Behavior Modification

By Bernard Chester posted 12-08-2013 20:07


Most discussions of the document imaging process start with document preparation and scanner settings.  But if you are going to have the most productive and error-free capture factory, you have to look at the complete business problem, which means starting with the documents you are receiving.

We all know about garbage-in / garbage-out.  In capture, garbage-in means extra effort processing and correcting.  Prevention pays off.

Many organizations I have consulted to have told me that they have no control over the documents they get.  Of course, that is foolish.  There are a number of ways that you can influence the quality of the paper or electronic documents that you receive.  You just have to apply some thought to the motivations of those who are submitting documents.  In this column I’ll discuss influencing transaction partner behavior; in following blogs I’ll focus on engineering capture mechanisms to encourage accuracy.

Start with the basics: why are these people sending you documents?  What do they want from you?  Clearly, you can use that to get them to focus more on getting things right the first time.

Some past examples of successful behavior modification:

·         A public health insurer processing claims found that a major percentage of what they received was black and white copies, rather than originals on the official drop-out red forms.  Providers were saving money by printing them on plain paper or sending in copies of the claim sent to other insurers.  The agency is legally obligated to accept the B&W versions, but processing them involved hand keying close to 100 fields, versus being able to use the recognition engine when the form is removed by the scanner red lamp.  As a result, they required significantly more man-hours and had a higher error rate, increasing overhead and backing work up. 

But the claims processing supervisor was bold; she announced that she would no longer accept black & white claims.  There were a few provider calls pointing out that she had no authority to do so, but most providers just started using the red forms, and productivity soared. 

The success of this emboldened her to publish a short essay called “How to Get Your Money Faster” in her next provider newsletter.  It explained her payment cycle, and the most common issues that prevented a quick resolution.  That changed the behavior of enough business partners to further reduce special handling situations due to missing data, missing supporting documents and improve productivity.  After all, what doctor or hospital doesn’t want to get paid quickly and without added effort?  There are still those who don’t do the “right” thing, but they are now a very small percentage – and easy to focus on for ‘education’.

·         Invoice processing is possibly the major use of document imaging and recognition technology.  Some organizations might get invoices from a thousand vendors in a typical month, all different.  Improvements in automatic image enhancement and semi-structured document recognition technology have reduced the AP man-power needed, but still you are dealing with documents being prepared by others.  The Holy Grail of invoice processing is to get a high percentage of the volume to pass through without needing to be touched.  No matter the effort placed into tuning the recognition software for the high volume (by way of number of invoices) vendors, there are limits.  So it pays to look at the format and image quality from vendors who are difficult to process, and give them a call.  Once again, prompt payment is a motivator.

Invoice images that are not crisp or those that lack clear information will require manual review.  Some vendors won’t make changes just for you, but others will make reasonable changes, particularly when you can show it will help their other customers.

·         Even with the Internet, there are still a large number of paper-based applications being used.  One way to get better submissions is to deliver some preliminary education.  Either one-on-one or in a group setting, a review of proper procedures and typical errors to avoid can prevent frustration on both sides.

Now an opportunity for you my readers:  Have you managed to motivate business partners to provide better input, and how did you do it?  Or tell us what challenges you face with your incoming documents?  Maybe we can help.

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