Working remotely was a necessity for many people during COVID-19 lockdowns. As the proverb goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” So, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that within mere months, humanity found ways to remotely accomplish all sorts of jobs that were primarily performed in person before the pandemic.
Like most other employers, hospitals and health systems now have a tremendous opportunity to improve operations as they tap into the growing workforce demand for remote jobs. While there are certainly some challenges associated with remote healthcare workflows, there can also be some sizable benefits. The key is to evaluate where remote work makes sense within health systems and where it doesn’t.
A few short years ago, performing revenue cycle management (RCM) functions off-site was unthinkable for many health systems. In the post-pandemic world, however, many are enabling remote RCM to attract qualified staff and take advantage of inherent workflow efficiencies.
Fundamentally, healthcare is about people helping other people. That means we will never — and should never — entirely replace human-to-human contact in the healthcare experience. For example, even though telehealth, e-prescriptions, and digital monitoring now create innovative diagnosis and treatment options, there will always be a need for direct person-to-person clinical encounters.
Likewise, some RCM functions are best performed at the point of care. When patients are apprehensive about an upcoming procedure, for instance, there is simply no substitute for the comfort they can receive from on-site registration and admissions staff. But that’s only possible if those staff members have the capacity to provide an empathetic and compassionate patient experience — and that’s where a technology-enabled remote workforce as well as patient self-service technology can deliver substantive benefits.
Technologies exist that allow staff to remotely conduct activities such as scheduling, pre-registration, insurance verification, authorizations, financial counseling, price estimates, and the collection of co-pays or balances. With those responsibilities efficiently managed by off-site talent, on-site staff members have more time and attention to offer the patients before them.
In many respects, health systems can draw inspiration from how airlines have transformed their check-in processes. Travelers today enjoy choice. They can check-in online before they arrive at the airport, use self-service kiosks, or talk with agents who stand ready to assist them in person or over the phone.
With the advent of patient-facing digital and kiosk solutions, patients can leverage the same multi-pathway experience for their healthcare. Self-service registration kiosks in waiting rooms, registration tablets in the ER, and remote registration contact centers have all been used by health systems to provide supportive registration options.
In addition to empowering the patient experience, remote RCM workflows also expand the pool of potential job candidates.
Health systems may continue to have trouble recruiting on-site talent due to growing concerns about potential disease exposure, difficult patient situations and burnout. Other recruits may simply prefer the flexibility afforded by commute-less remote work. Indeed, R1 has seen applications for remote positions outpace on-site positions by as much as 10:1.
While many remote RCM workflows make sense today, they promise to become even more critical going forward. In some instances, remote solutions may be the best bet to solve unique challenges and enable ongoing operations.
For many healthcare providers, these types of solutions are a paradigm shift In thinking and process. A revenue cycle partner with experience Implementing this approach can ease the transition and provide a proven roadmap for success.
Part 3 of our blog series will address the unique RCM staffing challenges faced by small, stand-alone, and rural hospitals in the wake of the pandemic.
Brooks Babcock is a senior vice president supporting R1’s Enterprise Revenue Cycle Management Solutions. In this role, Brooks leads a team to deliver performance accountability and meaningful results to customers. In previous roles with R1, Brooks managed and delivered a full range of practice management and business services across multiple physician specialties. Brooks obtained his bachelor's degree in history at Davidson College and his masters of business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.