Flexible workforce & digital tools: How health systems are meeting care delivery challenges in 2021

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Health systems continue to face revenue challenges this year, amplified by a decrease in elective procedures, the need for a vaccine distribution and increased staffing needs.

During a featured session sponsored by Change Healthcare at Becker's Health IT Plus Revenue Cycle Management Virtual Forum, industry experts discussed challenges health systems are facing in 2021 and how digital tools can alleviate patient concerns and boost operational efficiency.

The speakers from Change Healthcare were:

  • Keith Slater, national vice president of patient access and revenue cycle solutions
  • Patrick Leonpacher, business development and operations executive

Five takeaways:

1. Revenue losses. The pandemic has had a significant effect on health system revenues, with total losses of $323.1 billion accrued by hospitals in 2020, according to the American Hospital Association. With the decrease in elective procedures, vaccine distribution requirements and heightened staffing needs, expected revenue streams will continue to be at risk this year, Mr. Leonpacher said.

2. Enhanced patient concerns. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified healthcare concerns for many patients and exacerbated care delivery challenges for providers. One in four patients believe their healthcare system handled COVID poorly, with about 15 percent of patients planning not to return to their provider based on how they handled the virus, according to Mr. Leonpacher. "That creates a significant challenge for all of us as care delivery systems," he said. "[But] layered within that, is the opportunity to increase revenues."

3. A new type of workforce. Health systems were forced to alter strategies to address the COVID-19 pandemic last year, shifting clinical resources to handle inpatient rushes and moving many staff to work from home. One benefit borne out of work-from-home positions is "increased talent pools," Mr. Slater said. Health systems, like many industries, are now thinking about "work from home" as a long-term strategy to reduce facility costs, but need the right protocols in place to set these employees up for success.

4. Meeting patients' needs. Patient wait times for contact centers to get their care questions answered are on the rise, leading to a drop in patient satisfaction scores. High staff turnover, rising denial rates from payers and "increasing levels of inquiries about calls, bills and lost coverage"  have contributed to this, Mr. Slater said. Health systems can employ several strategies to alleviate this, including installing remote check-in capabilities or a shift in process.

5. Unlocking digital technologies. One of the positives that the pandemic created was the unlocking of many digital tools, such as telehealth, remote check-ins and new patient engagement technologies, which patients have been highly receptive to, according to Mr. Leonpacher. Digital forms, sharing insurance of identification documents and collecting payment can all be done online, eliminating concerns surrounding in-person interactions."We can do all of these things digitally ... so that you can create a unique and differentiated service experience to win in a time of massive uncertainty across our patient base," Mr. Leonpacher.

Click here to learn more about Change Healthcare and here to access the recording.

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