An advanced digital strategy and fresh approaches to revenue cycle operations: Healthcare leaders discuss the impact on patient satisfaction, operational efficiency and brand loyalty

Healthcare financial and operational leaders are grappling with major challenges like labor shortages, patient satisfaction and a proliferation of technology vendors to manage. Many leaders see the patient financial experience as ripe for transformation and believe that digital tools and new approaches to revenue cycle operations can help.

A roundtable sponsored by R1 RCM at the Becker's Hospital Review 12th Annual Meeting featured three panelists and a large group of health system c-suite executives who are focused on the patient financial journey. The group discussed how digital technology and revenue cycle partnerships focused on maintaining oversight and enabling ongoing collaboration can transform the revenue cycle and improve patient perceptions of healthcare provider brands:

  • Tina Barsallo, vice president of revenue cycle operations, LifePoint Health in Brentwood, Tenn.
  • Nick Ragone, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, Ascension in St. Louis, Mo.
  • Jennifer Stemmler, chief digital officer, Adventist Health in Roseville, Calif.

Three key takeaways:

  1. Given the current healthcare environment, digital tools are the best way to serve more patients. Adventist Health, a California-based health system that serves more than 80 communities along the West Coast and in Hawaii, has a mission to provide health, hope and healing. "Core to our 2030 strategy is doubling the [number of] lives that we serve. The only way we can do that is to have digital be the first way we touch a patient, which also frees up time to let physicians and other staff focus on providing a white glove experience to their patients," Ms. Stemmler said.

    To serve more patients while minimizing additional resources, Adventist Health has partnered with R1  to implement the onboarding and intake solution. Patients can now review and update their information on their mobile device before they come in, rather than sitting in the office for 30 to 45 minutes with a clipboard. Adventist Health is also working with R1  to simplify and personalize the patient financial experience. "We want to create a great consumer experience, while improving our yield and cost to collect. The communities we serve are our shareholders. What better way to invest in the marketplace than by deploying technologies and processes that make it easier for people to access care?" Ms. Stemmler asked.

  2. Cultural, strategic and technology fit are important considerations when hiring a partner. LifePoint Health operates more than 65 hospitals, as well as more than 30 behavioral health and rehab hospitals across 29 states. After creating a central business office (CBO) to support many of its hospitals, LifePoint recognized that it needed additional support. In 2020, it began evaluating revenue cycle partners to work with the CBO. "It was important to find a partner who would be the right cultural fit for us. We wanted to leverage our existing CBO talent. We also wanted an organization with end-to-end technologies and a robust patient experience strategy," Ms. Barsallo said.

    Ultimately, LifePoint decided to work with R1. According to Ms. Barsallo, "Partnering with R1 on the front end of the revenue cycle has allowed us to centralize scheduling. Also, its technology sits on top of seven different EMRs and standardizes processes and user experiences across the organization."

  1. Payment dissatisfiers weigh heavily on brand reputation and must be addressed. Ascension, a national health system that operates more than 2,600 sites of care in 19 states and the District of Columbia, works to create consistent care journeys across its ministries. Mr. Ragone explained that patients can have a good clinical outcome, but that doesn't mean they've had a great experience. The top dissatisfiers tend to be around payment, whether that's navigating five different bills or navigating the complexities of health insurance. Ascension is currently working with R1 to create a seamless financial experience that connects the dots for patients at every step, from online scheduling to mobile check in to simplified billing and online payment. "The consumer doesn't differentiate between Ascension and R1," Mr. Ragone noted. "To consistently deliver on our brand promise, we work very closely with R1 and all of our partners to make sure they understand our culture and brand values."

Financial leaders are under significant pressure to make investment decisions that will streamline the patient experience and make the revenue cycle more efficient. When adopting new operational partnerships and/or technology solutions, however, change management is critically important. Executives, employees and physician leaders must be turned into advocates for the chosen direction. According to Ms. Stemmler, "We've had tremendous support from our senior executive team. This isn't just a revenue cycle initiative. It's a consumer and revenue cycle initiative."

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