In most communities, people have a choice of where they receive care. If your organization is administering COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, it’s possible you’ll be engaging with people who’ve never been to your facilities. This presents a prime opportunity to create a future customer. While you may have solid testing and vaccination processes, there are additional ways to ensure a positive patient experience. Why is this important now? As the pandemic wanes, elective procedures will increase and patients have choices for care. Health systems and physician organizations need to do all they can now to protect and strengthen the revenue cycle, which is a good offensive play in revenue cycle management.
Refresh the registration and scheduling process
Many healthcare organizations have had to scramble to quickly get COVID-19 vaccine administration processes in place. Many are challenged with severe appointment backlogs, registration website crashes, and appointments that fill up within seconds. Frustration is high, especially among those in the first groups prioritized to get the vaccine. While hiccups in website traffic issues can’t always be anticipated or avoided, there are other areas of the registration process over which you do have control.
One great opportunity is to leverage patient access technology and skilled healthcare specialists to capture as much information about the patient as possible. The combination of technology and talent reduces time-consuming, manual processes like calling payers to gather coverage information. It also reduces the likelihood of errors and missing patient information related to claim submission and patient billing. Having a refined approach in place now is a good, proactive strategy; the sheer volume of testing that has been happening over the past year means organizations are adding thousands of new patients into their databases. Making sure the information is accurate is of utmost importance. When elective procedures go back to full capacity, having that data in place will be extremely helpful—especially for those who have never visited the organization before other than to receive a COVID test or vaccine.
Make it easier for patients to pay
Because of the pandemic’s financial impact on patients, health systems and physician organizations are doing all they can to help reduce that stress. Some paused statements altogether while others have increased financial assistance or temporarily extended payment deadlines. Regardless of your organization’s policies going forward, it should be designed around the patient. Using the patient’s preferred communication method is essential in this effort, especially text messaging, which can be used for friendly payment reminders.
First, offer multiple ways to pay—including digital solutions. Today, most consumers expect digital payment options. The McKinsey 2019 Digital Payments Survey found that 77% of consumers engage in some type of mobile payments. Whether through an app, online, or over a mobile device, digital payments are gaining in popularity across all age groups. Other options should include the traditional live customer service or payment by mail, as well as automated phone payments through IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology.
Second, offer flexible and affordable payment plans. This is especially important now as many patients’ financial situations have changed due to lost or reduced income. Patient-centric payment technology and service representatives enable health systems and physician organizations to set up payment plans specific to each patient’s clinical needs, financial situation, and propensity to pay. Advanced processes and technology also allow patients to roll up future medical costs and add those of family members. Paying a single monthly payment is much easier than trying to manage multiple bills for multiple services for multiple family members.
Third, provide an estimation of patient financial responsibility. Having this information allows them to make more informed decisions about their healthcare. When patients aren’t able to pay, offer them financial assistance and then guide them through the application process. Doing so can enhance the patient experience and create a customer for life.
Leverage analytics and technology to simplify denial management
Denied claims means denied revenue. But simply deploying denial management technology is not the answer. There are two ways to implement technology. One is to simply turn it on and the other is to ensure it is completely embedded within workflows. For example, you can have 835 automation but lack of coordination with actual work efforts, it will be difficult to capture full ROI on your technology investments.
When fully integrated into existing workflows, denial management technology can provide insightful analytics necessary to identify critical issues and systemic problems. These could include the need to increase training of coding staff or to assign someone to stay on top of ever-changing payer requirements or timely filing deadlines.
With the right technology and associated solutions, staff can work smarter, not harder. Rather than just working denials based on balance or age, the analytics enable healthcare organizations to score denials based on balance, age, filing limit, denial type, and more. Root cause analysis can segment denials based on the probability of collection and historic appeal overturn rate. Having this insight not only increases staff efficiencies but also makes their efforts more effective. That, in turn, reflects positively on the bottom line. It also enables you to spend less time chasing revenue and more time with your patients.
The Bottom Line
It’s almost become a cliché now to say that we’re living in unprecedented times. But it’s true and will be just as true a year from now. Continuing to embrace a pre-pandemic approach to the revenue cycle can put long-term financial viability at risk. The best way to defend against this is by building a good offense. Leveraging technology to improve efficiencies and the patient experience is the perfect place to start.
 “Market Research on Patient Collection Strategies 2020 and Beyond,” by Eliciting Insights, sponsored by iVita Financial, September 2020