How consolidation, automation and incremental improvements can help RCM

Health systems have increased their focus on digitization of patient interactions across multiple departments including the revenue cycle.

To continue improving the patient experience, organizations must find ways to consolidate and automate more repetitive tasks to realize incremental improvements that can contribute to overall ROI.

During an executive roundtable sponsored by Change Healthcare at Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable, Patrick Drewry, vice president of patient engagement, and Lukasz Szulc, vice president of technology product and transformation, both of Change Healthcare, facilitated a discussion on the challenges of creating a patient-centered RCM experience as well as ideas on how to do so successfully.

Four key takeaways were:

1. As multiple functions — including clinical, financial and administrative groups — work to improve the patient experience, they are doing so separately in uncoordinated ways. "Five or 10 years ago, there was a need to reach patients because we just weren't doing it," Mr. Drewry said. "Now we're doing it in spades, but the problem is different. We're stepping on each other's toes and communicating different messages. It's confusing to patients." 

With 79 percent of healthcare organizations managing clinical and financial patient communication via multiple technologies, they end up being separate, siloed, independent experiences for the patient. "The patient experience is horizontal, but health systems tend to be organized vertically," Mr. Drewry said. "We're set up to be in conflict with one another."

2. Consolidating technologies can address the "silo" problem and improve ROI. "If you're thinking about modernizing your approach, there are technologies that can do a lot of what you've implemented over the years," Mr. Drewry said. "Look for opportunities to consolidate some of the Frankenstein technologies, which will reduce vendor spend and total cost of ownership as well as improve ROI."

3. Automation solutions tend to have the biggest impact in the revenue cycle. According to Mr. Drewry, automation "rose to the top of the list because it offloads repetitive work and frees up staff to do higher-touch interactions with patients." This is particularly true in the revenue cycle as about 84 percent of decision-makers reported that automation was critical to revenue cycle management success.

4. To pursue automation, begin by identifying primary pain points, defining key performance indicators and laying out a roadmap for incremental improvement. Mr. Szulc shared how one organization he worked with successfully orchestrated automation in its call center. "We surveyed internal staff and asked them what jobs they liked and hated," he said. "Redundant tasks were the most disliked. Then, we evaluated how much of their daily job was redundant work and found that 20 percent of calls were appointment changes, requests for directions, parking questions or other such inquiries. When we automated that piece, employee satisfaction went up."

Creating more self-service options can also contribute to improvement. Providers face staffing challenges, and patients report wanting to enter more information themselves. "There's synergy there," Mr. Drewry said. "Can we offload some of the low-hanging fruit to the patients? They want to do this work, and they want to do it for free."

Addressing no-show cancellation rates, patient collections and appointment scheduling are other examples of tasks that are ripe for automation. "The goal is to is to automate those high-volume, easy functions, so that your team members can operate at the top of their license," Mr. Drewry said.

By consolidating departmental solutions and further automating those high-volume, mundane tasks in the revenue cycle, health systems can continue to improve the revenue management process and the overall patient experience.

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