5 questions with Banner Health's revenue cycle VP

Brad Tinnermon is new to Banner Health, joining the Phoenix-based system in September as vice president of revenue cycle management and revenue integrity.

Prior to joining Banner, he managed Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives' revenue cycle through an outsourcing agreement with Conifer Health Solutions, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.

Mr. Tinnermon recently answered questions from Becker's Hospital Review about healthcare industry challenges and revealed his goals for next year.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity. 

Question: What do you enjoy most about being a revenue cycle leader of a healthcare system?

Brad Tinnermon: Being part of improving the lives of the community we're supporting, making sure they have access to care and a better understanding [of] how to navigate our health system. A passion of mine is making the healthcare provider more transparent and easier to work with than it has been in the past. That's one of my favorite parts [of the job]. The other one really has to do with the employees and the team I work with on a daily basis. There are a lot of folks that make the revenue cycle work, and [the goal is] making sure we're doing things that can improve their lives, providing more efficient tools, [and] advancing their career and personal growth as part of being employed by Banner Health.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you're facing as revenue cycle leader?

BT: At Banner, we have a lot of things internally we have to look at in 2018. We have some significant upgrades to our technology and processes that need to take place over the next couple years, and we're going to take some big steps in 2018. A lot has happened over the last couple years kind of planning and moving toward that, but 2018 is a big year for us internally in modernizing our revenue cycle. So, while there are a lot of external impacts and influences [within the healthcare industry], that's probably our biggest challenge next year.

Q: What is one of your goals next year?

BT: We're working on really three major pillars. One involves patient experience, how we interact prior to service, during service and post service. We've got quite a bit planned to enhance those interactions. We have a lot of internal efficiency we're working on, modernizing some of our workflows and beefing up our big data usage. Our second pillar is creating efficiency with better data and better workflow. The last one is payer collaboration. We're working hard to move forward with some payer collaboration items that we think are viable in 2018. It's been interesting over the last few years. There's been a lot of talk about payer collaboration, and I've seen very little progress in the last three or four years. [There have been] a few pilots here and there and a lot of talk, but nothing big has come out. But I'm feeling an increased amount of cooperation over the last year that looks like it's leading into some significant things we can do this year, and specifically Cigna and Aetna have been very open and collaborative with us. I definitely see some [payers] maybe breaking through that level of talk and executing on some things.

Q: What would you do to improve the revenue cycle process?

BT: Address interaction with patients. We're looking at not only the interaction from a revenue cycle perspective but blending in the clinical aspects as well. So, when someone is researching potential services they might want to receive, whether they're an inpatient or an outpatient, ensuring they can not only figure out how they would receive information about the disease or treatment of the ailment they may have, but that also blends right into the cost and access and how to work through any financial counseling aspects of that care. [The process involves] kind of blending that entire education piece together for a patient so you're not researching certain ailments on WebMD, which is not tied into any health system specifically, and then making sure they [know] how to navigate through that ailment within our health system. That's something we're looking at not only with technology but also with some more creative influences in that area, whether you have simple animation tools or videos patients can interact with.

The other big effort we're working on is in coding and clinical documentation improvement. We're seeing a lot of opportunity in that area but also a lot of pressure from pay-for-performance and health quality grades, where our health systems are more heavily scrutinized on the outcomes and quality of service we provide. And so much of that information that is analyzed and posted comes straight out of our medical records and our documentation. Obviously, there's been movement to all patient refined diagnosis-related groups from Medicare severity diagnosis-related groups that are getting more specific in making sure teams are really in lock step to accurately document the care provided and tie that accurately to the outcome. So that's an area we're looking to innovate in. [We want] to bring teams together in a more unique way.

Q: Banner Health's net income nearly tripled in the first nine months of 2017. How has the revenue cycle played a role in this?

BT: We made some nice strides in pushing net revenue improvements, but I think we have the greatest opportunity in 2018 and beyond to provide a lot more assistance to the enterprise bottom line from a revenue cycle perspective. I think we helped slightly by being consistent and steady, but I think most of it had to do with a lot of forward thinking in how the organization is put together. Lastly, I think maturity in the health plan space is helping too as that stabilizes as part of the portfolio.

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