A New Resource for EP Labs: HRS Consulting Services

Interview by Jodie Elrod
Interview by Jodie Elrod

HRS Consulting Services, which officially launched during Heart Rhythm 2013, is a Heart Rhythm Society affiliate company. In this interview we speak with Rod Williams, HRS Consulting Services President, about this premiere and multi-faceted strategic advisory group. 

Tell us about the HRS Consulting Service and why it was created.

As you know, the Heart Rhythm Society has been in place for more than 30 years. As this rapidly growing field has evolved, heart rhythm specialists continue to be faced with new challenges, which have been exacerbated by the new requirements of health care reform. In response to these changes, the HRS Board of Trustees recognized the opportunity in response to change to diversify funding sources. As a result, HRS Consulting Services was established as a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary designed to leverage more than three decades of expertise in the field of electrophysiology. This extends the society’s ability to deliver continued expertise in EP to practitioners, payers and hospitals with EP-related advisory services. 

Describe the services you’ll be providing.

There are three discrete services that we will initially be focused on, with the aim of strengthening and improving operating efficiencies, overall quality, and financial performance. The first service area will be revenue cycle improvement, addressed through coding and billing assessment services. The second is EP lab efficiency, both on the administrative and operational sides. The third area is device clinic efficiency to help promote more aggressive remote monitoring and patient management. The target for our services is primarily hospital and hospital systems, offering EP services as part of their cardiovascular program, as well as the private practice physicians.

What is the timeline for these services to start? 

I am excited to say that HRS Consulting Services is already operational. We launched at Heart Rhythm 2013, to great fanfare and excitement. Given the challenges currently faced across the healthcare industry, it’s not surprising that many institutions are in need of advisory services to optimize their profitability for EP services in the face of unprecedented change. As a result, we have signed contracts and will be beginning those client engagements in the next 30 days. The initial focus of these contracts will be looking at coding and billing methodologies to ensure that facilities are optimizing their revenues while remaining in compliance with Medicare and third-party payer guidelines. So, I can confidently say that we’re up and operational, and by the end of this year, we’ll be fully operational in the area of EP lab efficiency and device clinic optimization to round out our service offering for our hospital clients.

When will AFib certification for EP labs be available?

In response to increasing attention to quality improvement and the value of accreditation as a tool to improve patient care, HRS conducted a study to determine the feasibility of an accreditation program for EP labs in the United States. The HRS Board of Trustees will review the findings of the study and determine the role of the Heart Rhythm Society in the accreditation arena. In recognition of the steady pace of innovation and therapy advances, HRS is preparing a consensus statement that will define the critical components and processes of a modern EP laboratory. Our advisory services will continue to evaluate opportunities that deliver value across electrophysiology for the continued effective management of atrial fibrillation. Our commitment at HRS Consulting Services is to identify advisory services through collaboration with our partners around the world to ensure that heart rhythm professionals and patients everywhere can benefit from the latest scientific advances and best practices. 

Are the services designed only for EP labs or also for other entities in the EP field, such as physician groups?

Based on the fact that we have a broad range of EP expertise behind us, we are extending our services to physician groups as well as EP lab practices. However, when I assumed the leadership role for HRS Consulting Services in January, after much consideration, I made the deliberate decision to keep the scope and reach of our services narrowly focused on EP-related services, rather than tackle the entire cardiovascular service line.

How can the group be reached?

Parties interested in learning more or contracting for our services can check out our website (www.hrscs.net) or contact our offices at (202) 464-5061. Our website provides comprehensive information on the range of services that we offer and the consultants that currently are on our board.

What is the approximate time commitment like for EP labs participating in this service?

While the time commitment may vary across organizations, we do have a process in place that enables us to do a thorough evaluation with minimal interruption. As with all of our service lines, our process consists of doing as much external work as possible before the start of the site visit to ensure efficient use of our client’s resources. We generally anticipate spending around two days onsite to do a complete operational assessment, identify operating deficiencies through a gap analysis, and map out existing practices. From the results of these two stages, which are estimated to take a couple weeks, we’re able to make objective recommendations for revenue improvements as well as demonstrate how to streamline and rationalize their clinical operations to operate more efficiently. 

What would the process look like for the EP coding service? 

Very much the same. We will do an in-depth review of charts to identify discrepancies or potential gaps in existing coding methodology and identify opportunities to optimize their revenue. We’ll come onsite, share those findings with the client, participate in the development of the appropriate management tools required for sustainable coding integrity, and also do onsite education with staff, physicians and allied and coding professionals.

Will there be opportunities for online consultations as well?

Given the nature of our work process and expertise, and because our work involves such comprehensive analysis, I am anticipating that we will do most of our work onsite. There are so many factors to be considered, and each institution is different, with its own unique needs and solutions. Therefore, I do not advocate for managing or solving such systemic problems through an online basis. The onsite evaluation of processes and the personal interaction are keys for us to identify the best solutions for our clients. In electrophysiology in particular, there are so many nuances and specializations exclusive to the field. That’s why I’m excited about the position that we’re in — with our deep domain knowledge and expertise of some of the world’s thought leaders in EP, we are uniquely qualified to offer consultation on best practices and guideline-driven approaches. Based on the reception we’ve received thus far, I think there’s a lot of excitement in the field as well. Organizations are looking forward to having HRS Consulting Services play that role to help them determine how to make EP practices run much more efficiently. They trust in our expertise and are confident that we can provide useful solutions that incorporate standardization and rationing of their clinical operations to reduce variation and strengthen key performance measures. 

How is the HRS Consulting Service different from other consulting services available in the healthcare field?

I think what really separates us is our unmatched domain expertise. I know there are a lot of reputable consulting services that offer services that cover the entire cardiovascular area. However, when you think about the specialization of the EP field, the technique and approach for both device management and ablative procedures, I think that we set ourselves apart because we leverage the core expertise and intellectual assets that our consultants have acquired through their affiliation with the Heart Rhythm Society over many years. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

As you know, this field is still undergoing such tremendous change — new payment reforms, physician integration — there is a high degree of variability and resistance to change. In this current climate, to be financially successful, hospital networks will have to take a hard look at improving and rationalizing their clinical operations, by leveraging operational activities and best practices. By doing so, they will realize care delivery that is better integrated across settings and has enhanced performance across the entire system. There is unprecedented pressure to improve quality while reducing cost. Our mission in working with hospitals and physicians is to improve quality and patient outcomes, while working with them to attain maximum reimbursement. A win-win situation, as we see it, and the reason why we do this work.