August 11, 2020

Revenue Cycle Yoga – A Flexible Workforce Could Be Your Key to Driving Big Results

Spencer Thielmann

Healthcare facilities across the country are questioning who needs to be in the office, how we can work effectively from our homes, and what preparations are needed now to prepare for change in the future. You have an opportunity to position your organization for success not only by preparing for industry and societal shifts, but actively determining what the future holds for your Revenue Cycle teams. We will walk you through some important considerations and how to build on work you’ve already done to be as nimble as tomorrow demands.

  • Go Remote as a Necessity, Stay Remote as a Perk – Like most of your peers across the country you were likely scrambling in March 2020 to figure out how the work was going to get done. Organizations moved hundreds and thousands of team members remote with little to no advanced planning. The good news is you did it. The challenges you are now looking at is what comes next. In the future there may be times when people need to continue remote work, but you can take this opportunity to build upon the foundation you have laid. Work with the leadership team at your facility to determine if creating permanent partial or fully remote roles is right for your organization. Roles that do not require a physical presence (schedulers, prior auth, coders, billers, follow-up) should be considered. For roles identified as candidates you will need to develop clear performance standards that will make an individual remote eligible. Eliminating a commute is a significant benefit that can make existing team members happier and make your organization a more appealing destination for potential candidates. It also benefits you when weather or a facility issue would prevent staff from presenting for work.
  • What You Can Measure You Can Manage – An ancient management adage that is as true today as it has ever been. Centralized reporting on team and individual output is more critical than ever. We have clients that excelled at productivity reporting a decade ago and clients that were blind-sided by the COVID-19 shutdown. Make it a priority to excel. Epic offers a number or user and workqueue reports and dashboards that can provide front-line managers and supervisors insight into individual productivity and performance. Your analytics teams may be able to effectively aggregate data from Epic and non-Epic sources to provide a full picture. Ensure your leaders have access to and regularly use the tools available to them and that they have clear benchmarks for productivity based on role/function. To help manage priorities for staff move away from any manual distribution or start of the day emails outlining items to work and instead lean on system tools wherever possible. If you have not yet implemented Workqueue Scoring, add it to your list. It allows for a single prioritized list that considers age, amount, patient type, service, etc. together and eliminates the need for your teams to sort and resort work throughout the day. Finally, consider targeted management training and support. You may have managers that relied upon face-to-face interactions and periodic pop-ins as part of their approach. If they are losing tools, you need to provide them with alternatives. Proactively engaging your management team to identify what works and what does not will let you stay ahead of adverse metric and human resources outcomes.
  • Cross-functional Training – We saw volumes plummet as the pandemic hit and even as we see them start to rebound, all services are not returning at the same rate. When services are disrupted downstream workloads will reflect those disruptions and you may be left with some staff facing a full workload and others with extra capacity. Do an inventory of skillsets that could potentially be repurposed by role within the revenue cycle. If coding volumes in a service or department are down, could a coder potentially moonlight and address a backlog of charge or billing edits? Do you have enough team members that can move seamlessly between insurance follow-up and denials? Can your Registrars float to different clinic locations? Odds are there is work to be done/ Work with your teams to identify those challenge areas and see where you can shuffle staff. If you find that your team is overspecialized run some small bootcamp classes for urgent needs and look for opportunities to transfer staff between groups to increase their breadth of knowledge within your revenue cycle.
  • Communicate with Intention – One of the largest hurdles both short-term and long-term when staff are not on-site is how to communicate effectively. Once people are no longer occupying the same space you are less likely to see communication channels naturally develop. Create expectations within your teams and leaders to create a culture around communication. Encourage use of chat functions for quick questions, stress the importance of video conferencing for making connections with people and resolving challenges quickly. Use virtual huddle boards to communicate updates and infuse recognition, inspiration and fun into the work day. Do not let your teams devolve into an email-only group. Ensure that people know whom they can reach out to when they have an issue and provide friendly escalation paths if they have a concern that is not being effectively addressed. Lastly, put the onus of cross-team communication squarely on the shoulders of your management team. They may need to create forums to facilitate discussions across teams and departments (Billing – Coding, Operations – IT). Effective communication will not just happen; you and your teams need to prioritize intentional and productive outreach.
  • Reimagine Your Facilities – First, you need to have adequate sanitizing and hygiene as part of your regular maintenance plan. This may involve more frequent and targeted cleaning activities to keep your on-site staff as safe as possible. If you do manage to move portions of your workforce remote now you get to decide what to do with the space! With fewer team members on-site, you may be able to create enough space that allows for adequate distancing, allowing workspaces for essential staff should another broad shutdown occur. Utilizing alternating remote/on-site schedules may allow staff to share spaces effectively and mitigate some of the communication and management challenges that a remote workforce can entail. With enough remote staff you may see cost saving opportunities by reducing rented space or repurposing areas for revenue generating clinical services – especially in your hospital locations. The flexibility you create here comes directly from the robust planning you went through to have your teams be both remote and successful.

We appreciate all the work you and your teams do to care for patients when they receive care and long after they leave your facility. We will continue to publish relevant content with the goal of helping you navigate the challenges you face now and the opportunities the future will bring. For more projects to improve your bottom line look through our Wilshire Wins on our website. If you have questions, please contact Spencer Thielmann at The Wilshire Group – s.thielmann@thewilshiregroup.net. Whether or not you are a current client, we have experts available to assist your team with any Revenue Cycle needs and questions you may have.

Spencer Thielmann

Vice President, Operations

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