Plan to succeed: Safeguard patient revenue during consolidation

Rising consolidation in the healthcare industry is a reality to support the push toward patient-centric, value-based care.

In fact, according to a recent KPMG survey, 84 percent of respondents predicted the healthcare industry will experience the highest rates of mergers and acquisitions in 2015. While merging of technologies, staff, finances and company cultures can be tricky, it's just a matter of knowing where to look for smart ideas that can ease the transition and capitalize on new collaborative opportunities.

When it comes to merging organizations and their revenue streams and financial strategies, look to other industries for innovators like Amazon as a shining example of an organization that successfully provides both businesses and consumers with convenience and a high-quality experience that satisfies everyone involved.

The good news is that these are not proprietary ideas: The same kinds of consumer-focused technologies that have enabled Amazon to dominate their industry can also help providers during an acquisition plan. Such features may include leveraging cloud-based technology, establishing a focus on ease-of–use or empowering patients with various convenient methods and modes of communication and payment to choose from. Doing so can provide a newly collective clinician and patient base with seamless connection across multi-facility networks, simplicity, scalability and convenience.

Patient revenue cycle "pros" and "cons" of acquisition
Such benefits as those found in the Amazon model are vital to the success of an acquisition, especially since the current state of healthcare finances are complex at best. Reimbursement rates continue to fall, infrastructure maintenance and regulatory compliance costs are rising and patients are shouldering more of their healthcare costs.

While consolidation helps hospitals to save money by increasing scale, it can lead to multiple billing offices trying to collect patient payments through varied channels, with different vendor systems cobbled together to interact and communicate with patients. Patients can not only become confused, but each office can be left without a complete view of the patient's payment records, as some portion of billing inevitably will be stuck in a different system.

On the other hand, by leveraging cloud-based tools to bridge the gaps between disparate systems, organizations navigating consolidation can dramatically help both sides of the merger drive down costs for the health system, optimize patient revenue cycle initiatives and provide a high-quality experience to patients across multiple care settings.

The solution: A single approach to ensuring patient revenue success
During a merger or acquisition, organizations need to look at their data and answer such questions as: How much did we collect last month? How much did we collect last week? Yesterday? How do those numbers stack up between all organizations and locations? Doing this will help them better assess their financial health from a patient revenue cycle perspective across all settings, as well as identify where improvements need to be made.

Measuring financial success during consolidation is less complicated with a centralized patient revenue cycle platform because each organization has the ability not just to understand its own patient payment data, but also the data across the entire newly consolidated organization. Having this information makes it easier to safeguard patient revenue streams during the changes. Furthermore, cloud-based patient payment systems can help healthcare organizations create that "consumer experience" that patients have increasingly come to expect from providers as they are becoming more financially responsible for their own care.

Take, for example, the patient who visits his primary care physician. When he goes to pay his co-pay, if there is a centralized patient revenue cycle platform in place, the office staff can see whether the patient has an overdue payment at another location in the network, or is behind on a payment from a previous encounter. In that single encounter, the patient is able to make his current payment and the past-due payments, either by single credit card swipe or is even able to spread the payments across multiple payment methods if needed. Everybody wins. The patient receives a convenient and personal experience and the practice enhances not only the revenue of the individual location, but also safeguards the patient revenue cycle across the health system as a whole.

What's more, as health systems continue to grow larger and merge with other healthcare organizations, a scalable patient revenue cycle solution will be necessary to help meet patients' payment needs both during consolidation and in the future. Specifically, cloud-based platforms remain stable regardless the amount of demand, which enables healthcare systems to grow the footprint of the patient portion of the revenue cycle to ensure all settings within the consolidated organization reap the benefits.

Bolstering the future of consolidated healthcare organizations
In the flurry of activity surrounding mergers and acquisitions, making financial and technology decisions based on a developed long-term strategy is far more effective than basing them on immediate need. The most important things consolidating healthcare organizations can do is to proactively plan to put patients squarely in the center of the equation to ensure happy patients and optimized revenue across the system.

Indeed, merging organizations that think about the patient revenue cycle ahead of time and prepare accordingly will not only enjoy the financial advantages of consolidation from day one, but will also be poised to achieve the connectivity, scale and convenience needed to thrive in the healthcare environment of tomorrow.

Bird Blitch is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Patientco.

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