Navigating the NHI Bill: How technology can empower medical practices

With the NHI Bill signed into law in May 2024, millions of South Africans have the promise of access to quality healthcare. While it’s impossible to predict the timing & outcomes of NHI with any certainty, it will significantly impact how medical practices operate. 

Technology will likely play a crucial role in navigating the proposed changes & those yet to come. Not only from a billing & practice management point of view but also how patients are managed through the healthcare system. 

For private practices, NHI presents an opportunity to review current systems & get NHI-ready. In this blog, we’ll discuss the primary ways the NHI Bill might influence technology adoption at your medical practice & what you can do about it. 

Increased need for efficiency & data management

A primary concern of the proposed bill is higher patient volumes. With the NHI proposing to centralise record-keeping & billing, practices will need to adopt electronic medical records (EMR) systems that can seamlessly integrate with the NHI framework. This will ensure efficient data exchange between stakeholders & treating clinicians while simplifying administrative tasks.

What you can do: Streamline appointment scheduling with an integrated online booking platform, such as RecoMed, that syncs with your practice calendar. Not only is this a more patient-centric way to encourage patient appointments, but you will also be able to generate easy-to-use reports on your practice’s patient volumes & capacity. 

Robust billing capabilities & data 

If you haven’t yet invested in billing software, there’s no better time to make the change to a trusted solution. Paper-based (or Excel-based) billing & account management are a thing of the past. Not only because of their inherent inefficiency but importantly, because it would be impossible to comply with standardised NHI billing procedures.

What you can do: Invest in an easy-to-use medical billing solution that automates routine admin, such as patient benefit & family checks. Choose a solution with a proven track record of helping practices collect money owed quickly & easily. 

Reporting that’s insightful & easy-to-use

The NHI Bill emphasises value-based care, where reimbursement is tied to patient outcomes. It’s crucial that clinical management technology enables practices with intelligent data analytics tools to track patient progress & demonstrate the quality of care provided.

What you can do: Implement an end-to-end solution that allows you & your staff to manage patient notes & billing without having to log in & out of systems that can’t exchange data between them. Not only will this lighten your administrative load, but you can generate reports that provide valuable insights into your practice’s performance & patient compliance. 

Remote consultations 

NHI might encourage the use of telehealth for remote consultations & care. This is in line with the aim to extend primary & specialist healthcare to all South Africans, especially those in living in remote areas. Telehealth has the potential to increase practitioners’ capacity to see patients, reduce waiting room times for patients, & increase patient compliance with follow-up appointments. Remote consults have already been tried & tested & proven to be popular with patients & in some medical specialties. We can expect this to continue to grow as NHI rolls out.

What you can do: Practices that invest in telemedicine platforms can expand their reach & start catering to a wider patient base now. It’s imperative to use a solution that is truly user-friendly for both the patient &practitioner. 

Standardisation & Interoperability

One of the core goals of NHI is to standardised the healthcare system. Practices will need to ensure their technology is interoperable with the NHI systems to enable seamless communication & the secure exchange of sensitive information.

What you can do: Many solutions claim to be interoperable or can securely exchange information with the right people at the right time. Because no one is certain what exactly the NHI system will require, it’s essential to choose a technology partner who is fully committed to ensuring that medical practices using their software are fully compliant with NHI regulations around interoperability. 

While there continues to be uncertainty surrounding the exact implementation timeline of NHI, the Bill presents an opportunity for medical practices to embrace technology & improve efficiency, data management, & ultimately, patient care delivery. With careful planning & consideration with the right technology provider, practices are taking proactive steps towards becoming NHI-ready while running a better business. 

Healthbridge is committed to helping private practitioners run their best practice. For more information about how you can future-proof your practice, contact sales@healthbridge.co.za & an experienced Business Consultant will be in touch for a free practice health assessment.