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Streamlining patient access: How patient access technology is transforming the healthcare revenue cycle

October 4, 2023 by Experian Health

Is streamlining patient access with technology the key to improving revenue cycle management? Technology is already making intake, insurance verification, patient estimates, and other elements of patient access simpler. The same technology can also speed up and smooth out the healthcare revenue cycle: a goal many providers can get behind.

Victoria Dames, Vice President of Product Management at Experian Health, says, “Patient access is the first step in simplifying healthcare and revenue cycle processes. Trading in manual processes and disjointed systems for integrated software solutions can reduce errors, improve efficiency, offer convenience and transparency to patients, and accelerate the healthcare revenue cycle. For providers trying to choose between prioritizing revenue and patient experience, patient access technology can deliver on both.”

The digital transformation journey starts with patient access technology

Starting at the beginning with patient access makes perfect sense for providers who want to embark on their digital transformation journey. The early touchpoints in the patient experience, like patient intake and scheduling, not only set the tone but also lay the foundation for successful claims and collections in the future.

Patient access technology can help streamline patient access processes, making it easier for patients to receive accurate cost estimates, understand insurance eligibility and coverage, and work out payment strategies. Integrated patient access solutions—including automated registration and financial clearance with eCareNext®, and accurate patient estimates and mobile payment options with Patient Financial Advisor —deliver convenience to the patient while requiring less manual work and reducing data errors that can cause problems with billing and collections.

Dames says, “Patient access is where providers begin collecting data, confirming insurance eligibility, and providing accurate patient estimates. Completing these actions successfully at the beginning of the patient journey can facilitate payment and collections downstream. As providers continue their digital transformation journeys, improvements made in patient access enable further improvements in later stages of the revenue cycle: collections, claims management, and payer contracts.”

Streamlining patient access affects revenue cycle management

Efficiency in patient access has a direct impact on revenue cycle management. Here are three key areas where streamlining patient access can bring real improvements:

Efficient revenue management begins with good data

Up to 50% of denied claims originate in patient access. Manual intake processes are time-consuming for staff and carry the risk of human error. Staffing shortages put increased demands on workers, leading to an even larger potential for problems.

To add to the mix, patients may be increasingly likely to have incorrect information. Medicaid redetermination following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is ending coverage—and creating confusion—for millions of patients. Job and coverage changes can translate to confusion over coverage and eligibility.

“Automation virtually eliminates human error, so providers get accurate patient information and standardized data they can use throughout an integrated revenue cycle,” says Dames.

Nearly 90% of patients want an accurate estimate; only 29% get one

Experian Health’s 2023 State of Patient Access survey found that nearly 90% of patients want an accurate pre-treatment estimate, but less than a third receive one. Although estimates are a requirement under price transparency laws, delivering an accurate estimate is difficult without the help of automated systems.

Dames says, “Patients are anxious about the cost of care, and they can’t estimate their own out-of-pocket costs. Accurate, transparent pre-treatment estimates are an important tool for building trust with patients. When providers offer real-time insurance verification and coverage information, they proactively help patients understand their own financial obligations. From there, providers can collect copays at the point of service and suggest options like payment plans or charity care, if appropriate.”

Automated processes and tools like Patient Estimates improve staff productivity and speed up collections. As staffing shortages continue, streamlining back-office tasks improves efficiency and reduces frustration. Valuable staff members have more time to do the complex human work of talking with patients and solving problems.

Real-world success story:

Blessing Health Systems oversees two hospitals, a college of nursing, and a charitable foundation with nearly 3,000 total employees. Like many healthcare providers, Blessing faced challenges, including registration errors, inaccurate patient estimates, and collection difficulties.

Blessing implemented an integrated suite of solutions including eCareNext®, Patient Estimates, Patient Self Service, Patient Statements, Payer Alerts, PaymentSafe®, Registration QA, and several financial clearance products. The results:

  • Point of service collections increased by more than 80%.
  • Clean claim rate increased from 63% to 90%.
  • Denials decreased by 27%.
  • Gross A/R decreased by an average of 28 days.

“[Blessing now has the tools needed] to be successful in one, user friendly application,” says Jill Stroot, Director of Patient Access at Blessing. An integrated patient access solution allows Blessing to capture and verify important insurance information and catch registration errors in real time, resulting in less manual work, less rework, and a faster, better revenue management process overall.

Best practices for implementing patient access technology

Most providers are looking to improve and accelerate the revenue cycle. Many, too, are looking toward digital transformation as a long-term goal. But that means many are balancing the need for system-wide transformation against current realities. Incremental change allows providers to advance the ball now while preparing for further opportunities in the future.

While providers weigh their options, here are a few best practices to help guide their thinking.

Prioritize

If doing everything at once isn’t possible, providers can start with the processes that will have the greatest impact.

  • Identify areas of greatest need.
  • Look for the greatest ROI.
  • Find quick wins that can be implemented with little change or investment.

Choose solutions that integrate now

Blessing Health Systems chose Experian Health solutions in part for their easy integration with Cerner. Finding solutions that integrate with existing systems is critical. Ultimately, solutions should also integrate throughout the healthcare revenue cycle.

Choose a partner for the long haul

Finding a technology partner that offers a full range of revenue cycle solutions—extending beyond patient access—helps ensure providers can continue their digital transformation journeys. Technology isn’t the only factor to consider: Support and consultation along the way can help providers make the right decisions and maximize the value of new solutions as they’re added.

How to improve the healthcare revenue cycle

Recent years have brought many new challenges to the healthcare space, but also new technology that can smooth out kinks in the revenue cycle. Providers that leverage patient access technology to deliver convenience and transparency to patients, and greater efficiency and cost savings internally, can look forward to better revenue cycle management while laying the groundwork for continued evolution.

Learn more about how Experian Health’s integrated suite of solutions can help with streamlining patient access.

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