In the first look at how the pandemic impacted healthcare claim payments, a new report found medical professionals continued to rely heavily on ACH, while their dental counterparts have a ways to go.
“For many plans and provider administrative staff, COVID-19 forced the use of technology and automated transactions as staff began working from home and did not have access to office faxes, call centers and mail facilities,” researchers noted in the 2021 CAQH Index. The ninth annual Index, released Jan. 31, 2022, covers transactions in calendar year 2020.
The 2021 Index found that more than 74% of medical claim payments were made electronically, up from 70% in the previous Index.
But dental providers continue to lag their counterparts in medicine. Just 20% of dental claim payments were electronic in the 2021 Index, and that was down 3% from the 2020 Index, due in part to an overall decline in dental volume.
Medical volume in fact rose in the 2021 Index, which CAQH attributed to practitioners spending down time reconciling past due payments, and billing more regularly for telemedicine visits to help offset the loss of revenue experienced early in the pandemic.
Brad Smith, Nacha Senior Director, Industry Engagement and Advocacy, said there are lessons the dental industry can learn.
“There’s still a huge gap between the number of electronic claim payments received by doctors and dentists. Considering how many dental practices had to close or drastically curtail business during the pandemic, switching to ACH for claim payments is an excellent way to receive needed funds a lot faster,” said Smith.
“Whether they know it as ‘ACH’ or ‘EFT’ or ‘electronic bank transfers,’ many dentists have likely been paying their household bills this way during the pandemic, so they’re familiar with the safety and convenience of ACH,” said Smith. “It’s time for them to receive those same benefits when it comes to claim payments.”