Building a Smarter System for Healthcare Agreements

Healthcare runs on agreements. Developing more efficient ways to prepare, sign, act on and manage healthcare agreements is one of the easiest ways for health plan providers and other organizations within the healthcare ecosystem to save time and cut costs—while meeting evolving client expectations. 

A critical step toward efficiency involves shedding legacy, paper-based agreement processes. These processes not only disrupt day-to-day productivity and limit a team’s capacity to produce high-quality contracts, but also open the door to unnecessary risks—a serious problem in highly regulated industries like health insurance. As such, digital solutions that minimize human error are transitioning from a valuable asset to an industry requirement. 

In response to these trends, a Tennessee insurer adopted Docusign eSignature to optimize a critical step in its contract management process. Read on to learn how they used healthcare contract management software to reduce risk, eliminate hours of manual, contract-related work and pave the way for growth.

Recognizing the problems with paper-based healthcare agreement processes

The provider contracting process is the cornerstone for establishing the provider-plan relationship and ensuring providers are reimbursed for their services. Prior to adopting a digital solution, the insurer had to manually create and email forms to providers, who would then download and print the file, add an ink signature, scan the document and email it back to the company for auditing and processing. The volume of paper involved was staggering, as were the steps and the amount of time the team spent filling out Excel spreadsheets.

Beyond being wildly inefficient, this process was rife with possibilities for error. Since a high volume of contracts were being processed every day, the chances of someone attaching the wrong file to an email were high. And during the already time-consuming manual review process, the team would frequently discover issues with the contracts, from incomplete or incorrect information to missing or illegible signatures—requiring another round of emailing, printing and scanning to remedy the problem.

Adding to the frustration, throughout this lengthy process, field representatives and provider relationship managers had little to no visibility into the status of contracts. For all they knew, providers might have printed the documents and left them on their desks, forgotten and unsigned. Low adoption of the company’s existing contract management system (CMS) meant that data had to be manually duplicated to bring it into the system, creating a barrier to achieving any economies of scale or keeping track of information.

Putting in the legwork upfront

Realizing that its provider contracting and healthcare agreement process was unsustainable, the insurer searched for healthcare contract management software that would reduce the number of touchpoints in the contract generation process, thereby lowering the probability of error. This, in turn, would boost processing speed—steps like downloading, uploading and manually reviewing files would be eliminated altogether. 

A faster process also meant that the team could easily accommodate an increase in contract volume, and facilitate the company’s growth. Compared to the previous approach, having all agreements going through the same system would increase visibility and simplify reporting. 

The company knew that a digital solution could provide these benefits—but it also knew that overhauling the current process was no small task. A thoughtful approach was essential to avoid friction. After identifying Docusign as the optimal partner, the Docusign and the insurer teams worked together to fully understand how Docusign would impact other systems, downstream processes and end users. They also confirmed that the solution would integrate seamlessly with the company’s existing content management system (which is also called a CMS)—avoiding surprises and roadblocks down the line.

Communicating early and often

Armed with the information it needed to navigate common implementation challenges, the insurer set to work preparing end users for the change. They tailored their approach to training and communication based on how often a user would work with the solution and how in-depth their understanding needed to be.

For current users—those intimately familiar with the existing process and using the new solution daily—the insurer found the following best practices effective:

  • Involving users early in the process to increase adoption rates
  • Sending updates on a weekly basis to ensure users knew what to expect
  • Increasing frequency to daily updates as the go-live date approached
  • Sharing short, easy-to-digest demos as early as possible
  • Engaging in small group training sessions to boost engagement and gather candid feedback
  • Addressing concerns promptly and confirming users felt comfortable before the go-live date

The insurer adopted a different approach for leaders, future users and those who would only use the solution occasionally. For these types of users, the insurer found the following practices effective:

  • Communicating the changes to processes early
  • Running large group demos to provide an end-to-end overview of how the solution would work
  • Engaging in small group training sessions with weekly and monthly users, showing them how they could check on contract status
  • Gathering intel on who wanted to see reports and what kind of information they wanted to see
  • Recording and publishing training sessions, materials and demos for future users
  • Documenting policies and procedures and ensure these were available to users from the go-live date

Reaping the benefits of Docusign

The health insurer implemented Docusign eSignature in 2018. Since then, the company’s provider contracting process has become quick and intuitive—almost unrecognizable from the lengthy ordeal it once was.

Most notably, the time it takes to process contracts has dropped by 81.5%. The auditing stage alone has been slashed from 45 minutes per task to three minutes per task. Docusign eSignature has dramatically increased the speed of signature collection, allowing the company to get the ball rolling on enrollment much faster. With the cumbersome spreadsheets long gone, users now enjoy real-time visibility into the status of their contracts. 

These changes couldn’t have come soon enough. Soon after implementing the healthcare contract management software, as the team had anticipated, the volume of contracts the insurer processes increased fourfold—a surge it couldn’t have accommodated previously. As the volume grew, leaders could easily keep track with the solution’s end-to-end reporting capabilities and history log. While keeping the entire provider contracting and healthcare agreement process within Docusign has made quality assurance concerns a thing of the past, the solution also provided enough flexibility to support providers that have rules against electronic signing. 

Transforming the healthcare ecosystem with contract management

This is just one of the many organizations within the healthcare ecosystem that have transformed their provider contracting process with electronic signatures. 

A significant number of health insurance organizations use Docusign’s contract lifecycle management solution, Docusign CLM. CLM solutions address the entire contract process, automating manual tasks like document generation, orchestrating complex workflows and approval, and eliminating unnecessary risk. Docusign CLM is positioned as a Leader in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contract Lifecycle Management. By way of example, Spaulding Ridge, a leading cloud implementation firm, has helped numerous insurance and health plan providers implement Docusign solutions with impressive results:

  • A multi-product insurance provider was relying on a 45-tab spreadsheet and a time-consuming, copy-paste approach to generate quote documents. After adopting the Docusign Agreement Cloud, combined with Salesforce CPQ, the company was able to triple the number of quotes it could produce.
  • A large, third-party administrator was manually building proposals that involved 200+ fields and often featured as many as 18 different options. When an internal audit revealed that errors were present in the quoting process 87% of the time, the company integrated the Docusign Agreement Cloud with SalesForce CPQ to reduce human error—and speed up the process.
  • A West Coast health plan provider was forced to rapidly go digital when COVID-19 made it unsafe to process physical documents. In just two weeks, it had digitized 50+ agreements in multiple languages and moved them into the cloud—ensuring processing time for new members didn’t grind to a halt when its customers needed care. 

Ready to join the revolution and build healthier contracting processes, claims processes and healthcare agreements? Learn more about how Docusign can help.