IT, patient and provider alignment — 5 notes on the Cedar-AnMed partnership

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The healthcare financial landscape is rapidly being altered by shifting patient demands, technology options and the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer platforms, such as Cedar, that improve the patient's financial experience are used by health systems to offer transparency and flexibility.

During a hospital executive roundtable session on May 13 sponsored by Cedar as part of the Becker's Hospital Review 11th Annual Meeting, Christine Pearson, CFO of AnMed Health in Anderson, S.C., joined an executive from Cedar to discuss industry trends and share insights. Five notes from the session:

1. Patient-centered technology provides health systems the opportunity to improve transparency and flexibility in the financial process. For years, patients have wanted increased simplicity and flexibility in their healthcare financial experience, with clear information in one place. Health systems have an opportunity to implement patient-centered solutions. The focus on transparency means that different elements of the health system can communicate with one voice to the patient about what is owed and why. Ms. Pearson emphasized the importance of being flexible in communication with patients and offering a range of convenient payment options.

2. A digital engagement strategy touches the entire business model. Digital engagement requires infrastructure and an evolved business model. Telehealth may lead to restructured pricing. Treating the public as consumers and keeping the brand relevant even when consumers don't need healthcare pays off over time.

The patient-centered approach, ranging from a transparent billing platform to treating individuals respectfully, helps build trust. It is also important to "consider building trust within your own teams," Ms. Pearson said, to overcome skepticism and boost deployment of new tools.

3. Smart technology investments pay off in healthcare finance. Healthcare finance investments, which are often less favored than investments in medical technology, must be viewed holistically, weighing the risks of not changing. AnMed Health's investments have proven successful, with patient satisfaction going "through the roof" and collections up 20 percent, according to Ms. Pearson.

4. COVID-19 presented an acute crisis, while also accelerating underlying trends. The pandemic elevated compassionate treatment around payment. AnMed pursued different approaches, including extending payment plans, offering financial counseling and qualifying patients for Medicaid. Health systems must also take care of their workforce after the trauma of COVID-19, facilitating the adjustment back to "more normal" and being more flexible.

COVID-19 accelerated business model adjustments and "showed us we could do things we had been reluctant to do," Ms. Pearson said. These changes, such as telehealth and drive-through vaccine clinics, can be extended to reach more patients for wellness and screenings.

5. Fulfilling careers in healthcare are purpose-driven and include calculated risks. Ms. Pearson shared insights about her career. The most important advice she received was "bring your heart to work, not just your head," which reinforces the purpose of a healthcare career. She noted that healthcare is "a very risk-averse industry," which is necessary on the clinical side but has "permeated the culture." It therefore requires extra effort to avoid the perfection trap that prevents the occasional failures that present opportunities for growth. These career lessons, such as connecting to purpose, took on new meaning during the pandemic.

To learn more about the event, click here.

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