New HFMA Chair Michael Allen challenged attendees at HFMA’s Annual Conference last week: Are you protecting your turf? Are you paralyzing progress? Allen criticized healthcare leaders for being stuck in the past, clinging to legacy ways of doing things in a keynote that got people talking.
“We are far behind most other industries using automation and technology to make our work better and to make the experience for our patients better, easier and on their terms,” Allen said.
Allen dared healthcare leaders to move, to try new things, to do things differently.
The Truth, the Dare
Allen was spot on. I tested his claim and asked people at the conference how they were leveraging automation and technology to communicate with patients in the billing process. The silence was deafening. An overwhelming majority admitted communication is a backroom afterthought. “We got a guy, <shrug>.”
A chief financial officer told me, “I can do it better in house. I want the hospital to communicate with the patient. I give my billing to an RCM, but I want to hold on to communications. I don’t want anyone to touch that.”
But holding on so tight is only hurting providers and their patients. Allen made a point of saying that both patients AND hospitals are still confused about billing, which drew both laughs and groans.
Communications Is the Missing Link
We need to consider the billing and payments patient journey from point of service to beyond discharge or treatment and examine how providers communicate throughout this timeline. We need to reach patients based on their channel preference, give them access to a payment portal that’s easy to navigate and offers a variety of payment options, and we need to deliver statements that are easier to understand. And we need to make it easy for them to retrieve previous statements at-will and look at payment history all in one place.
Customer communications management (CCM) technology coupled with a modern electronic bill presentment and payments (EBPP) solution brings everything together for streamlined communications and integrated payments. With a trusted CCM vendor partner, RCMs help healthcare clients look at the patient financial experience holistically while focusing on the real revenue gathering.
I’ll admit to proudly watching several Nordis clients talk to prospective health systems customers about the importance of patient communications, a payment platform, email, texting, meeting the consumer/patient where they are. Nordis’ Expresso CCM and ExpressoPay EBPP platforms enable RCM to offer their provider clients a turnkey communication and payments system.
Dare to Do Better
The industry isn’t valuing financial communications in the patient journey as much as it should, perhaps because it’s rarely measured. Patient experience is mostly tied to clinical experience, which is a too-limited point of view. A steep decline in participation in the HCAHPS patient experience survey and its narrow focus has many health systems supplementing with their own surveys, focus groups, and even Yelp reviews for performance feedback.
An analysis of Yelp reviewers found that two-thirds gave top hospitals mediocre to poor ratings, and of those, 84% complained primarily about nonclinical issues including billing and poor communications follow up, according to a February article in Healthcare Dive.
Why aren’t healthcare leaders more focused on communications when the rate of revenue collection is really about communications and getting communication right? I believe communications can and will make the difference. If we have information, then we make better decisions whether we’re in the COO chair or in the patient chair – we need simple and effective information. Allen says fear and failure may be holding leaders back, but “if you aren’t out there, then you can’t make a difference.”
Dare to be different, dare to change. Don’t stay in the past. It takes leaders to change this dynamic.
About the Author
Nicole leads Nordis’ client services and product management. She is responsible for the client journey, from new product development, implementation and delivery of technology and production services to ongoing client support and servicing. A former Nordis client, Nicole brings firsthand knowledge of Nordis solutions and more than 25 years of experience in healthcare, technology, revenue cycle management and business operations.
Vice President - Client Services