialization
Transitioning administrative or back-office tasks to a BPO provider is not a one-size-fits-all process. Domain expertise and customization are critical. Optometry-focused BPOs understand the nuances of workflow, recordkeeping, and regulatory compliance in your field. They can customize services spanning:
- Insurance verification and claims management
- Billing and account receivables
- Appointment scheduling and reminders
- Customer service and patient experience
Your BPO must tailor processes to complement your practice’s systems and staff capabilities. Specialized staff training ensures effectiveness when handling optometry-specific tasks.
The Role of Technology
Technology integrations are a significant benefit BPOs can provide. From automated appointment reminder systems to analytics dashboards for tracking KPIs to IT infrastructure—all of which enhance productivity, accuracy, and visibility.
When sourcing your BPO, consider the following technologies for your evaluation checklist:
- Cloud-based practice management software to centralize patient data and billing
- Workflow automation to reduce manual tasks
- Integrations with EHR/EMR and accounting systems to create seamless data sharing between your practice and BPO provider
Access to infrastructure and expertise you may lack internally is a key advantage of outsourcing.
The Transition Process: Phases and Considerations
When implementing a BPO partnership, optometry practices should consider an incremental approach. Beginning with peripheral tasks helps ensure minimal disruption as you adjust.
Initiating the Transition
We recommend starting small and slow. Have the BPO provider handle a couple of easily transitioned processes at first, such as scheduling or customer service overflow assistance. Once you see effective coordination on initial tasks, expand to revenue cycle management like claims processing and billing.
Gradually onboarding your BPO reduces risk and enables both parties to establish effective workflows. Be sure to align on expected timelines and milestones related to implementation phases.
Early on, set clear expectations for communication channels and response times. Defining the cadence for check-ins, status updates, and performance reviews helps both parties stay in sync.
Identify points of contact on the clinic and BPO sides to direct questions and quickly resolve any issues. Make sure you know how to reach your account manager when needed. BPOs may have specific communication channels depending on the support and account management issue.
Addressing Primary Concerns: Data Security and Compliance
Data protection is paramount when handling patient information. Optometry-focused BPOs invest heavily in technological safeguards and operational controls, including:
- Encrypted data transmission and storage
- Secure data centers with contingency plans
- Stringent employee screening and access limitations
- Regular third-party auditing and penetration testing
- Disaster recovery and data redundancy mechanisms
- Documented incident response plans
Take the time to learn these specifics upfront so you can have assurance that they will meet your expectations.
Optometry practices must comply with HIPAA, HITECH, state privacy rules, and other healthcare regulations. Your BPO provider should match or exceed your current compliance levels. Formal policies and training around data handling should be in place. Ask for details on measures like encryption, access controls, breach response plans, and auditing.
Data Protection Protocols
End-to-end data encryption, secure data centers, and stringent access controls provide multiple levels of protection from a BPO. Remember to limit data access to the BPO staff delivering your account’s contracted services.
BPOs focused on healthcare typically obtain industry certifications as proof of compliance. Ask whether they have attained SOC2, ISO27001, or HITRUST certifications. Also, familiarize yourself with their processes for detecting and responding to any potential breach.
Value Additions: Beyond Cost Savings
While the BPO transition aims to reduce administrative costs and overhead, benefits extend further – from clinical operations to patient care.
Operational Efficiency and Quality Assurance
Centralizing your tasks through a specialized BPO can improve consistency and accuracy. BPOS with optometry domain expertise tends to have higher-quality outputs. Also, when you consolidate under a single, focused delivery team, they can resolve your issues faster
Optometry practice staff can better devote time to clinical duties and patient care by offloading administrative work. BPOs can provide productivity metrics and quality assurance oversight that are difficult to achieve independently. Their analytics offer visibility to enhance processes over time.
Scalability and Growth
Expanding into new locations or additional patient volume can stretch in-house resources thin. A flexible BPO partnership provides capabilities to scale administrative operations as your optometry practice grows. BPO staff and infrastructure readily accommodate fluctuating workloads.
New location onboarding, increased claims volume, appointment surges, seasonal variations, and staff absences can all be supported more seamlessly via an outsourced framework. Scalability enables growth unrestricted by administrative bottlenecks.
Transitioning Staff and Change Management
Making the shift to a BPO significantly impacts workflows and staff roles. Change management and training help smooth the transition.
Training and Skill Augmentation
Staff may require training on new systems, workflows, and reporting. Identify areas of needed skill augmentation. Focus training on working cooperatively with the BPO provider and taking advantage of new efficiencies.
Conduct training well before rollout, allowing staff time to become comfortable adjusting duties and technology. Ongoing training may be warranted as processes evolve.
Transitioning to BPO can initially make some staff feel threatened or concerned about being replaced. Fortunately, optometry BPOs aim to enhance employees’ work rather than eliminate roles. With administrative tasks like billing and scheduling handled by the BPO, practice staff can focus on more meaningful patient interactions and clinical work.
Managers should frame the BPO partnership as providing support rather than replacing staff. Transparency around objectives, empowering staff to give feedback, and celebrating wins help maintain morale. Training prepares them to adapt successfully to new systems and workflows. Taking the transition slowly also allows the staff to process the changes more easily and understand their implications.
While cost reduction is a goal, the transition does incur upfront expenses related to change management, training, and initial BPO fees. However, practices realize a return on that investment over time through enhanced revenue cycle management, economies of scale, and productivity gains. When scoping requirements, optometry practices should clarify all costs associated with service delivery, implementation, system integrations, and ongoing management of the account.
Cost savings ultimately outweigh expenses, but avoiding surprises requires due diligence. Also, discuss how contracts can scale costs in line with any spikes or declines in patient volume.
Integration with Existing Systems
Smooth system integration minimizes complexity. Optometry BPOs are well-versed in connecting services with existing EHR/EMR systems, practice management software, billing systems, and other clinic technologies. APIs and flat file transfers integrate multiple platforms seamlessly so data flows into the BPO’s systems automatically.
Ideally, the BPO takes responsibility for establishing integrations. Seek providers experienced in similar setups required for optometric practices. Experienced BPOs specializing in optometry can minimize disruption to patient data access, billing, reporting, and workflows.
Given concerns over getting locked into poor contracts, optometry practices should negotiate flexible terms. Outline an initial 6-12 month period for evaluating service delivery with periodic checkpoints to ensure satisfaction. Build in an option to terminate without penalty if performance metrics aren’t met after the initial period.
Avoid prolonged auto-renewal clauses spanning multiple years. Seek shorter 1-2 year contracts once the partnership matures, with continuance based on achieving mutual objectives.
Scalability and Customization
Reputable healthcare BPOs are equipped to scale services up or down in alignment with your optometry practice’s needs. Well-crafted contracts have factored in fluctuations in daily appointment volume, seasonal variations, new location additions, staff changes, and overall practice growth or decline. Look for a BPO structure and pricing model that readily adapts so you only pay for what you need.
Discuss sizing scenarios during negotiations to ensure the provider can support expansions through hiring, infrastructure, and management bandwidth. Customizing processes for new locations should also be turnkey based on existing workflows.
Positive patient experiences rely on the cultural alignment between optometry clinics and BPO. Seek BPOs prioritizing healthcare’s “patient first” mentality in hiring and training. Brand values centered around customer service excellence, strong communication, accuracy, and timeliness signal an excellent fit.
Discuss how the provider instills and monitors cultural aspects among staff. Establish channels for both sides to give feedback on interactions so proactive improvements occur. Patients should feel no discernible difference between your in-house and outsourced staff.
Performance Metrics and SLAs
Optometry practices should agree on clearly defined metrics and service level agreements (SLAs) to track performance. Common metrics span customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, first call resolution, issue escalation rates, appointment adherence, and claim processing accuracy and turnaround time.
Reporting should provide visibility into these KPIs. Performance falling short of pre-agreed SLAs should allow for contract remediation and adjustments to get back on track. Optometry BPOs focused on transparency welcome opportunities to improve service delivery.
Following implementation, expect full support through continuous training, monitoring, troubleshooting, and account management. Periodic reviews help ensure the partnership stays aligned strategically and operationally. Your BPO provider should be an extension of your practice, not just a vendor.
A year post-transition, services typically stabilize with processes refined through experience. However, staff and leadership turnover, updated technologies, and regulatory changes mean ongoing support remains vital for optimizing your BPO engagement.
When executed methodically, the transition to an optometry-focused BPO presents a compelling opportunity to enhance patient care through optimized operations and staffing. Prioritizing areas like data security, integration with existing systems, staff training, clear contracts, and post-transition support helps ensure a smooth and successful partnership yielding long-term value. By alleviating administrative burdens, practices gain more time and resources to provide quality eye care experiences.
Ready to learn more about unlocking a BPO advantage tailored to your optometry practice? Contact our team for a complimentary assessment.