Compared to other industries, healthcare tends to be more resilient to economic turbulence. But the weight of the pandemic, labor shortages, rising costs and increasingly complex reimbursement structures are squeezing hospital margins. A Kaufman Hall National Hospital Flash Report in July 2023 found that many hospitals underperformed, and the gap between high-performing hospitals and those struggling continues to widen. Providers must find new and effective ways to improve revenue cycle management, should any new uncertainties emerge.
With pressure mounting to increase efficiency and reduce expenses, more providers are turning to automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate unnecessary manual work and optimize revenue cycle management processes. For example, Stanford Health Care leveraged automation to reduce their cost to collect. Banner Health improved patient collections with transparent price estimates. Schneck Medical Center zeroed in on claims management and incorporated AI to reduce denials. In the face of a cashflow crunch, healthcare providers increasingly turn to data-driven revenue cycle management (RCM) strategies that span the entire patient journey.
This article lists six of the most effective income-generating digital RCM strategies that providers are using to maximize profits.
Building blocks of a healthy revenue cycle
At its core, revenue cycle management is about ensuring providers are fully reimbursed for the care they provide. The true ROI is much broader – efficient financial and administrative processes for patient billing, claims management and collections contribute to better care, satisfied patients, high-performing staff and good financial health. Realizing these benefits calls for revenue cycle processes built on three principles:
- Efficiency – streamlining processes to reduce resource utilization across the entire billing cycle
- Accuracy – ensuring all patient and claims data is correct and complete to avoid denials and delays
- Transparency – giving patients, providers and payers relevant and timely information, so they can act with confidence in each financial transaction.
To achieve this, providers are moving away from slow, costly manual systems. Digital RCM tools are becoming non-negotiable.
6 data-driven strategies for effective revenue cycle management
1. Increase efficiency in patient access
Revenue cycle management starts when the patient books their appointment and ends when the final bills are settled. Claim denials and delayed payments often arise from data errors and miscommunications in the early stages of the patient journey, which means patient scheduling and registration processes are critical to streamline RCM. With automated, data-driven patient access tools, providers can simplify tasks across the patient journey, so patients can move from one stage to the next with as little friction as possible. Fewer errors mean delays and disappointment are more easily avoided.
Automated registration and online self-scheduling can also lead to savings through more efficient use of staff time and reducing the number of appointment no-shows. Experian Health clients find that online tools allow them to make relatively minor adjustments to their workflows, with a major impact on productivity.
2. Deliver accurate and timely patient billing
Patients want the payment process to be as painless as possible. In multiple surveys, Experian Health has found that patients are worried about the cost of care, while 63% of providers believe patients frequently postpone care because of cost concerns. Clear, comprehensive estimates, billing and collections practices can make it easier for patients to navigate their financial journey. And with the end of continuous Medicaid enrollment, it’s likely that more patients will find themselves unsure of their coverage situation, and in need of greater support to manage the financial process.
For Stanford Health, the key to improving revenue cycle management centered around patient billing and collections. To achieve the dual goals of improving the patient experience and increasing collections, they used data-driven insights and automation to remove uncollectible accounts, prioritize accounts with a high propensity to pay, find missing coverage and reduce the manual workload.
Listen in as Kristine Grajo, MBA, Director, and Teresa Ceja-Diaz, Vendor Management Analyst, at Stanford Health discuss how Experian Health helped their organization optimize their collections strategy.
Collections Optimization Manager helped Stanford Health identify the best possible collections strategy, by scoring and segmenting patient accounts with the highest propensity to pay. Coverage Discovery® supplemented this strategy by checking for any unidentified primary, secondary or tertiary coverages that can potentially reduce self-pay amounts and avoidable charity designations. As a result, Stanford Health achieved a $4.1m increase in average monthly payments and efficiency gains of $109k per month.
3. Provide transparent price estimates
Experian Health’s State of Patient Access 2023 report suggests that fewer than three in ten patients know how much their care will cost in advance, while nine in ten consider it important. Delivering accurate pre-care estimates to help patients plan for bills could therefore be an easy win to improve the patient experience and recoup more revenue.
Banner Health used Patient Estimates as part of a wider strategy to improve patient collections. This solution generates detailed estimates of the patient’s financial responsibility along with recommendations for payment plans and financial assistance, if appropriate.
Listen in as Becky Peters, Executive Director of Patient Access at Banner Health, talks about streamlining the patient registration process and improving patient access with pre-care estimates.
4. Effective claims management
Perhaps the biggest opportunity to improve revenue cycle performance lies in claims and denial management, which accounts for a major proportion of wasted healthcare dollars.
Summit Medical Group Oregon–BMC paired Enhanced Claim Status with Claim Scrubber to submit cleaner claims the first time and avoid lost revenue. These tools help providers submit accurate claims and monitor claim status to prevent denials and resolve issues quickly. For Summit Medical Group, this led to a 92% primary clean claims rate, and a reduction in accounts receivable days and volume by 15%.
Experian Health also offers a new solution that leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence for predictive reimbursement. AI Advantage™ uses AI to predict and prevent claim denials based on historical claims data. In the first six months, this solution helped Schneck achieve a 4.6% average monthly decrease in denials and decreased time spent on denials by 4x.
5. Easy ways to pay (plus clear pricing and payment policies)
How easy is it for patients to pay? This simple but important question points to another vital element of effective revenue cycle management. A compassionate and convenient patient payment experience that matches consumer experience in other industries can encourage earlier payments. Easy digital options are especially important for millennial and younger patients: research by Experian Health and PYMNTS found that 60% of younger patients are looking for digital services.
Experian Health’s patient-friendly payment tools are designed to help patients navigate their financial responsibilities with confidence and ease. For example, PaymentSafe® allows providers to securely collect payments anytime, anywhere, including mobile payments and patient portals.
6. Operational efficiency with automation, data and analytics
RCM processes generate vast amounts of data, providing valuable insights into the organization’s operational performance, revenue trends and areas for improvement. Being able to parse and translate this data into actionable insights is essential to determine the right strategies to pursue to optimize financial performance. But this in itself can be a major lift.
Revenue Cycle Analytics is a web-based tool that breaks down data into actionable insights across billing, reimbursement and payer performance, presenting KPI data via comprehensive dashboards.
Effective revenue cycle management from start to end
From labor shortages to rising costs, healthcare providers are finding creative ways to manage cash flow. While each healthcare organization’s needs and goals are different, understanding these six key strategies of successful revenue cycle management can help hospitals manage their revenue cycles more effectively and efficiently, while responding to new uncertainties.
Find out more about how Experian Health helps healthcare organizations leverage automation and AI to streamline processes and boost revenue cycle performance.