From the Chair

Kuchka-Craig Column

Debora Kuchka-Craig, FHFMA

Remember when fax machines reigned supreme?

Back in the 1980s, we couldn't imagine how we ever got along without them. We designed our business processes around them. But since then, e-mail and web-based communication technologies have taken over and surpassed the fax. In April 2010, businessinsider.com, a business news aggregator and analysis site, listed the fax as one of 21 technologies that became obsolete this decade, along with late 20th-century artifacts such as movie rental stores, long-distance charges, and public pay phones.

Trouble is, many hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers still rely on fax technology to do business-particularly revenue-cycle related business. In an article in this issue of hfm, Pittsburgh-based UPMC describes replacing its fax-based system for booking and preregistration for elective and same-day services after analysis revealed that each reservation in the fax-based system was handled 12 times, totaling in excess of 1 million manual processes annually across its 20-hospital system. To replace this inefficient and inherently error-prone system, UPMC created a web-based tool that reduced a multistep manual process based on handwritten faxes to a one-step electronic process-and virtually eliminated the potential for manual error.

Forward-looking hospitals and health systems across the country are examining their revenue cycle processes, as UPMC has done, re-engineering to reduce or eliminate waste while enhancing patient experiences. They're also seeking ways to improve techniques for assessing revenue cycle performance, so they can determine whether these process improvements are being translated to revenue cycle results.

Recognizing this as an unmet need in the industry, HFMA recently launched MAP, a comprehensive revenue cycle strategy that establishes definitive performance indicators, offers a web-based tool to track performance and recommend improvements, honors excellence, and shares evidence-based lessons from leaders.

HFMA's MAP comes along at just the right time. In the reform era, achieving revenue cycle excellence is more important than ever. Deep payment reductions are looming, making it crucial to bill for and collect every dollar that is due to us. Challenges to not-for-profit providers' tax-exempt status are imminent, giving us another reason to ensure that collection procedures are consistent and appropriate for all patients. And an influx of millions of newly insured patients will tax our capacity, requiring us to simplify and streamline revenue cycle processes at a time when new elements, such as health insurance exchanges, will add complexity.

The articles in this issue describe strategies designed to help you step up to meet these and other revenue cycle challenges. In addition, HFMA's MAP Award winners will share their successful revenue cycle practices at HFMA's MAP Event, "Leading for Revenue Cycle Excellence," Nov. 7-9 in San Diego. Learn more or register at www.mapevent.org/. Registrations are accepted electronically-but if you prefer, you may still fax them in.

Publication Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2010

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