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 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 employees to participate in creating the policy. They’ll bring good ideas, and feel they “own” a piece of the final result.
2. Put technology tools in place to make CME compliance easier.
The easier you make it for busy physicians, nurses and allied providers to book travel within guidelines and compared prices, the better success you’ll have. Tools like TripLink open booking or Price-to-Beat enable CME travelers to choose lower rates or book within policy without clicking from site-to-site or screen-to-screen.
3. Send out regular CME budget balances.
To keep CME top-of-mind, send out monthly or quarterly communications detailing each provider’s CME allocation, the amount spent, and the remaining balance—as well as 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 to use up the allocated funds at fiscal year-end.
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 CMR guidelines. Identify what you’re looking for and the response to CME expenses that divert from the pre-established guidelines.
Concur offers 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 determines whether you want the compliance reminders to be “hard” (“You are outside of CME expense guidelines.”) or “soft” (“When you’re booking car rentals, remember that we get a significant discount with XYZ corporation.”).
These services ensure 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, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates that between 40–50% of hotels booked currently fall into this direct-booked category.
To maintain visibility and control without restricting your CME travelers, implement a tool, like TripLink, which enables you to capture all flights, hotels and ground transportation no matter where travel is booked.
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 it they can take a picture of their receipt and have it automatically uploaded to Concur. Both your back office staff and your providers save time, reduce errors and reduce end-of-quarter bottlenecks.
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.