Starting from the day it was announced, Medicare Easyclaims supposed lack of integration with practice software has been cited as one of the systems major deficiencies. And whilst it is true that Medicare Australia have developed Easyclaim as a system that can be used independently of practice software, the expectation has always been that software developers would interface with the solution at some point in the future.
Since Medicare Easyclaims inception, the AMA claims to have consistently advised financial institutions that the solutions that will be most attractive to practices will be those that deliver tight integration with practice software. At the most recent AMA Council of General Practice (AMACGP), meeting members unanimously passed the following resolution:
That AMACGP note that the new improved Medicare electronic claiming and payment system can be adopted as a stand-alone or practice software integrated system and urges general practices to consider moving to an integrated system as soon as it becomes available.
So Whos Integrating?
HCN is Australias market leading practice software developer, with over 3,700 GP and Specialist practices using either PracSoft or Blue Chip.
Tyro is the first new entrant to the Australian EFTPOS services market in 10 years. Founded as MoneySwitch in 2003, the company operates under a special financial license that allows it to provide credit, debit and EFTPOS merchant services.
Following the partnership announcement, representatives from HCN and Tyro demonstrated an Easyclaim-Blue Chip prototype to senior Medicare Australia staff, including CEO Catherine Argall and Deputy CEO Rona Mellor.
The development of integrated EFTPOS and Easyclaiming is progressing very well. We are encouraged by Medicares willingness to work with us to streamline the integrated claiming process as we believe good integration with PracSoft and Blue Chip is critical to the success of Easyclaiming. The prototype is an important step to demonstrate the solution to receive user feedback, said Mr Frost.
How Will Integrated Solutions Work?
With Medicare Easyclaim yet to be launched in any form, it is not surprising that there is almost no publicly available information detailing what an integrated solution will look like.
John Frost indicated that The driving force behind integrated EFTPOS and Easyclaiming is to streamline the payment and claiming workflow. This means, firstly, operating it from PracSoft and Blue Chip as a natural part of the payments workflow rather than from the EFTPOS terminal; secondly, no time wasting and error prone duplicate data entry; and finally, a minimum of manual steps like card swipes. Users of the integrated solution will see big benefits in faster Medicare payments with no paperwork, streamlined patient payments when they pay with a card, and an ability to easily provide the customer service benefit of paid patient rebates from Medicare.
Estimated release dates for Easyclaim enabled versions of PracSoft and Blue Chip have not yet been announced.
Jost Stollmann, Tyro's CEO, indicated that while his company is currently focusing on integration with HCNs practice management solutions, Tyro will pursue other collaborations once HCNs Easyclaim-enabled products are released to the market.
I think that medical practitioners and their staff want to look after their patients. They are neither technology wizards nor government clerks. A truly easy claim means zero configuration hassles, therefore a low support requirement and zero data re-entry. We will deliver this, because our terminal works like a PC talking to the PMS [Practice Management Software] PC. It is all seamless and integrated. You do not need much to Google, so you do not need much to claim. We use new world technology, Mr Stollmann said.
Developed by BankSys, Tyro's EFTPOS terminals appear outwardly similar to traditional devices. There are two technical factors however, that make the devices especially conducive to practice software integration:
- Tyro's EFTPOS terminals are essentially self-contained computers driven by the open source Linux operating system.
- Unlike traditional EFTPOS terminals, Tyro's devices communicate via the Internet and dont require a telephone connection.
Wireless connection options are available, however typically a practice would connect a Tyro EFTPOS terminal to their practice network via an Ethernet connection. Once physically connected to the network, the device is able to automatically detect the practices Internet connection (via DHCP), and transactions can be performed immediately.
Speaking about the virtues of Medicare Easyclaim and his companies offering more generally, Garry Duursma, Tyro's Vice President of Sales and Marketing stated, "Medicare Easyclaim is a good opportunity to migrate into the new world. The Tyro solution is fast, economical and secure. It integrates the billing, payment, claiming, and reconciliation into one seamless process, without re-keying of data."
"Im confident that we will deliver what medical professionals really need and want. I only hope that practices do not get locked into a stand alone solution before witnessing the ease of use that we deliver," concluded Mr Duursma.
What About The Banks?
Other than Tyro, the only financial institutions signed up to deliver Medicare Easyclaim services are the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and the National Australia Bank (NAB). It is expected that other financial institutions will purse Easyclaim, and Medicare Australia is not aware of any banks that have ruled out providing the service in the future.
Neither CBA or NAB have publicly announced plans to allow practice software vendors to integrate, however it isnt unrealistic to expect that both banks will facilitate Medicare Easyclaim integration in the future.
Software vendors will face several obstacles when (and if) they attempt to integrate their solutions with Medicare Easyclaim:
- Unlike the banks, practice software developers are unlikely to be paid per transaction fees or any other financial incentive by Medicare Australia.
- While integration programming is likely to be relatively straight forward, practice software vendors may need to develop multiple interfaces (as many as one for each bank). As such, practice software vendors will need to expend significant resources if they wish to integrate with multiple banks.
- In the early stages, many software developers (and perhaps even some financial institutions) may find themselves temporarily locked out of discussions as first mover partnerships emerge.
Pulse+IT has witnessed concrete evidence that integration is both possible and well underway.
Despite the criticism levelled against the double entry aspect of Easyclaim, the development of the system by Medicare Australia as a stand-alone solution is welcome.
While a stand-alone solution may not be well received by practice staff, this is an important feature of the Medicare Easyclaim system, which will ensure uptake occurs at a significantly faster rate than Online Claiming (formerly HIC Online).
While stand-alone Easyclaim adoption may be relatively painless, practices may find that they need to switch EFTPOS providers, or practice software vendors to achieve an integrated solution.
Posted in Australian eHealth