Continuing Medical Education (CME) is critical to healthcare providers—keeping them up-to-date on the latest medical advances and legally licensed to do their jobs. Although every organization allocates funds for these events and classes, managing CME travel and expense can be a painful experience.
Without the right system and procedures in place, accurately tracking ongoing CME spend is a complicated process—from knowing what’s already been spent to ensuring the funds are used in an appropriate way. Charting costs, managing compliance, and avoiding “surprise” reimbursement requests, can feel like a full-time job for many travel managers.
So how do you make CME travel and expense management easier and more efficient? Here are six ways to get you started:
1. Create a fair and sensible expense policy.
It doesn’t have to be a long and complex document; just something that clearly explains what your organization considers a legitimate CME expense. For example:
- Are flights or meals for spouses covered?
- Are there limitations on types of beverages approved?
- What are the approved uses of the funds?
Also, consider inviting healthcare providers to help participate in creating the policy. When employees can bring their own ideas – such as including parameters to utilize loyalty programs – your policy can go a long way when it comes to boosting satisfaction. Here’s an expense policy builder to help get you started.
2. Put technological tools in place to make CME compliance easier.
Since happier employees often results in more compliant spending, the easier you make it for busy physicians, nurses, and allied providers to book CME travel and spend within guidelines, the better success you will have. Here are some tools to help make CME spend compliance easier to manage:
- Concur TripLink gives CME travelers the freedom to choose lower travel rates and make supplier direct bookings, without having to worry about being outside of their managed travel programs.
- Budget gives near to real-time visibility into what’s going on into each healthcare providers spend, so you can ensure there aren’t any surprises – such as being over-budget due to a miscalculation, misunderstanding, or potential fraud.
3. Send out regular CME budget balances.
In a recent SAP Concur survey, 64% of healthcare customers stated that physicians commonly exceed their organization’s amounted budget for CME expenses each year.
To prevent this from happening, keep CME top of mind by sending out monthly or quarterly communications detailing each healthcare provider’s CME allocation, the amount spent, and the remaining balance—as well as a notification when he or she has depleted all funds.
This continual communication flow helps your providers better manage their budgets and avoid last-minute scrambles at the fiscal year-end. You can even automate notifications with Budget to alert employees and healthcare providers once they reach a specific threshold, that way you can make budget adjustments and head off issues before they occur.
4. Create a CME audit plan to maintain insight and control.
An audit plan will ensure that money is being spent accordingly to the pre-established budget and expense policy guidelines. The first step is to identify what you’re looking for and then respond to CME expenses that divert from the pre-established guidelines.
SAP Concur solutions offer both automating and human-based auditing services based on your established policies to ensure CME expenses are appropriate and within your guidelines (like not allowing charges for alcohol). Your organization can determine whether you want the compliance reminders to be “hard” (“You are outside of CME expense guidelines.”) or “soft” (“When booking car rentals, remember that we get a significant discount with XYZ corporation.”).
These services help guide employees along the expense process, ensuring compliance and control – all while removing the burden of oversight from you.
5. Maintain visibility even when CME travel is booked outside of your travel system.
One of the biggest challenges of CME travel is that many conferences require attendees to book through the event’s hotel website. In fact, the same SAP Concur healthcare customer survey showed an average of 45% of hotels booked for CME travel currently falls into the direct-bookings category.
To maintain visibility and control without restricting your CME travelers, implementing a tool like Concur TripLink, can enable you to capture every flight, hotel, and ground transportation reservation – no matter where travel is booked. Plus, it helps your organization stay connected with travelers to serve duty of care obligations.
6. Make filing CME expense reports easy for your providers.
Your providers, like you, are busy people. So, it comes as no surprise that there’s often a lag time between the actual CME travel and when the expense report, receipts, and supporting paperwork make it to processing.
Offer mobile solutions that are simple to use and available when on the go. When your expense system is available on your staff member’s mobile device, they can begin their expense report while attending a CME course. For example, with ExpenseIt, they can take a picture of their receipt and have it automatically uploaded to SAP Concur solutions. This helps both your back-office staff and your providers save time, reduce errors, and reduce end-of-quarter bottlenecks.
Solving the Challenges of CME Spend Management
While CME expense reporting is only one part of the finance operations at healthcare facilities, it can be one of the most difficult to manage. Healthcare organizations following these tips are enjoying more accurate CME tracking and reducing the hassle often associated with CME travel management.
To learn more about the top five challenges for healthcare finance teams when it comes to managing CME spend, download our infographic.