On a recent episode of the Voices in Healthcare Finance podcast, HFMA President and CEO Joe Fifer spoke with Jason Wolf, president and CEO of The Beryl Institute, about the continued importance of keeping the human experience front and center in organizational strategy. Wolf will speak on this topic at HFMA’s upcoming Revenue Cycle Conference.
The provider shift
According to Wolf, it’s crucial to understand that although healthcare providers see clinical and financial functions as separate, patients don’t.
“Experience happens in our healthcare organizations no matter what we do,” he said. “This is not just something on the side or something that we just measure via surveys. It’s the reality of everyday encounters from consumers in healthcare. The patient financial experience is not a separate bucket that they see as distinct from everything else that they’ve experienced on their journey.”
Although some organizations have focused somewhat on providing a better financial experience for patients, Wolf said he hasn’t seen the needle move all that much. However, it’s important to understand what hospitals and health systems are dealing with internally as well, he said.
“We’re trying to survive a lot these days in healthcare, so I think we have to acknowledge that,” he said. “We’re trying to manage the integrated parts. We are operating our financials off of just making what we can … and, I think, sometimes we forget that [something] like revenue capture is an outcome measure of how we engage the people that we care for.”
A culture shift is necessary to help organizational leaders get in the correct mindset, according to Wolf.
“I think we have an opportunity to encourage that discussion around the role that every part of operations of a healthcare organization plays in driving experience,” said Wolf. He also believes healthcare organizations should help their people realize that even the things not thought of as directly touching a patient or family member actually do influence the way they experience a healthcare organization. “[The patients’ experience will then] impact things like the way they will choose you in the future, the loyalty that they have for you as a healthcare institution, the way they talk about you at the Walmart or the soccer game … and how someone else chooses you down the road as a place for care,” he said.
The patient shift
It’s also important for providers to understand that patients are hungry for information, Wolf said. He told the story of one provider who created an educational process for patients that was so successful that they began bringing boxes full of correspondence from other provider organizations because they didn’t understand it. Doing patient education today will pay off in the long run, he said.
“The time and energy that we invest in [patient education] would actually save us time down the road in terms of how we engage patients and families and even how we see the outcomes we want, like capturing dollars, ensuring better financial returns [and] lessening times of collections,” he said.
He also believes doing so could lessen the overall stress felt by patients and maybe even improve clinical outcomes because patients could “focus on healing,” he said.
The workforce shift
It’s important to remember that the human experience in healthcare is not just the patient experience, Wolf said. Complex processes that make it more difficult for an already-strained workforce will exacerbate existing problems in an organization. He said the pandemic has presented healthcare organizations with an opportunity to simplify processes and make them more efficient.
“This pandemic has elevated for all of us the things that are really important,” he said. “We should be taking that lesson and putting it into the actual way we operationalize healthcare to focus on what’s really important and realize a lot of the other stuff that we’ve done has probably just gotten in the way of delivering what we really want to deliver.”