From money pit to strategy unit: ClearBalance CEO talks change in RCM

As hospitals and health systems take on a growing number of risk-based and value-based contracts some organizations are retooling their revenue cycles into strategic business assets.

Bruce Haupt, CEO of patient financing company ClearBalance, has more than 25 years of experience at major healthcare and IT companies, including McKesson and IBM. He recently spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about how and why hospital leaders need to change the way they think about revenue cycle operations to achieve value-based goals.

1. Invest in human resources. As consumers shoulder great financial responsibility for their care, hospitals and health systems are interfacing more than ever with patients to collect. This has transformed the professional criteria for successful registration and billing department employees, according to Mr. Haupt. Revenue cycle leaders need to consider new applicants with a high-level of financial and insurance expertise who are capable of engaging patients in productive conversations about their benefits, says Mr. Haupt. Hospitals have a vested strategic interest in developing and recruiting RCM personnel with a higher skill set, and that requires capital investment.  

2. Custom, individualized patient payment options. Informed by their experience in commercial retail, patients expect both convenience and customization in their healthcare experience. As hospital reimbursement is increasingly tied to patient satisfaction, executives need to revisit alternative payment and financing options available to their patients, Mr. Haupt says.

3. Hospitals need to focus on new metrics. "Everyone talks about their cost-to-collect, but those aren't the kind of metrics that are going to count moving forward," says Mr. Haupt. Cost-to-collect measures the revenue cycle's economic value to the hospital by only measuring costs and ignore quality. Instead, hospitals looking to turn the department into a strategic business unit should focus on the economic benefits of investment, Mr. Haupt says. New IT systems, high-level staff and advanced payment tools can produce greater collections and drive positive patient experience down the line.

4.  Marketing the revenue cycle department. Hospitals' marketing and advertising strategies have become increasingly important as regional competitors fight for market share. Consumer-centric, user friendly financial processes can drive hospitals' appeal within their market, says Mr. Haupt. Alternative financing options like interest-free loan programs can earn patients' trust by showing the hospital as a vested partner to the community. For instance, in a recent survey of ClearBalance customers, 96 percent of respondents said healthcare providers that offer a zero interest loan breed hospital loyalty among patients and provide a service to the community.

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