Dental offices in Great Britain often are equipped with the newest technology to make dental care as painless as possible. However, dentists were waiting a painfully long time to get paid by the Dental Practice Board (DPB), a governmental agency covering England and Wales.
An important task of the DPB is to pay dentists promptly and accurately. Of the 50 million claims it receives each year, 25 million still arrived as paper forms, creating a vast paper mountain containing data that the DPB must process promptly.
An 'inflamed' area requiring a 'check up' was the money-bleeding process of data capture from these hand-written claims forms. Historically, a secretary in the dentist's office had to capture the pertinent data from the hard copy, then feed the information back to the DPB, a process that took seven days, on average.
A lengthy data capture process was obviously costly to both the DPB and its dentists, so the DPB appointed Hays Commercial Services (Hays), a BPO outsourcing provider specializing in customer management and back office process services, to drill down and find a solution.
Since the DPB outsourced the process, Hays has reduced the length of the operation from seven days to just 48 hours. The provider has also improved performance levels, taking them from 99.7 percent to 99.9 percent accuracy by adding an extra validation procedure.
Getting to the Root of Outsourcing
David Wright, Head of Transaction Processing at the DPB, says the agency decided to outsource its data capture "to improve accuracy and save costs." A combination of innovative document management techniques combined with the leverage of labor substitution led to outsourcing success for the BPO provider. "Now dentists can receive their payments on time. Improved cash flow obviously assists them in running their practices and benefits their patients," he adds.
Eric Selvadurai, Business Development Director of Hays, points out the DPB recognized the cost benefits of outsourcing its manual data capture processing. "However, it is the speed and accuracy of the service that adds significant value. We have improved information capture quality and their ability to cross index against other data sets. This has decreased the DPB's time spent on non-core data processing," he says.
Hays improved validation by holding the UK Dentists Index database, which enables the provider to cross reference the information provided on the claims forms. This eliminated the need to refer back to the DPB's computer query (CQ) department for basic information like the contract number, saving time and money. Previously, the DPB could not capture a significant percentage of the flagged data fields, such as the dentist's contract number, because they were rubber stamped on the form, making the quality of the impression highly variable.
The Benefits of Going Offshore
In an effort to add further value, Hays transferred the keying process offshore to its hi-tech data centers in Colombo, Sri Lanka and Trivandrum, India.
Hays has invested a great deal in its international facilities. Although Hays maintains extensive UK facilities, the supplier has discovered it is much more cost effective to manage people-intensive applications offshore where recruitment is easier. They are staffed by thousands of well trained and qualified data capture professionals who add real value to the Hays offering.
Working for Hays adds value to the employees, too. Most find employment with Hays an excellent opportunity to increase their financial independence as well as gain training in valuable IT skills. Salaries are higher than average for the region and the work involves using IT tools that the workforce might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn. In addition, these offshore facilities enable people to work locally and stay with their families without the need to leave their country in search of work, a sad necessity in some Asian and Eastern economies.
Speeding Up the Service
As the DPB's volume continues to increase, greater speed of service has also been key. With this in mind, Hays has begun to automate the paper-based process by electronically transmitting the forms via dedicated point-to-point data communication links to Hays' offshore operators in the Far East. "Hays processes millions of forms a year using digital scanning in conjunction with optical mark recognition (OMR), optical character recognition (OCR), and key from image. These operate over 18 hours a day. Their consistent reliability has been essential in keeping the system on time and within the DPB budget," says Selvadurai.
As part of this project, Hays configured the scanner software to recognize different types of forms, so it only captures relevant data. Redundant data such as pre-printed information and colored shading drop out after scanning. This approach has reduced a typical image file size of 80 kilobytes to only six kilobytes, creating significant cost savings on data transmission. These savings make it possible to take advantage of the benefits of offshore processing.
Outsourcing has allowed the DPB to concentrate on serving its consumer, the dentist. Wright adds, "As we can now process claims in greater numbers, we get a much clearer picture of patient treatment. This creates a much improved profiling system and allows us to target the small number of suspect claims. The repercussions are far reaching."
Rx for the Future
Improvements include cleansing the patient addresses using online postal address files and installing a new validation procedure using OMR to intercept incomplete claims. Hays now stores scanned images on CDs for long-term data storage. The DPB is looking at RAID storage to provide faster access to stored records for claims investigation.
As a separate exercise, the DPB has also been investigating the use of image and workflow in the CQ area. Hayes will capture scanned images and store and supply these documents to the workflow system.
The DPB is considering further outsourcing. That's always a sign of BPO success.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:
- The principle of substitution in BPO provides great value. Here, a BPO provider has devised a system that includes large offshore facilities, passing on the savings to its customer.
- Outsourcing has made the process of data capture faster and more accurate.
- Outsourcing has cut down on non-core data processing.
- Outsourcing has allowed the buyer to concentrate on its core mission.