5 Ways To...

Tracy Dudek

At a time when hospital revenue cycle staffs face intense challenges and scrutiny, having the right people staff revenue cycle operations has never been more important. Here are five strategies for sustaining a customer-focused revenue cycle team.

Test employees' customer service skills before you hire them. One such testing program allows revenue cycle managers to screen candidates through simulated customer service calls that measure a candidate's ability to actively listen, develop a rapport with customers, multitask, problem solve, and more. This module also records the amount of time it takes for candidates to respond to each scenario, gauging the candidate's ability to handle a high-volume workload. Results are shared with the managers who will work with the new team member so that managers have a clear understanding of the individual's key strengths and areas for opportunity.

Use scenario-based training to prepare staff for assignments. New employees may not have a background in revenue cycle operations, but the skills they need for a revenue cycle environment can be taught from within your organization. For example, HFMA offers an online self-study course for revenue cycle employees that provides individual instruction in areas such as compliance, patient access, claims processing, account resolution, and more. Such programs help employees feel more invested in revenue cycle operations and provide a "big picture" understanding of their individual roles.

Reward revenue cycle mentors. Mentoring programs align experienced "coaches" with junior team members, integrating new staff into the organization. Effective mentoring programs consist of an application-and-approval process, followed by some training-and they reward mentors for a job well done. Mentors could be eligible for monetary incentives based on the long-term performance and retention of the individuals they mentor, which keeps mentors invested in their trainees' work.

Lead "sacred cows" to pasture. It is important not only to share statistical measures of performance with staff, but also to focus on soft programs that can drive continuous improvement. For example, at Affinity Health System in Appleton, Wis., a program called "Sacred Cows" welcomes new ideas from employees and solicits their input regarding old ways of doing things that should be put "out to pasture." Catchy programs such as this one can rally revenue cycle's team around key concepts or ideas-and infuse energy into the team.

Go FISH! Unique incentive programs for revenue cycle employees have a positive impact on staff satisfaction and performance. Consider the FISH! Philosophy inspired by Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market, where employees interact playfully with each other and their coworkers while filling orders, bringing "energy, passion, and a positive attitude" to their work (www.catchthefishphilosophy.com). At Gibson Area Hospital in Gibson City, IL, the FISH! program has led to higher retention rates-and happier customers.

Tracy Dudek is vice president of operations, State Collection Service, Inc., Madison, Wis. (tracyd@stcol.com).


Publication Date: Monday, January 02, 2012

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