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Mind the Gap: Bridging Revenue Cycle Success with Cutting-Edge Staff Education

January 9, 2024
January 9, 2024

This blog is taken from a recent HealthStream webinar entitled “Mind the Gap: Bridging Revenue Cycle Success with Cutting-Edge Staff Education.” The webinar was moderated by HealthStream’s Caroline Acree and featured:

  • Susan Gurzynski-Wells, MS, RHIA, Director, Product Management, HealthStream
  • Beth Ottinger, RN, BSN, CPC, CCS, Vice President, Product Management, Education, FinThrive
  • Jonathan G. Wiik, MSHA, MBA, FHFMA, Vice President, Health Insights, FinThrive

In this webinar, HealthStream and FinThrive shared how to prioritize patient care using education to drive fiscal success. As healthcare organizations face significant challenges such as shrinking revenue, staff shortages, decreasing retention rates and increasing burnout, healthcare organizations need strategies that will empower employees with the knowledge and skills they need to support a patient-centered financial model.

Patient-Centered Financial Practice

Most healthcare leaders will be very familiar with the concept of patient and family centered care, but may be less familiar with revenue management practices that embrace those concepts. Wiik began by pointing out that nearly one-third of the healthcare workforce has turned over within the last two to three years which has resulted in a loss of institutional knowledge and higher levels of attention being focused on what employees truly need in order to be successful in their work. Wiik discovered early on in his healthcare leadership career that many employees believed they did not know everything that they needed to know in order to do their jobs; which was understandable given the level of complexity involved in healthcare finance.

The speakers agreed that patient-centered financial practice begins with a staff-centered approach that can lead to better, more productive patient interactions, and improved fiscal performance.

Staff-Wide, Patient-Centered Mindset and Fiscal Success

Wiik acknowledged that navigating the hospital process is far from easy for patients. Staff members, who may also struggle with that process, need to help ensure that the process for patients is as pleasant, easy, convenient, and accurate as possible. Developing staff so they can better educate patients results in revenue cycle improvements. Educating patients about the financial aspects of their healthcare can only happen when staff are well-educated and confident on the topic.

Ottinger described the typical revenue cycle as siloed and recommended educating everyone in the revenue cycle process so that they can develop a better understanding of how their actions impact what happens downstream of their departments and ultimately how that impacts the patient. This approach ensures a better experience for staff and patients, results in more accurate documentation and coding, improved employee and patient satisfaction and a reduction in denial rates. Wiik also pointed out that an empowered, confident, and competent staff make significant contributions to patient satisfaction and to the bottom line.

Addressing Challenges in the Integration of Education into Revenue Management Practices

The presenters acknowledged that labor shortages have created a significant challenge for healthcare leaders who wish to integrate education into their revenue management practices. Having the time to create or consume this education is more of a challenge right now. Ottinger recommended that organizations address this challenge by working with an education partner. The education partner can develop a career ladder for the team, provide relevant and engaging content, and do the work required to stay abreast of new and emerging regulatory issues. They can also provide individual assessments that will help determine what material each employee needs and what they don’t so that staff are not wasting time on material they have already mastered. This approach can also improve retention by providing different growth tracks within the organization.

Measuring Success of Patient-Centric Revenue Cycle Staff Education

Wiik recommended effective measurement to quantify some key metrics.

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the education.
  • Monitoring HCAHPS scores to determine patient perceptions of their experience.
  • Measurement on performance attributes such as how quickly phones are answered.
  • Measuring improvements in job competency.
  • Quantifying the amount of time spent on service recovery.

Ongoing tracking of these can help demonstrate the effectiveness of education interventions and make it easier to measure the financial impact.

The Role of Technology in Patient-Centric Practices

Ottinger shared that FinThrive uses technology in a number of ways. Technology is used to create individualized learning plans that are specifically targeted to opportunities for improvement rather than wasting time on material that the employee has already mastered. She also shared that it can replicate best practices to help employees work smarter and not harder. Wiik also added that it can help ensure that staff are working on value-added tasks and eliminating wasteful steps. Technology can also help hold payors more accountable as finance staff have easy access to the information that they need to file accurate claims and identify problems with denials.

Best Practices in Patient-Centric Revenue Management Education

Ottinger recommends that organizations begin with an assessment when implementing patient-centric revenue management education. For example, what current policies and procedures work well and which do not? That will allow leaders to identify where help is most needed and then introduce the appropriate education. In addition, it was recommended that leaders provide role-based education within the onboarding process to increase exposure to the importance of revenue management.

Presenters also stressed the importance of personal growth opportunities. Employees benefit from having a career ladder and the organization can experience reduced turnover, reduced denials, and improved efficiency. Leaders should also encourage the opportunity to practice newly-learned skills before staff are ever in front of a patient.

Education is key to creating patient-centered fiscal management practices. Contact HealthStream today to learn more about how to provide staff with the knowledge and skills they need to support a patient-centered model while reducing denials and costly reimbursement errors.