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For anyone managing a physician organization in today’s complex healthcare industry, the reality is all too clear: The intricacies of juggling rising fixed costs and falling payments poses significant challenges that traditional business models do not address.
According to the American Medical Association, costs associated with running a physician organization have escalated 41 percent since 1991; meanwhile, Medicare payment rates over the same timeframe have trended, at best, to a minimal improvement, with recent rates trending flat.
Financial managers have to rethink the relationship of cost to revenue by increasing the proportion of variable to fixed costs, especially in high-cost categories, such as staffing and real estate. A greater share of resources should shift to those fixed assets that affect front-end operations, such as care providers that can enhance patient experience.
Realigning costs to revenue should begin in back-office operations that have the least effect on direct patient care and patient relationship management. The billing/collections function provides a good place to start reworking the business model. As payments decline, but volumes remain steady, the cost per unit of work rises. For example, say a practice’s cost to collect is equal to 10 percent of its monthly collections, which are $2 million. If revenue declines to $1.5 million, the cost to collect—at a fixed $200,000—increases to 13 percent as a percentage of revenue.
Practices have a few options. One, of course, is to maintain current staffing. But that solution absorbs margins as staffing costs rise and payments decline. A second option is to downsize staff and require those remaining to be more productive—a challenge if these staffers lack the ability to take on additional work.
Another option aligns costs to revenue by turning the fixed costs of billing/collections into a variable cost. Realignment is achieved by moving the risk outside the practice, which means moving the billing/collections function to outside expertise. Costs can then be tied to collections.
If the billing/collections function is outsourced, its cost, can vary, based on payment. Thus, if the billing/collections fee is 10 percent of reimbursement, and reimbursement declines from $2 million to $1.5 million, then the fee (cost of billing/collections) declines to $150,000.
The billings/collections function also faces a set of universal challenges that place further strains on the traditional business model. These challenges are apparent in the following areas.
Operational/strategic compliance. The increasing complexities of managing specifics such as coding, denials, and regulatory compliance often requires dedicated expertise in these areas. A practice’s internal staff may lack the overall experience to be able to implement strategies that directly address these issues or improve overall efficiency of the billing/collections department. Likewise, although hospital finance managers overseeing a practice may have more in-depth experience, that experience will be with inpatient operations, not a physician practice.
Volume. As volume increases, which is expected under health reform, a practice may not have the resources to add additional staff or be nimble in its hiring practices to meet demands. Many smaller or more competitive markets may also lack an appropriate number of skilled workers for these functions.
Performance improvement. Uncovering strategies for improving performance requires an intimate understanding of data that goes beyond metrics traditionally employed to gauge how well a practice is doing. Typical practice metrics may include a collections ratio or days in accounts receivable. But these metrics do not indicate whether revenue is eroding. Breaking down a metric into smaller slices can provide more meaningful information. Aged accounts receivable that grown from 90 to 120 days, for example, can be broken down into aged receivables by payer, by payer and location, and then by paper, location, and provider.
Technology and analytics. Obtaining and updating appropriate tools for collecting and extracting data to analyze business performance can be an imposing task for a practice with limited resources and declining revenues. Dashboard reporting, in particular, requires sophisticated technology that is often beyond the means of practice. Linking denials data, for example, requires retrieving data from various information systems. Hospitals may have such tools, but integrating these with a practice’s existing information systems to obtain consolidated reporting is often impractical, and switching a practice’s systems to a hospital’s systems is often met with resistance.
Physician organizations have options in crafting a new business model and addressing these challenges. Adding to internal expertise, partnering with staffing, technology, or business intelligence providers, or using a combination of these—or outsourcing the function entirely—will better equip the practice to survive within the new reality of rising costs and declining revenue.
John is a managing director with Alleviant, LLC, Powered by Navigant Healthcare, Chicago.
Publication Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
In this Business Profile, Bruce Haupt, president and CEO of ClearBalance, discusses how a patient loan program can increase patient collections, reduce bad debt, and speed cash flow.
Patient financial engagement is more challenging than ever – and more critical. With patient responsibility as a percentage of revenue on the rise, providers have seen their billing-related costs and accounts receivable levels increase. If increasing collection yield and reducing costs are a priority for your organization, the metrics outlined in this presentation will provide the framework you need to understand what’s working and what’s not, in order to guide your overall patient financial engagement initiatives and optimize results.
In this Business Profile, Jerry Bruno, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, discusses the importance of choosing revenue cycle solutions that help an organization meet the challenges of a quickly evolving healthcare environment.
No two patients are the same. Each has a very personal healthcare experience, and each has distinct financial needs and preferences that have an impact on how, when and if they chose to pay their healthcare bill. It’s no longer effective to apply static billing techniques to solve the complex challenge of collecting balances from patients. The need to tailor financial conversations and payment options to individual needs and preferences is critical. This presentation provides 10 recommendations that will not only help you improve payment performance through a more tailored approach, but take control of rising collection costs.
In this business profile, Lane Jackson, a partner in the Grant Thornton LLP Health Care Advisory Services practice, with extensive experience in overseeing system implementations and revenue cycle reorganizations, discusses best practices for elevating revenue cycle performance during an EMR implementation. Grant Thornton LLP is a sponsor of the Large System Controllers Council Affinity Group.
This white paper, written by Apex Vice President of Solutions and Services, Carrie Romandine, discusses the importance of patient segmentation and messaging specifically related to the patient revenue cycle. Applying strategic messaging that is tailored to each patient type will not only better educate consumers on payment options specific to their billing needs, but it will maximize the amount collected before sending to collections. Further, targeted messaging should be applied across all points of patient interaction (i.e. point of service, customer service, patient statements) and analyzed regularly for maximized results.
In this business profile, Amy Gross, senior vice president of Key Government Finance, discusses the benefits of private placement transactions to support large-scale financing projects.
This white paper, written by Apex President Patrick Maurer, discusses methods to increase patient adoption of online payments. Providers are now seeking ways to incrementally collect more payments due from patients as well as speeding up the rate of collections. This white paper shows why patient-centric approaches to online payment portals are important complements to traditional provider-centric approaches.
In this business profile, Doug Polasky, executive vice president at Xtend Healthcare, explains the importance of having sound workflow processes in a consolidated business office to ensure optimal performance and reduce costs.
Increased electronic engagement between healthcare providers and patients provides significant opportunities for improving revenue cycle metrics and encouraging patients to access EHRs. This article, written by Apex Founder and CEO Brian Kueppers, explores a number of strategies to create synergy between patient billing, online payment portals and electronic health record (EHR) software to realize a high ROI in speed to payment, patient satisfaction and portal adoption for meaningful use.
In this business profile, sponsored by SSI, Jay Colfer, vice president of sales and marketing, shares how patient access solutions are reversing the trend toward increased bad debt resulting from the rise in high-deductible consumer health plans.
Faced with a rising tide of bad debt, a large Southeastern healthcare system was seeing a sharp decline in net patient revenues. The need to improve collections was dire. By integrating critical tools and processes, the health system was able to increase online payments and improve its financial position. Taking a holistic approach increased overall collection yield by 10% while costs came down because the number of statements sent to patients fell by 10%, which equated to a $1.3M annualized improvement in patient cash over a six-month period. This case study explains how.
In this business profile of Deloitte Consulting, Matthew Hitch and David Betts explore the potential benefits of elevating the customer experience and outline strategies to change service delivery.
With the ICD10 deadline quickly approaching and daily responsibilities not slowing down, final preparations for October 1 require strategic prioritization and laser focus.
TriMedx helps health systems control costs and uncover savings opportunities by optimizing the clinical engineering function.
Read how Gwinnett Medical Center provides clear connections to financial information, offers multiple payment options for patients, and gives onsite staff the ability to collect payments at multiple points throughout the care process.
A leader from McKesson discusses how healthcare reform is forcing hospitals and health systems to take a different approach to capacity management and patient flow.
Read how Orlando Health was able to perform deeper dives into claims data to help the health system see claim rejections more quickly–even on the front end–and reduce A/R days.
To maintain fiscal fitness and boost patient satisfaction and loyalty, healthcare providers need visibility into when and how much they will be paid–by whom–and the ability to better navigate obstacles to payment. They need payment clarity. This whitepaper illuminates this concept that is winning fans at forward-thinking hospitals.
Financial services staff are always looking for ways to improve the verification, billing and collections processes, and Munson Healthcare is no different. Read about how they streamlined the billing process to produce cleaner bills on the front end and helped financial services staff collect more than $1 million in additional upfront annual revenue in one year.
Effective revenue cycle management can be a challenge for any hospital, but for smaller providers it is even tougher. Read how Wallace Thomson identified unreimbursed procedures, streamlined claims management, and improved its ability to determine charity eligibility.
Before launching an energy-efficiency initiative, it’s important to build a solid business case and understand the funding options and potential incentives that are available. Healthcare leaders should consider taking the steps outlined in the whitepaper to ease the process of gaining approval, piloting, implementing, and supporting sustainability projects. You will find that investing in sustainability and energy efficiency helps hospitals add cash to their bottom line. Discover how hospitals and health systems have various options for funding energy-efficient and renewable-energy initiatives, depending on their current financial structure and strategy.
Health care is a dynamic mergers and acquisitions market with numerous hospitals and health systems contemplating or pursuing formal arrangements with other entities. These relationships often pose a strategic benefit, such as enhancing competencies across the continuum, facilitating economies of scale, or giving the participants a competitive advantage in a crowded market. Underpinning any profitable acquisition is a robust capital planning strategy that ensures an organization reserves sufficient funds and efficiently onboards partners that advance the enterprise mission and values.
The success of healthcare mergers, acquisitions, and other affiliations is predicated in part on available capital, and the need for and sources of funding are considerations present throughout the partnering process, from choosing a partner to evaluating an arrangement’s capital needs to selecting an integration model to finding the right money source to finance the deal. This whitepaper offers several strategies that health system leaders have used to assess and manage capital needs for their growing networks.
Announcements from several commercial payers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) early in 2015 around increased efforts to form value-based contracts with providers seemed to point to an impending rise in risk-based contracting. Rather than wait for disruption from the outside in, health care providers are now making inroads on collaborating with payers on various risk-based contracting models to increase the value of health care from within.
Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) is a not-for-profit hospital serving a population of roughly 200,000 in Yuma and the surrounding communities.
Before becoming a ZirMed client, Yuma was attempting to manually monitor hundreds of thousands of charges which led to significant charge capture leakage. Learn how Yuma & ZirMed worked together to address underlying collections issues at the front end, thus increasing Yuma’s overall bottom line.
Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services works with partners to audit the market and the facility’s role in that market to identify opportunities for improvement. This approach leads to successes; Kindred’s clinical rehab and management expertise complements our partners’ strengths. Every facility and challenge is unique, and requires a full objective analysis.
As the critical link between patient care and reimbursement, health information enables more complete and accurate revenue capture. This 5-Minute White Paper Briefing shares how to achieve cost-effective revenue integrity by your optimizing HIM systems.
Speedier cash flow starts with better CDI and coding. This 5-Minute White Paper Briefing explains how providers can improve vital measures of technical and business performance to accelerate cash flow.
Qualified coders are getting harder to come by, and even the most seasoned professional can struggle with the complexity of ICD-10. This 5-Minute White Paper Briefing explains how partnerships can help improve coding and other key RCM operations potentially at a cost savings.
The point of managing your revenue cycle isn’t just to improve revenue and cash flow. It’s to do those things effectively by consistently following best practices— while spending as little time, money, and energy on them as possible.
How Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford increased payments received within 45 days by 20% and reduced paper submission claims by 70% by using ZirMed solutions.
The reasons claims are denied are so varied that managing denials can feel like chasing a thousand different tails. This situation is not surprising given that a hypothetical denial rate of just 5 percent translates to tens of thousands of denied claims per year for large hospitals—where real‐world denial rates often range from 12 to 22 percent. Read about how predictive modeling can detect meaningful correlations across claims denials data.
Emergency Mobile Health Care (EMHC) was founded to be and remains an exclusively locally owned and operated emergency medical service organization; today EMHC serves a population of more than a million people in and around Memphis, answering 75,000 calls each year.
Since the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) introduction, CMS has paid more than $100 million in bonus payments to participants. However, these bonuses ended in 2015; providers who successfully meet the reporting requirements in 2016 will avoid the 2% negative payment adjustment in 2018, so now is the time to act! Included in this whitepaper are implications of increasing patient responsibility, collections best practices, and collections and internal control solutions.
Getting paid what your physician deserves—that’s the goal of every biller. Yet even for the best billers, achieving that success can be elusive when denials stand in the way of success, presenting challenges at every turn. Denials aren’t going away, but you can learn techniques to manage and even prevent them.Join practice management expert Elizabeth W. Woodcock, MBA, FACMPE, CPC, to: Discover methods to translate denial data into business intelligence to improve your bottom line, determine staff productivity benchmarks for billers, and recognize common mistakes in denial management.
From payment incentives to value-based purchasing penalties, the national focus in healthcare is on improving patient care and lowering costs. Coordinating care for patients as they move from one care setting to another can help meet these goals, but the greatest success will come when the patients healthcare providers work together. By enhancing a team approach to care and providing cost efficiencies, partnerships between acute and post-acute settings benefit patients and the healthcare providers taking care of those patients.
Physician practices must improve organizational efficiency to compete in this era of reduced reimbursement and escalating administrative costs.
Many healthcare organizations are pursuing next-generation health information systems solutions. Learn more about Navigant's work with University of Michigan Health System.
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Copyright 2016, Healthcare Financial Management Association.
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