Why Employee Engagement Is Essential to Cultivating the Next Generation of Revenue Cycle Leadership

January 12, 2021

RCM teams experience high turnover in the best of times, and as RCM teams navigate today’s uncertain economy, 92% of respondents to a recent R1 labor survey are facing labor shortages. As teams shuffle around, employees with enough tenure to be familiar with systems and policies are replaced by newcomers, if they’re replaced at all. Loss of institutional knowledge poses significant barriers to nurturing long-term industry leaders. 

In RCM, experience matters. It takes time to grasp intricate bills and claims, intimately appreciate the patient experience and recognize how economic shifts impact revenue. 

Working with payers and providers over time can deepen knowledge in a way that improves financial health. How can RCM leadership foster long-term talent with the potential to grow into the next generation of leaders? 

An underutilized partnership 

Employee engagement has become a buzzword what does it mean for RCM specifically? Engaged revenue cycle team members understand how their roles contribute to the larger organization and feel empowered through clear expectations to effectively execute daily tasks. 

Healthcare system HR departments spend their days connecting and supporting employees who work in high-stress environments. They know employee disengagement can perpetuate poor performance. Working with HR to upskill and motivate employees can enhance financial health by building a team committed to excellence. 

1.) Target your training.  

As RCM employees leave, taking established relationships and expertise with them, loss of institutional knowledge waylays daily operations. Since information collection and processing begin on the front end, early errors compound over time. RCM teams can work with HR to develop training aimed at skills that can pose challenges, such as managing prior authorizations for treatment, maintaining regulatory compliance or following proper medical-coding practices. 

Only seasoned RCM leaders, knee-deep in daily processes, can spot specific points where newer employees need support. When RCM managers actively identify knowledge or experience gaps, they can collaborate with HR to prepare training programs targeted at those areas. In addition to group training, one-on-one training can help individuals feel supported right where they need it. 

Also, as more health systems leverage automation, workflows can fundamentally shift. Automation removes rote tasks to help teams focus their time on more satisfying, high-value work. For example, when staff automate claims-status checks, they can prioritize exception-based workflows requiring human intervention and payer expertise. 

RCM leadership needs to carefully navigate the people dynamics involved in implementing automation. They can partner with HR to develop training around demanding tasks and build the knowledge of payers needed to successfully execute. 

Over time, helping staff focus their time will build a generation of leaders prepared to maximize the power of automation as its industry presence continues to grow. 

2.) Reimagine communication for remote-leadership development.  

Remote and hybrid RCM work options are here to stay. Flexible options can prevent burnout and capitalize working hours across the entire team, but this change requires creativity from RCM managers. They can work with HR to help remote team members achieve RCM mastery. 

In the past, an employee working through a complex claim or needing insight on a payer relationship could ask a colleague in the next cubicle. Now, the detailed questions inherent to RCM may go unanswered, as people hesitate to interrupt others’ days with calls. RCM and HR leaders can partner to help teams share best practices. This can take the form of various communications channels or wiki pages for collaboration on specific claim types and regular huddles among teammates working with certain payers. Teams can crowdsource problem-solving sessions for sudden issues and establish ongoing mentor programs. 

Virtual development also means reimagining goal and productivity tracking. Gaining visibility into how employees are spending their time is especially crucial in RCM’s team-based environment. RCM leaders can learn from HR’s recommendations on assessing performance. Productivity can be tracked through software, whether through an electronic medical record or a bolt-on system related to specific business functions. Leaders can also set specific KPIs like clean-claim rates or avoidable write-off rates. Setting benchmarks will help identify high-performing employees and motivate future leaders. 

3.) Commit to continual improvement. 

Engaging employees is a moving target. Daily financial challenges can be complex enough to absorb 40 hours a week, but failing to step back and assess employee satisfaction can cause discontent and even attrition down the line nothing will work unless the team does. 

Disengaged employees may not go the extra mile when negotiating with a payer or staying on top of coding changes. With increasing costs and shrinking margins of top concern, leaders must prioritize employee well-being. 

To thrive, R1 employees need clearly defined role expectations, specific metrics, and ongoing feedback and celebration of successes. HR regularly checks the pulse of employees, not only in terms of daily support but also overall job satisfaction. A continual discussion between HR and RCM can foster these practices to encourage team engagement. 

In the interconnected RCM world, each employee depends on the other, laddering back to the overall movement of a claim through the system. By taking the time to nurture leaders through intentional support, RCM leaders can set up entire systems for success. 

Check out more automation and workforce resources here.

Author: Adam Cartabiano, general manager 

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