Automation is becoming a major player in healthcare revenue cycle management, with the potential to streamline processes and improve efficiency.
Associating the word"revolutionary" with revenue cycle management isn't an immediate connection most would make. But, being the healthcare-IT-enthusiast, I am – I'm going there.
The revenue cycle management field is seeing a shift towards automation and remote work. A panel of experts from various healthcare organizations, including Banner Health, New York University Langone Health, Indiana University Health, and Luminis Health, recently discussed the challenges and opportunities in this area. The following summarizes their insights on the current trends in healthcare revenue cycle management.
Recruitment and retention are top of mind
Recruiting and retaining qualified staff in healthcare organizations is a significant challenge. For example, filling senior-level revenue cycle positions can take more than 200 days and cost nearly $6,000 while entry-level positions can take 80 days and cost over $2,000.
Christina Harney, vice president of access management at IU Health, says, "The volatility of change is enormous in healthcare. The team you have around you really drives how successful you are."
Remote work adds an additional layer of complexity to staffing issues. While it can provide more opportunities for workers, it also makes it harder to recruit and retain staff. However, allowing remote work can open up a larger pool of qualified candidates.
Becky Peters, executive director of patient access at Banner Health, said remote work has allowed their team to hire more qualified staff from across the country and has resulted in increased staff retention.
A hybrid approach, where employees can work from home either part-time or permanently, has also improved morale and retention. Sheldon Pink, vice president of revenue cycle at Luminis Health, reported that although employees returned to the office quickly, they recognized the value of remote work in certain situations.
Automation is finally igniting
Automation is rapidly becoming a major player in healthcare revenue cycle management, with the potential to streamline processes and improve efficiency. One area where this is particularly evident is automating preregistrations for hospital and physician visits, which can significantly improve the registration process.
Harney reported that IU Health has already implemented an automation product and has seen positive results from utilizing automation and bots. Experts estimate that over 100,000 registrations will soon be completed through automation.
Manual processes are out; management by exception is in
Manual processes are being replaced by automated tools, resulting in reduced denials on the back end. By simplifying scheduling algorithms, patients can schedule their appointments for primary and specialty care while providing good-faith estimates and compliance with the No Surprises Act. Additionally, automation is being used to verify a patient's coverage, helping to reduce denials. Harney said IU Hleath is looking to automate more in the future to make it easier for patients to make informed decisions, pay their liabilities, and help staff with collection.
Automation equals better returns
Now let's talk about the exciting part: staying in the green.
Peters introduced a program shortly after joining Banner Health more than four years ago known as "revenue cycle modernization." This initiative involves automating 26 projects across various aspects of the revenue cycle.
"We saw a significant increase in point-of-service collections, registration accuracy, and productivity," said Peters.
One of Banner Health's primary operational goals for 2023 is to improve revenue. "It's all about cash flow," said Peters. "Ensuring we are financially stable and our metrics are where they need to be. So, we will continue optimizing all our tools and automating as much as possible."
The moral of the healthcare trends story
It may seem unconventional to use the term "revolutionizing" to describe trends in healthcare revenue cycle management. Still, when it comes down to it, these developments are crucial to the success and sustainability of healthcare organizations.
From staffing changes to automation of processes, healthcare leaders are constantly looking for ways to optimize their operations and increase revenue. In today's economic climate, with a recession looming and inflation on the rise, it's more important than ever to focus on building the right team and strengthening efficiencies.
In fact, according to estimates, the U.S. healthcare system could save over $16 billion through workflow automation alone. So, while the term "revolutionizing" may not be the first word that comes to mind, these trends in healthcare revenue cycle management are undoubtedly essential and impactful.
Merideth Wilson is the chief operating officer of Experian Health