Chief executive officer Lindy Benton has worked in the healthcare information technology field for more than 20 years and is currently the CEO of EA Holdings, which includes MEA and NEA. MEA|NEA is an industry leader in revenue cycle enhancement for payers and providers. It manages the secure exchange of health information, providing critical functionality to payers, medical and dental providers and other agents.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share how your early career working with multi-challenged preschoolers helped encourage your interest in technologies that could help the kids you were serving?
Lindy: When I was teaching, there was no technology available at the time that truly benefitted the lives of the children. However, I quickly realized, through my education, that the “new” desktop computers called PCs could be a technology that would help with not only my students, but all children. I realized that technology being developed in the ‘80s would allow kids with challenges in verbal and dexterity that helped facilitate their communication and allow them to become more independent. These technologies became and led to the kinds of things that are making a big difference all over the world.
BusinessInterviews.com: Why do you think that the important link between payers and providers has been such underserved market and how do you see that changing in the coming years?
Lindy: I believe that the gap between payers and providers exists simply because there are so many other priorities for both parties related to government regulations and programs that streamlining the claims adjudication process with a paperless claim attachment solution just isn’t at the forefront of their minds. Although, if they looked at how much money they could be saving and how much more efficient their processes could be by making this simple change, from paper to electronic claim attachments, they’d see a huge value in what MEA|NEA offers. Additionally, with all of the news about data breaches and security risks security of personal health information and HIPAA, compliance is critical. Our solution is fully HIPAA compliant, something the mail and overnight services that transport paper documentation can’t say, and making the change from paper to electronic claim attachments is something that even a large payer or provider organization can do with just a minimal amount of effort, as proven by our customer, Boca Raton Regional Hospital.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you expand on how you not only help protect the privacy and security of your clients but also are having a large impact on the reduction of paper waste in the process?
Lindy: At MEA|NEA, HIPAA compliance and data security are our highest priorities. Our secure electronic solution replaces page after page of paper files that can get lost in the mail and has led to thousands of cases of compromised patient information. Our repository is a secure data center where payers and providers can exchange documentation and where providers can exchange sensitive information securely and upload the files required to adjudicate a claim. No one sees the data that’s being sent except the sender and, ultimately, the recipient after they retrieve the files. Here’s an example for you: Think about the boxes of paper files that might accompany a single extended hospital visit – x-rays, diagnostic test results, medication lists and so much more. Now, picture the number of medical records for a provider of the patient who gets a request for additional information on the claim for the previously mentioned stay. This provider has to transport and ship stacks of file boxes containing sensitive medical records to the payer to adjudicate the claim. Once the files finally make it to shipping and are sent to the payer, someone on the payers’ end has to pull each file and sort through the mass of paperwork to find the select few pieces of information they need to resolve the request; in most cases they only need one or two pages from hundreds or thousands sent to support the claim. Talk about a process bogged down with wasted paper and lost time. This is the problem we are solving today at MEA|NEA.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share any insights that you gained while working for The Sage Group that you’ve been able to apply to your role MEA|NEA?
Lindy: Working at The Sage Group gave me a truly global perspective on how businesses are intertwined with one another even if the industries may seem to be vastly different. For example, I headed up the healthcare division, but we worked very closely with Sage Payments and with the Sage Nonprofit groups to bring our customers solutions that made sense for them. From that perspective, being part of a large organization was great in that we could really add value for our clients through those “familial” relationships. I think at MEA|NEA, we follow those lines in that we are constantly looking at other businesses that might offer complimentary services or solutions that can benefit our clients and support their needs. Everything we do, every partnership we embark upon, has to bring some value to our clients or it’s not worth investing in for us.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some trends in the healthcare IT field that you’re excited about?
Lindy: I am excited to see technology adoption rates start to grow. In the past, providers carried the burden of the cost and were not making money off of the implementation or innovation. We’re starting to see equal share spread across all the entities. For example, when you look at things like electronic health records (EHRs) in exam rooms, mobile devices being used as physicians do rounds, and other electronic solutions being utilized to reduce paperwork, it gives me hope that we can help ease the burden of the “business-side” of healthcare and enable providers to get back to caring for patients which is what they got into medicine in the first place.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some of the key ways that the MEA/NEA brand has changed and evolved over the past 20 years? Also, how you plan to keep the momentum going in such a rapidly changing industry?
Lindy: Although the strength of our brand has always been to provide a way to exchange medical information, we have grown to be known as one of the leaders in the secure electronic information exchange.
We initially started in the dental space with the same mission we have today – to send sensitive information to payers and to help providers get paid faster; today the mission is still same, but we have grown from dental only into medical and healthcare and provide the same capability for providers to send info to requestors. Our brand continues to be the leader, and we have expanded into the secure storage not only for providers to store sensitive info about practices, but also to give payers a way to store medical records for payers – data extension – and to store medical sensitive information in a secure environment. We’ve gone from National Electronic Attachment to NEA and added on Medical Electronic Attachment, then combined the names to become what you now know as MEA|NEA.
Through it all, our mission and vision has remained the same and I think that’s important for any brand. It’s hard to keep your brand promise if you aren’t sure what it’s supposed to be. We believe very strongly in maintaining our brand and delivering secure data solutions to our clients. Currently, we’re developing additional products and services that will enable our clients to secure their practice data in new ways and grow their businesses in ways they may not have thought of yet. Our commitment of being not just a vendor, but a partner with our clients has never changed no matter what our name has been over the years. As we say and as we believe: “Secure electronic information exchange isn’t just part of our business, it IS our business.”
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some of the highlights of the past 25 years of HIT?
Lindy: Clearly, moving from pad and pen to electronic health records is the biggest change we’ve seen. Now, everything is in the palm of our hands and this allows physicians to share information amongst each other. Additionally, minimally invasive (robotics) surgery is now hugely innovative, which has led to improved care, more procedures becoming outpatient visits rather than a week or two in hospital for a patient; and the introduction of technology for everything from billing to clinical data capture is becoming a major development. Some other highlights include the emergence of wireless communication, which have enabled emergency vehicles to have conversations with hospitals prior to arrival and have saved lot of lives, as well as remote monitoring tools like telemedicine and telehealth. The use of tech enables sharing of that information across entire world; the Ebola outbreak news and updates is a good example of how information can now be shared worldwide for everyone’s benefit. Finally, technology allows for better monitoring of abuse of the systems by payers and providers.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some of the lows?
Lindy: Because we are so technologically advanced, there are so many opportunities for compromising information; technology and its use has advanced and has made information easily available online, but this information is no substitute for speaking to your doctor. Unfortunately, this is becoming a prevailing practice. Additionally, single doctor practices are going by the wayside. Also, the cost model today means that providers bear most of the cost of the technology they implement into their practices and savings seems to be accrued by others. Also, much clinical information still resides on paper versus within a technology solution; there’s still lots of paper in healthcare, which increases the chances for medical errors.
BusinessInterviews.com: Any predictions for the years ahead?
Lindy: Consumer-driven healthcare is coming of age — for example, “doctor shopping”; as is having access to all of my own records. Additionally, exchanges will drive insurance marketplaces and competitiveness for the consumer, which should lead to more affordable healthcare. Also, healthcare is everywhere because of technology, which means we’re seeing a move in care from hospital to the home; predictive medicine versus symptomatic medicine (genomincs); a growing group of older Americans to provide medical coverage will drive demand for caregivers; hospice care is growing; and healthcare going global are all trends I expect to see quite a bit more of in the near term.
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