If you’ve been before, you already know: The annual HIMSS conference is the conference to learn about healthcare’s information technology evolution. Myself and a few of my OS colleagues were fortunate enough to attend once again last week, and the event remained a vibrant, chaotic, and important place to evaluate and preview the industry’s next big things, network with new friends, and learn about the challenges facing providers coming out of the first quarter of the year.
But perhaps more importantly, our key takeaway from the conference this year was how revenue cycle management has continued its trajectory as a topic of growing importance to hospitals, doctors, and their business offices. The patient’s financial experience, especially, has become an obvious point of focus on the HIMSS main exhibit floor. That’s not surprising, given how continued downward pressure on margins has challenged providers to deal with patients as “consumers” with high expectations not only for their care, but service once they leave the hospital or clinic.
HIMSS even went so far as to organize the Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit, held Monday during the first day of the conference. Featuring superb presentations by providers, consultants, and vendors, the meeting shone a bright light on technology used today by leading healthcare organizations to improve the revenue cycle from start to finish. It was clear in networking with others in attendance at this event that more work needs to be done.
In what respects do providers have to catch up? Three big factors were apparent:
- Transform patient engagement during the billing process
Large EHR providers provide invaluable advantages to healthcare networks. But today’s revenue cycle challenges require strategic solutions that provide automation, analytics, and productivity controls to effectively serve and satisfy patients while also attaining a reduction of days in A/R. Healthcare leaders continue to invest in targeted RCM solutions as they are proven to improve results, reduce costs and provide a strategy to connect with patients more effectively.
- Find ways to repeat excellent patient experiences, consistently
Many discussions at HIMSS this year focused on how important it has become to provide an excellent “consumer” experience, achieved by repeatable – and profitable – processes outside the surgical suite. Bringing operations to that level requires advanced technology, plain and simple. Providers need to focus less on the art, and more on the science, looking deep into applications that help measure and improve their performance.
- Use data in more sophisticated ways for better, and more actionable insight
Big Data offers fascinating benefits to healthcare finance. We all rely on retrospective reports, but today’s technology allows us to uncover important data trends and craft a business process response. This insight can be used to predict and adjust business office outcomes and empowers us to lead rather than follow.
How do these three factors boil down? Omni-channel patient engagement.
It’s important to offer the patient communication pathways that provide convenience – compliant phone calls, online options, SMS, smartphone apps, etc. – but that tactic only goes so far. The service you provide as a reaction is what really matters. If there’s one lesson HIMSS attempted to teach this year, it’s that transforming the patient experience relies on managing communications in a manner that recognizes patient preferences, while also controlling how associates respond, and identifying ways to improve productivity at the same time.
For an omni-channel patient experience to be realized, the underlying platform should aggregate data to raise awareness of all patient communication, while also directing account representatives appropriately and efficiently. Our patients, as consumers, expect a more contemporary relationship with us and a well-deployed omni-channel strategy will meet that need. The conversations we heard at HIMSS this year have us on the right path.
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