Hot Topics on Healthcare Leaders’ Minds at HFMA Western Symposium

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I recently rejoined the Windham Professionals team (I just can’t get enough of them) and started out by attending one of my favorite healthcare shows: the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA’s) Western Region Symposium. Celebrating its twentieth year, the symposium brought healthcare education to Las Vegas this January and featured a great lineup of speakers and sessions covering topics from patient engagement to revenue cycle management and strengthening leadership.

My most interesting conversations, though, occurred off the exhibit floors and beyond the session walls as I sat down with some old and new friends to digest what we’d heard and learned over a good meal.

These three areas stood out to me as being major concerns for healthcare leaders:

  1. Allowing more patients to pay online or by using secure apps

Flexibility and convenience in payment options was of particular concern to one Vice President of Revenue Cycle for a large children’s hospital. Patient demand for online and mobile-friendly payment channels will only gain momentum as younger generations like millennials and Generation Z start managing their own healthcare plans. These increasingly important demographics don’t want to call in to you or write a check. They want easy repayment that’s convenient for their busy lives.

Up-front investments in technology, testing, additional staff, and informing patients of these services present some challenges for providers. However, delivering a more positive patient experience could help retain existing patients while the convenience of these technologies attracts new ones.

  1. Discovering costs and insurance prior to the visit

Tracking down patient insurance after the appointment is a major headache for providers. It’s a drain on resources and takes time away from other important business and patient care tasks. Designing front-end processes that accurately capture insurance information (primary, secondary, and tertiary) beforehand can help reduce financial strain from the outset.

With less insurance follow up to do, providers may find themselves better able to focus collections resources on recovering self-pay balances earlier in the cycle. Discussing deductibles, costs, payment options, and possible charity care eligibility ahead of the appointment are other ways that providers can help themselves reduce revenue cycle issues and increase patient satisfaction.

  1. Tackling patient-friendly billing/statements

Combing hospital charges along with physician charges would be a major win for patients. Self-pay and high-deductible healthcare options are on the rise. Receiving multiple (and often complicated) statements can compound patient confusion and overwhelm them. That confusion can often generate more calls to customer support to resolve. In some cases, the patients might put them on the backburner and deal with them later.

Simpler, combined statements can make managing repayment and tracking insurance usage much easier on the patient. Physician groups and healthcare facilities would also likely have an easier time managing receivables and maybe even prevent some write-offs and diminished returns via a lengthy collections cycle.

Overall, our discussion was patient-focused, as any healthcare conversation should be. Providers are keen on finding more ways to make healthcare easier and more convenient for patients. Assisting patients in these three key ways could help providers spend less time tracking down repayments and more time focusing on high-quality patient contact and care.

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