The Future of RCM: Our Top 2024 Predictions

As we enter Q4 of 2023, many of us are busy with 2024 planning and preparations for what the new year brings. This past year has been an exercise in patience for many while our economy has weathered a storm of supply chain disruptions and high inflation. According to J.P. Morgan’s Midyear 2023 Outlook, the US economy has been performing better than experts anticipated, but end of year predictions indicate growth to slow both domestically and globally, per the International Monetary Fund’s latest projections. As business owners and operators, it’s important to keep track of these macroeconomic trends to see where your practice may need to adjust to keep operations moving smoothly.

Looking ahead to 2024, revenue cycle management (RCM) is top of mind for many healthcare leaders, so let’s take a look at our top predictions and considerations for the year ahead in the world of RCM.

Labor Market is Expected to Slow

Hiring and staffing issues have plagued the industry for years now, and while the overall long-term projections for healthcare occupations look optimistic, institutions like J.P. Morgan expect the near-term domestic labor market to slow. We know from our own research that staffing shortages in billing departments, in particular, can and will cause problems for other areas of the practice.

A CWH Advisors survey— sponsored by CareCredit— PatientPay 2022, found that 63% of respondents were experiencing staffing shortages in their revenue cycle departments, citing those vacancies as particularly difficult to fill. As a result, practice operators are almost guaranteed to see less predictability in revenue cycle operations.

But don’t write this off as an unavoidable consequence of the market. A simple solution many practitioners are already implementing is outsourcing. The same PatientPay 2022 survey showed us that 52% of respondents are already employing the help of third-party financing to aid with collections of patient balances and 61% of providers are looking to make greater use these options in the years to come. For those of you who have been navigating staffing challenges for too long, now is the opportune time to consider a third-party partner that can help pick up the slack for your organization, before the market slows further.

Consumers are Looking to Stretch Their Dollar

Experts at Deloitte say that much of the household savings people were able to accumulate during the pandemic are close to being exhausted and that many consumers will remain cautious about spending as the economy slows. For consumers, rising inflation rates coupled with increasing out-of-pocket costs, high-deductible healthcare plans, and traditional health plans covering less, already have put a squeeze on what care patients can and cannot afford, and as a result, some are opting to forgo care.

According to Synchrony’s Lifetime of Healthcare Costs study, 28% of respondents reported delaying a recommended medical procedure because of its cost, while 17% ignored recommendations for care outright.

Knowing this, we’ve also seen a rise in consumerism in healthcare as more people are willing to shop around to ensure they’re getting the best bang for their buck. For consumers, value-based care decisions are centered around pre-service cost estimations, pricing transparency and patient-centricity. McKinsey & Co. found that the payment experience is particularly important in whether a patient decides to return to a provider, with one-third of consumers unsatisfied with the lack of alignment between their bill and the explanation of benefits. If patients are going to move forward with care, as part of their patient experience they expect a seamless payment process with no such surprises.

When patients choose to delay care, forgo care or simply decide not to return to your practice because of the financial processes, it is hard to predict the exact impact this will have on your revenue operations. However, we know that while we cannot control the cost of healthcare, we can control the outcomes of the patient financial experience in ways that mean your practice doesn’t have to lose revenue or deal with delayed time to payment. Working with a patient financing solution like the CareCredit health and wellness credit card, gives patients options to pay for care.

Technology Adoption Will Be Key

As mentioned above, outsourcing certain RCM department operations to an outside partner can stymie some of the repercussions caused by staffing issues in these departments. In addition to that, broader adoption of technology aimed at automating redundant operations at a practice can do the same. Implementing more efficient systems such as online or mobile billing and payments can minimize accounts receivable and administrative burdens. When you transition to a more digital based approach, your RCM department should be able to streamline and operate more efficiently even with less staff available.

Going back to our conversation about consumers looking for a better experience -- smoother, more automated payment processes are always a plus. People these days are on the go, and no one wants to be bogged down with a missed copayment or forgetting to settle an appointment balance. Focusing on revamping your patient billing portal can go a long way to keeping your customers happy all while keeping your cash flow moving. Not to mention that offering more than one way to pay for those bills helps patients pursue the care they want and need because they know there is flexibility in their payment options.

With Synchrony’s suite of offerings, we can help you with all these integrations and more. Our contactless online credit card application is easy to use, and patients can see if they prequalify for the CareCredit healthcare credit card, apply, and pay all on their mobile device. Payments made using CareCredit help relieve your practice from having to deal with any risks if a patient delays or defaults on payment.

While these aren’t all that is to come in 2024, these are some of the trends we’ve noticed while working with our healthcare partners. If you’re looking to make changes in your RCM department heading into the new year, learn more about how partnering with Synchrony can help by visiting www.CareCredit.com/beckers.

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Disclaimer:

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual advisors and/or medical providers with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accepts no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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