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R1 RCMAugust 21, 2020

Take Two on 2020: Four Actions to Jumpstart the Revenue Cycle in the Back Half of the Year

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As healthcare organizations geared up for a new decade back in January, no one anticipated the massive disruption that COVID-19 would soon bring. On top of having to treat and test hundreds of thousands of individuals infected by the deadly virus, hospitals have experienced extreme financial losses due to challenges such as: increased costs for COVID-19 treatment/personal protective equipment, cancellation of elective procedures, the rise of uninsured patients due to job losses and the postponement of treatment due to fear of contagion.

 

While the new decade has taken a drastic, unexpected turn; many of the priorities healthcare leaders planned to focus on are still very much in play – none more so than improving the patient experience. Long-winded check-ins, repetitive paperwork and small waiting rooms are becoming things of the past. With social distancing becoming our new normal, creating digital experiences through utilizing solutions such as contactless registration and self-service options is critical right now. Receiving care in person is also no longer the preferred option for many; telehealth has exploded during the pandemic and isn’t going away anytime soon – predictions point to U.S. telehealth visits surpassing one billion by the end of 2020

 

The massive shakeup healthcare has endured has proven there is tremendous value in preparing for the unknown; and with four more months, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that just about anything could happen next. As organizations work through where to go from here, it’s a crucial time to refocus, evaluate what has and has not worked, and decide which strategies are going to help you thrive in the current environment and prepare for whatever else is down the road. Included below are four actions health systems should take to start generating revenue in the back half of 2020:

 

  1. Open the digital front door to patients

As a result of social distancing and safety concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced health systems to plunge headfirst into offering digital capabilities. The pandemic has also made consumers even more accustomed to receiving services quickly and on their own terms, and patients will undoubtedly be expecting the same experience with their healthcare. Being that the spread of the virus will continue to be a top concern for patients for the foreseeable future, health systems that utilize a Patient Experience platform to create a digital front door strategy will be the top choice for patients.

 

A digital front door provides functionality such as online or mobile scheduling, registration and check-in, enabling both patients and providers to spend less time, in-person, dealing with the administrative side of healthcare and more time on receiving/providing valuable care. Healthcare organizations are increasingly understanding the strategic advantages of a digital front door – improved care coordination, reduced clerical burdens, increased patient retention and lower operational costs – and realizing this technology is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity. To remain competitive in 2020 and beyond, make sure you have a digital front door that is ready to welcome and accept each of the patients that virtually walk through.

 

  1. Revamp your telehealth offering

One of the biggest disruptions to come out of COVID-19 is the increased use of telehealth – CMS reported over 9 million Medicare beneficiaries received care via telehealth during the peak of pandemic.² McKinsey & Company's COVID-19 consumer survey also found that 76% of consumers say they are highly or moderately likely to use telehealth in the future³. Telehealth is even being leveraged in the ED to limit exposure and streamline the patient’s experience.

 

Since telehealth is here to stay, health systems need to evolve their services from being reactionary during the pandemic to viable for long-term use. Hospitals need to dedicate more resources toward administering this virtual care and ensuring that workflows align with internal revenue cycle processes. Hospitals can work with a revenue cycle partner to establish effective workflows to enable patient self-scheduling  and billing processes, as well as making real-time decisions about staffing/hours of operation for telehealth visits. By taking the time to strengthen your telehealth program now, health systems can attract more patients and create a sustainable foundation for providing care.

 

  1. Utilize data analytics to analyze capacity and bring patients back

With the return of elective surgeries, it is critical for health systems to focus on getting patients back to hospitals. However, just because hospitals are able to resume services, doesn’t mean patients will necessarily come back and that scheduling will be like it was before. Hospitals will need to determine which services to make available, and match patients with the right resources under the right clinical/administrative circumstances to optimize overall utilization. With a robust patient experience platform, health systems can utilize data and analytics to match capacity with current demand and better understand what needs currently exist within their community. Having this data enables hospitals to be strategic when reaching out to patients and providers to rebuild volume. To read more on how data analytics can provide a competitive advantage, read our blog, Elective Services Volume is Not Guaranteed.

 

  1. Create an effective yet compassionate financial clearance program

As the number of uninsured patients continues to increase – some projections indicating the number could increase to 40 million⁴ – health systems need to determine which patients are capable of paying and which patients need financial assistance. Effective financial clearance programs supply the most accurate financial information for every care encounter, identify the right financial plan for each patient and ensure that the health system receives reimbursement for all services. For more information on financial clearance and how financial advocacy, which helps patients obtain funding if they can’t afford to pay for their healthcare, can help maximize revenue for providers, read our blog, Optimizing Financial Clearance and Advocacy to Thrive Amid COVID-19.

 

Taking 2020 Back

While 2020 has been challenging, it has also, accelerated some desperately needed innovation in healthcare. Contactless check-in, remote registration and other digital services have not only ensured patient safety, they’ve delivered the consumer experience patients have been wanting for years. If your health system has been waiting or putting off plans to overhaul your revenue cycle operations or implement digital patient engagement functionality, now is the time to “rip off the band aid,” and start seeing a better second half that will likely extend into next year.

 

 

¹Addressing Employee Physical and Mental Health During COVID-19 and Beyond, August 2020.

² CMS: 9 Million Used Telehealth During Early Days of COVID-19, July 2020.

³Telehealth could grow to a $250B revenue opportunity post-COVID-19: analysis, June 2020.

COVID-19 Impact on Medicaid, Marketplace, and the Uninsured by State, April 2020.

 

 

 

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Watch our webinar series, Maximizing Revenue and Improving the Patient Experience, to learn how health system leaders can employ best practices for this “new normal” to engage patients and referring providers, reassuring them of the safety and necessity of seeking healthcare.