April 26, 2016
Revenue Cycle 8: The Patient-centric Revenue Cycle

Healthcare reforms that have come about as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are making the healthcare system more patient-centric. Accountable care organizations, population management, chronic illness management, value-based purchasing and patient satisfaction are increasingly part of the status quo, and they all have two foci in common: the patient experience and financial efficiency.

“Just as consumers have come to know real-time shipping updates for online purchases and convenient banking through ATMs/mobile apps as common place, there is a growing expectation and demand for the same innovations to be available to consumers in the healthcare industry,” writes Stuart Hanson of Citi Financial Services. In addition, the ACA has increased access to health insurance, and given patients a wider variety of payment options. Thus, healthcare providers need to be prepared to shift the patient-centric focus to all aspects of operations, including building “a strong financial infrastructure that can process patients’ medical records and payments efficiently while satisfying new regulations.”

Here, we take a look at some components of creating a patient-centric revenue cycle — one that serves patients in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed, while minimizing headaches and maximizing incoming revenue for providers.

Ensure bills arrive in a timely manner

Out of sight, out of mind, goes the saying. And that’s the last place you want your patients’ financial responsibilities to be. If you can’t collect the patient’s portion of payment for care up front, it’s important that bills arrive before “life happens,” and patients have moved on, mentally and fiscally.

To get bills out the door quickly and efficiently, their generation should begin in the room with the patient, at the point of care. The medical scribe ensures that the documentation of the patient encounter satisfies all billing requirements. But, by adding live coding, the medical scribe is able to relay this information directly to billing personnel via live chat, where real-time interaction between the scribe and billing personnel ensures that coding done on the spot accurately reflects what is currently happening in the room or at the bedside.

The interaction, between physician, medical scribe and billing personnel means bills can be sent to patients electronically or by mail within hours, rather than days, speeding the accounts receivable (A/R) cycle and, therefore, minimizing wasted days that drain your hospital, facility or practice’s revenue.

Help patients understand their bills

If patients are confused by their bills, they may set them aside until there’s “a good time” to sit down and understand what’s included. Or they may feel the need to call your practice, thus taking up valuable time in a busy day to answer questions. Both scenarios lead to delays for you, and result in lower levels of patient satisfaction. (The worst-case scenario is that a patient feels the bill is an attempt to mislead them, and refuses to pay. No one wants to face this.) Therefore, the bills you send to patients need to be easy to understand at a glance.

Using a tool such as Vision Care Platform from Valence Health offers a solution for data integration by merging updated information from physicians, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and medical insurance carriers into a centralized data warehouse that standardizes all patient information; through its analytical assessment, measures the clinical and financial costs of each aspect of medical services. In this way, the data can be provided clearly and concisely to patients, all in one place. They’ll understand what care they received, what they owe, and why. Transparency in medical billing is increasingly becoming standard — leading the way by embracing a patient-centric revenue cycle.

Make it easy for patients to pay

A single, integrated invoice is always the goal. Although multiple invoices may sometimes be inevitable, “providers can cut down complexity by consolidating their payment channels onto a single platform,” which ensures that even multiple payments through multiple channels are all accounted for in the same place. According to a recent white paper, one medical center in Georgia realized $100,000 in operational cost savings by consolidating patient payment vendors and adopting self-service payment methods.

That last point is key. Think like a consumer — what would make it easier for you to pay your bills? You could accommodate communication preferences (e.g. email, physical mail, texts), offer a variety of payment options (e.g. over 6 months or a year) and even provide self-service web and mobile phone portals. In fact, 90% of patients say they want to be able to pay their healthcare bills online — but the same percentage receive bills by mail. Using a cloud-based application such as SwervePay Health can streamline the patient payment process, improving both patient satisfaction with billing and the revenue life cycle by decreasing collection efforts. With one swipe, a patient profile can be created, storing all patient payment data securely. Patients can receive email- and text-based invoices (and re-invoices), complete payments with just a click and receive automated payment receipts. In the SwervePay Health portal, they can update their details, view their history, and download receipts (which can be sent for reimbursement from flexible spending accounts). Focusing on patient needs in the revenue cycle eases their burden and helps make sure bills get paid.

Define your goals

To make your revenue cycle patient-centric, you should seek to minimize complexity, empower the patient through transparency and information, and generate bills in a timely manner. After all, you can’t expect a patient to worry about speedy payments if you don’t.