In this Business Profile, Brian Kueppers, founder and CEO, Apex, discusses the importance of a robust patient payment strategy in boosting organization revenue and enhancing patient satisfaction.

Brian Kueppers, founder and CEO, ApexTell me a little bit about your organization.

Apex is a revenue cycle management company that helps healthcare organizations optimize patient payment, delivering strong financial results while enhancing the patient experience. Founded in 1995 with a focus on demystifying the patient statement, the company has expanded its offerings in the past five years to deliver a range of e-services that drive patient payment. Apex solutions include a flexible and dynamic patient revenue cycle tool, customizable electronic statements, a customer service portal, and a variety of automated payment solutions. Underpinning our diverse product line is deep revenue cycle knowledge, which allows us to partner with hospitals, health systems, and group practices to create and implement robust and best practice-fueled patient payment strategies.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see affecting healthcare organizations?

In my opinion, the single biggest financial challenge is the massive increase in patient responsibility. Over the past five years, patient payment has grown 68 percent across the industry, representing $420 billion. This dramatic shift is causing healthcare leaders serious concern as they start to think about how their organizations are going to manage the change. Historically, healthcare organizations have not paid much attention to educating patients on their fiscal responsibility and proactively collecting copays, deductibles, and coinsurance. However, with the rapid growth of high-deductible health plans, organizations are quickly realizing the benefits of engaging patients early and often in financial discussions—informing individuals up front of what they owe and working with them to collect payment in a timely manner.

Compounding the challenges of patient payment growth is the fact that organizations are already operating with razor thin margins, and financial staff are continuously overtaxed in keeping abreast of new regulations, payer requirements, and reimbursement strategies. This is not the most optimal environment in which to establish a new patient-focused business process, especially if that process warrants an investment in automated solutions.

How do you see Apex’s products and services addressing these issues?

While we are able to offer our customers a number of tools that yield quick results—often within 60 to90 days—our ultimate goal is to drive long-term success. As such, we dig deep into our clients’ current revenue cycle operations to identify ways to enhance workflows, optimize existing technology, and onboard new solutions if necessary. For example, after a comprehensive review of a hospital’s processes and systems, we may discover that the organization is using its existing front desk software at only 30 percent of capacity. We could then make recommendations on how the hospital could better leverage its current technology. On the other hand, we may discover areas of a group practice’s collection process that are not clear for the patient, such as a hard-to-interpret billing statement. We could work with the practice to retool the statement, targeting its messaging to best meet the needs of the organization’s patient population.

What are some key considerations for healthcare leaders when choosing solutions that encourage and enable patient payments?

Although organizations should seek vendors that offer an array of solutions, it is even more imperative for the vendor to have a structure for measuring and communicating data about the tools’ performance. Otherwise, the healthcare organization can’t be sure that the selected products are making a difference in patient revenue. There are several metrics to measure, including days outstanding, patient satisfaction, charity care percentage, bad debt percentage, and so forth. Vendors should be willing and able to regularly share this data, allowing the healthcare organization to gauge the impact of new software, processes, and workflows.

Organizations should also make sure a vendor has a strong track record in improving patient payment with similar organizations. The more a vendor works with other entities the more it can see what best practices are in the field and apply those best practices to specific situations.

Seeking vendors that can deliver quick results is also important. With most organizations in belt-tightening mode, there is a genuine need to make sure any technology investments rapidly move the needle toward more revenue. For example, Apex clients realize significant improvements in just a matter of months, seeing on average a 10 percent increase in cash, a 10 percent decrease in billing-related costs, and a 350 percent increase in online payments—when patients take advantage of online payment opportunities, the organization can see faster payments in fewer cycles.

In addition to optimizing revenue, the vendor must keep the patient experience top of mind. Although most people are happy with the clinical services they receive in a healthcare organization, there can be dissatisfaction at the back end when the patient receives his or her bill, especially if it’s for an unexpected charge or the statement is overly confusing. Apex products not only help meet a healthcare organization’s financial goals, they also address its patients’ needs, facilitating clear financial conversations, providing easy-to-interpret statements, delivering greater payment opportunities, and so on. This improves the patient financial experience, making it more likely that individuals will pay their bill, and all the while preserving patient satisfaction.

Where can readers learn more about Apex’s suite of solutions?

Readers can go to Apex's website to learn more about our products and how hospitals, health systems, and group practices are using them to revamp the patient revenue cycle. I particularly recommend the following white papers:

Reduce Patient Balances Sent to Collection Agencies. This report discusses the importance of patient statement segmentation. Approaching segmentation with more strategic messaging can increase patient revenue and reduce bad debt.

The Future of Online Patient Billing Portals. This report discusses methods for increasing online payment adoption, in particular why patient-centric tactics for improving portal use are important complements to traditional provider-centric strategies.

Case Study: 10 Up and 10 Down. This case study describes how a large Southeastern health system increased payments while reducing billing costs.

The website also presents a helpful video, case studies, and blog that further describe Apex’s multifaceted approach to driving patient revenue.

ApexHFMA is the nation’s leading membership organization for more than 40,000 healthcare financial management professionals. Business Profiles are funded through advertising with leading solution providers. Learn more.

Content for this Business Profile is supplied by Apex. This published piece is provided for advertisement purposes. HFMA does not endorse the published material or warrant or guarantee its accuracy. The statements and opinions of those profiled are those of the individual and not those of HFMA. References to commercial manufacturers, vendors, products, or services that appear do not constitute endorsement by HFMA.

Publication Date: Sunday, March 01, 2015