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Revenue cycle automation – 6 ways it speeds up reimbursements

Published: February 9, 2024 by Experian Health

Revenue cycle automation - 6 ways it speeds up reimbursements

Prospects for US hospitals that closed out 2022 at a financial loss looked brighter by the end of 2023, prompting cautious optimism heading into 2024. An industry analysis published in October 2023 found that most hospitals were back in the black from March 2023 onward, while the economy more generally ended the year with a strong finish. That said, healthcare margins remain slim, and expenses continue to grow. Finding efficiency savings across all operations remains a top priority. That’s where revenue cycle automation comes in.

With revenue cycle automation, providers can eliminate many of the persistent pain points in traditional revenue cycle management (RCM). Staff no longer lose time to tedious manual tasks, patients get their queries answered faster, and managers get the meaningful data they need to drive improvements. And the biggest win? It’s easier for providers to get reimbursed for the services they provide – faster and in full.

What is revenue cycle automation and how does it work?

Healthcare revenue cycle management knits together the financial and clinical components of care to ensure providers are properly reimbursed. As staff and patients know all too well, this can be a complex and time-consuming process, involving repetitive tasks and lengthy forms to ensure the right parties get the right information at the right time. This requires data pulled from multiple databases and systems for accurate claims and billing, and is a perfect use case for automation.

Revenue cycle automation refers to the application of robotic process automation (RPA) to these repetitive, rules-based processes. In practice, this might include:

  • Automatically generating and issuing invoices, bills and financial statements
  • Streamlining patient data management and exchanging information quickly and reliably
  • Processing digital payments
  • Collating and analyzing performance data to draw out useful insights.

Common RCM challenges

Automation is already making headway in tackling some of the most pervasive challenges, such as:

  • Stemming the rise in claim denials: Experian Health’s State of Claims 2022 survey found that a third of providers had around 10-15% of their claims denied. These often result from errors made earlier in the revenue cycle such as incorrect patient information or overlooked pre-authorizations. RCM automation reduces the propensity for errors significantly.
  • Streamlining patient access: Without a welcoming digital front door, the revenue cycle gets off on the wrong foot. Automation can be deployed in patient scheduling and registration to ensure patient information is collected and stored quickly and accurately.
  • Improving collections rates: Self-pay patients (who are increasing in number) want clear, upfront information about what their care is likely to cost. Providers can find themselves playing catch-up if patients are unsure about what they owe. Automated tools that generate accurate estimates and support pre-service payment can build a more resilient cash flow.
  • Expanding access to data insights: One of the biggest ironies in revenue cycle management is that more data is collected than ever, but managers are struggling to digest it and uncover actionable insights. RCM automation helps identify patterns in claims and collections.

Six ways revenue cycle automation accelerates reimbursements

Let’s break down these opportunities into six specific actions providers can take to improve their organization’s financial health:

1. Capture accurate information quickly during patient access

Victoria Dames, Vice President of Product Management at Experian Health, says, “Patient access is the first step in simplifying healthcare and revenue cycle processes. Replacing manual processes and disjointed systems with integrated software solutions can reduce errors, improve efficiency, offer convenience and transparency to patients, and accelerate the healthcare revenue cycle.”

Patient Estimates automatically compiles an accurate breakdown of what a patient is likely to owe before or at the point of service. It builds in prompt-pay discounts, financial assistance advice and instant payment links, so patients are more likely to pay sooner.

2. Simplify collections and focus on the right accounts

Healthcare collections are a drag on resources. Automating the repetitive elements in the collections process helps reduce the burden on staff. Collections Optimization Manager leverages automation to analyze patients’ payment histories and other financial information to route their accounts to the right collections pathway. Scoring and segmenting accounts means no time is wasted chasing the wrong accounts. Patients that can pay promptly are able do so without unnecessary friction. As a result, providers get paid faster.

3. Reduce manual work and staff burnout

Chronic staffing shortages continue to plague healthcare providers. In Experian Health’s recent staffing survey, 96% of respondents said this was affecting payer reimbursements and patient collections. While automation cannot replace much-needed expert staff, it can ease pressure on busy teams by relieving them of repetitive tasks, reducing error rates and speeding up workflows.

Hear Jonathan Menard, VP of Analytics at Experian Health talk to Andrew Brosnan of Omdia about how AI and automation are addressing staff burnout and improving revenue cycle efficiency.

4. Maintain regulatory compliance with minimal effort

While regulatory compliance may not directly influence how quickly providers get paid, it does play a crucial role in preventing the delays, denials and financial penalties that impede the overall revenue cycle. Constant changes in regulations and payer reimbursement policies can be difficult to track. Automation helps teams continuously monitor and adapt to these changes for a smoother revenue cycle – often with parallel benefits such as improving the patient experience. One example is Experian Health’s price transparency solutions, which help providers demonstrate compliance with surprise billing legislation while boosting patient loyalty via a more compassionate financial experience.

5. Improve the end-to-end claims process

Perhaps the most obvious way RCM automation leads to faster reimbursement is in ensuring faster and more accurate claims submissions. Automated claim scrubbing, real-time eligibility verification, more reliable coding, and easier status tracking all improve the chances of a provider being reimbursed promptly and fully.

And as artificial intelligence (AI) gains traction, providers are discovering new ways to use technology to improve claims management. AI AdvantageTM uses machine learning to find patterns in payer behavior and identify undocumented rules that could lead to a claim being denied, alerting staff so they can act quickly and avert issues. Then, it uses algorithmic logic to help staff segment and rework denials in the most efficient way. Providers get paid sooner while minimizing downstream revenue loss.

6. Get better visibility into improvement opportunities

Finally, automation helps providers analyze and act on revenue cycle data by identifying bottlenecks, trends and improvement opportunities. Automated analyses bring together relevant data from multiple sources in an instant to validate decisions. Machine learning draws on historical information to make predictions about future outcomes, so providers can understand the root cause of delays and take steps to resolve issues.

A healthcare revenue cycle dashboard is not just a presentation tool; it facilitates real-time monitoring of the organization’s financial health, so staff can optimize workflows and speed up reimbursement.

Revenue cycle automation is the solution

Just like any business, healthcare organizations must maintain a positive cash flow to remain viable and continue serving their communities. Together, these six revenue cycle automation strategies can cut through many of the common obstacles that get in the way of financial stability and growth.

Learn more about Experian Health’s revenue cycle management technology and see where automation could have the biggest impact on your organization’s financial health.

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