UC San Diego Health's patient revenue cycle pro Terri Meier: 'Take care of your team and they will take care of you'

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Terri Meier, system director of patient revenue cycle at UC San Diego Health.

Ms. Meier will speak on a panel during the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference titled "Best Practices for the Revenue Cycle," at 9:45 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 20. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: In the past 12 months, how have you adapted to new patient experience expectations in the age of consumerism?

Terri Meier: In June 2017, we went live with Epic's single billing office. This provided us with the opportunity to retool our patient financial experience. SBO unified the patient-facing elements of our billing office for both the hospital and our physician group. Our goal was to establish a single point of contact to answer questions about billing, financial assistance and self-pay collections as well as reduce costs related to patient statements by utilizing a single patient statement and bad debt collection. Our decision to staff the customer service department with team members knowledgeable of revenue cycle — our customer service representatives are the highest paid in our billing classification — and our extensive training and education program has contributed significantly to our success. We not only provide this best-in-class customer service to our UC San Diego patients, but recently, [we] also took on customer service for UC Riverside Health. This project required establishing new roles and organizational infrastructure which involved hospital and physician leadership at all levels. Our patients now receive one bill for all services. We have opened up all channels of communication in which a single point of contact can answer both professional and technical billing questions.

Can you share your best advice for motivating your teams?

TM: Take care of your team and they will take care of you. Starting with recruiting, I involve current staff in the interview process by [asking them to help assess] job fit. I ask my staff: "Can you see yourself working across the aisle from this person?" This also makes an impression on the candidate and you can then ask them the same question. My entire SBO team takes charge of the onboarding process, starting with a personal welcome email and gathering some of the new hire's "likes" so they can decorate their new space.

When implementing SBO, my entire team was involved in the design, build and testing of their workflows, and [the team] continues to be involved in process improvement.

We gamify our training and education to make it fun and memorable. In customer service, retention is a big issue, so I have put a lot of effort into gathering feedback from the team, making sure team members are recognized for going the extra mile for our patients, and I provide educational opportunities so team members can gain new skills that can further their career and that I can leverage. We also have a built-in career path within the department as a retention strategy.

Q: What is the best thing you've read lately?

TM: I am in the process of educating my team on the "Ladder of Inference." By better understanding the thinking steps that lead to wrong conclusions, we can take a step back and consider the real facts and hopefully avoid unneeded conflict.

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