Health Systems Considering Remote Revenue Cycle Management
– According to a new survey, large hospitals and health systems plan to permanently move more revenue cycle management operations out of the office and into employee homes.
The survey of 587 chief financial officers and revenue cycle leaders at hospitals and health systems found that 75 percent of organizations will permanently change revenue cycle management due to COVID-19.
The top way revenue cycle management operations will change? Remote work.
A third of CFOs and revenue cycle leaders (33 percent) responding to the Alpha Health survey conducted through the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA) Pulse Survey program said they are planning for more permanent work-from-home based on how COVID-19 has impacted the organization.
Another 23 percent of respondents also said they plan to keep tools in processes in place to enable a quick transition to remote work if needed.
The other respondents who indicated revenue cycle operation restructuring said their organization plans to automate more revenue cycle functions for business continuity (14 percent) or try another strategy as a result of COVID-19 (5 percent).
Remote revenue cycle management seems to appeal more to health systems and larger hospitals, as well as organizations that have experience with or currently use revenue cycle management automation, the survey showed.
Respondents from these organizations were statistically more likely to restructure their revenue cycle operations to increase permanent work-from-home staffing after the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey stated.
Hospitals and health systems quickly transitioned many of their revenue cycle employees to work-from-home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus at the start of the year.
Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia, for example, shifted about 65 to 70 percent of its revenue cycle staff, excluding registration, to work-from-home.
“That’s work really well and we’re actually looking at long term,” Rick Childs, Floyd Medical Center’s vice president of revenue cycle recently told RevCycleIntelligence.
Making remote work a permanent option has the potential to reduce rented real estate costs and other expenses on the health system, which could be crucial to helping hospitals overcome the $323 billion in financial losses they are expected to see by the end of 2020.
The option can also be a good recruitment and retention strategy, Colette Lasack, VP of revenue cycle operations at The University of Kansas Health System.
“A very good majority are very happy working from home and have found that balance and want to continue to do so,” said Lasack who sent around 270 revenue cycle employees home during the pandemic on top of the 200-something who already worked remotely.
In Kansas, the health system is now looking at remote work as a long-term strategy for revenue cycle management and other non-patient-facing departments and positions, even relisting open positions as strictly remote positions.
But the shift to a more remote workforce will hinge on technology and automation.
“The really foundational thing for us was that we were already measuring productivity and quality before any of this happened and that hasn’t changed,” Lasack stated. “That that is foundational to our success. We know that people are productive, we know people are doing quality work, and they are getting feedback on that on a regular basis.”
The health system also already had the infrastructure in place to ensure a secure connection to employees wherever they were working from, even if it was on their own devices.
Like telehealth implementation, COVID-19 seems to have been a catalyst for more remote work in revenue cycle management beyond medical coding. To keep their staff safe, hospitals and health systems transitioned many of their employees to a remote work model. And many organizations did this in a matter of days.
The new staffing strategy can help to build a health system’s resiliency to unexpected changes in workflows, like a global pandemic. But like with any changes to workflow, monitoring key metrics, like staff productivity, will be key to implementing a successful remote revenue cycle employment model.
For now, the transition seems to be smoother for organizations already equipped with the technology to make a secure connection with remote employees and data analytics tools that can monitor staffing metrics to mitigate remote work problems.
These organizations are now determining how to get now-remote employees all the tools they need to succeed with revenue cycle management at home or wherever they choose to work.
As the pandemic continues, though, more hospitals and health systems will have to weigh the risks of not having remote workforce capabilities and whether the lack of work-from-home options will hinder future employee recruitment and retention.