3 innovative revenue cycle strategies that can help boost your bottom line

The healthcare industry is in a period of profound change, and as provider organizations strive to unfetter themselves from increased margin pressures, equally profound innovation is needed.

During a Feb. 20th webinar sponsored by GE Healthcare and hosted by Becker's Healthcare, Gerilynn Sevenikar, Vice President of Hospital Revenue Cycle at San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare; Andrew LeBlanc, Manager of Decision Support and Revenue Cycle Analytics and Jonathan Sharr, Senior Decision Support Analyst at Middletown, Conn.-based Middlesex Hospital; and Shiv Gopalkrishnan, Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise Financial Management at GE Healthcare, discussed three innovative revenue cycle strategies organizations can utilize to help improve financial health.

1. Gamification. Sharp Healthcare's revenue cycle department is a high-performing group helping the organization achieve 1.8 percent cost to collect, 45.6 days in A/R, 5.8 days in DNFB, and 95% EOS. But upon analyzing employee turnover statistics, Ms. Sevenikar found a telling trend: Although millennials comprised only 27 percent of her team, that same group made up 56 percent of turnover.

Ms. Sevenikar wondered what she could do to better retain the best and brightest of the workforce's future leaders. The answer came to her during a conversation with her teenage daughter, who was absorbed in a mobile game that promised next-level standings and rewards, and wondered if she could apply the same principles to her team at Sharp.

Gamification is the application of the typical elements of gameplay — point scoring, competition with others and rules of play — to other activities. Ms. Sevenikar saw this strategy as a means of not only engaging employees, but also of forming a more real-time understanding of how her office functioned every day to optimize revenue cycle performance.

"What if we had a way of giving employees real-time feedback while they are doing their job?" Ms. Sevenikar said. "What if we were able to assign points to tasks in the workflow — the higher complexity of the task, the higher points."

In collaboration with GE Healthcare, Ms. Sevenikar and her team designed the gamification of their office using analytics from their existing CentricityTM Business revenue cycle solution. The games create point values for individual tasks and offer the opportunity for team challenges as well as one-on-one productivity showdowns. Incentives such as double points on Mondays provide a structured approach to friendly competition that can lead to sustained behavioral changes and better outcomes.

Though Ms. Sevenikar touted gamification's positive effect on her office's revenue velocity, hold bill productivity and reduced escalations, its greatest benefit may be increased employee satisfaction.

"In seven years, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce, and this is critically important while you are planning workflow for your employees," Ms. Sevenikar said. "Our next generation of employees are digital natives. They will have spent their entire communicative lives with a cellphone, and they want real-time feedback."

2. Merging clinical and financial data. Mr. Sharr and Mr. LeBlanc are part of a decision support team that looks to provide insights to the executive staff at 180-bed Middlesex Hospital. The team finds innovative ways to connect financial and clinical data from disparate systems across the hospital to drive better outcomes.

"The worst thing is showing up to a meeting and arguing over which number is the right number," Mr. LeBlanc said. If that can be eliminated, you can spend your time actually making decisions."

Utilizing GE Healthcare's Centricity informatics platform, this team puts useful data in the hands of decision-makers. One example of this approach was the team's analysis of inpatient total knee replacement procedures.

The team aggregated and analyzed revenue cycle and clinical data to identify outliers with high cost variability, such as provider difference and supply variance. Through merging this data using GE's platform, the team found vendor loyalty for similar-performing, though differently priced, supplies was a significant cost variance among surgeries.

By presenting this data and other findings to surgeons in an objective way, Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Sharr have encouraged behavioral change, helping the hospital reduce the cost of total knee replacements by 5 to 8 percent in recent months.

"Using informatics with combined sources, we're able to give insight into programs that may have been overlooked," Mr. Sharr said.

3. Combined business office. New market pressures in healthcare have elevated administrative efficiency to a top-most priority. In a combined business office, organizations integrate hospital and physician billing at the same physical location with the same leadership structure, producing combined patient statements from a single revenue cycle solution. This kind of office is essential to streamlining administrative functions and helping achieve value-based care's Triple Aim of reducing costs, improving patient satisfaction and improving outcomes.

Increased efficiency in these offices can lead to reduced redundancy and helps improve outcomes by aligning the finances of coordinated care. In an optimal combined business office, organizations perform A/R follow-up, coding, remit processing, customer service calls and combined analytics all in the same location, establishing productivity gains and enhancing the patient experience with centralized account services.

Before transitioning to this model, organizations must consider employee concerns about potential layoffs, how competing departmental priorities can clash, geographical restrictions and technological limitations. GE Healthcare's Centricity Business Combined Business Office solution can provide an easy-to-use platform that offers a single-system workflow and single-page view to help organizations in their transition to a combined business office.

"Clearly our industry is getting disrupted in multiple facets, and having a combined business office is a foundation that can help you innovate to deliver better patient experiences and outcomes," Mr. Gopalkrishnan said.

To watch a recording of the webinar, click here.

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