Staff, patients, benchmarks have the attention of rev cycle leaders

April 5, 2022 8:23 pm

5 takeaways from HFMA’s Revenue Cycle Conference

Boosting the efficiency and productivity of revenue cycle management (RCM) was a frequent topic of discussion at HFMA’s Revenue Cycle Conference, held in March in New Orleans. People and benchmarking also were popular subjects of conversation among participants. Here are five takeaways from those discussions.

1. RCM leaders are seeking more efficiency but want to keep the focus on staff

A well-attended session with three RCM provider executives demonstrated that systems are finding varied ways to cut costs and build quality. Leaders from Ochsner Health, Trinity Health and OSF HealthCare each had their own approach on how to tackle issues that were raised in the conversation. But they stressed that despite any advances in the use of automation, people remain the key component of the RCM equation.

“Spending time with your team is hugely important,” said Stephanie Wells, CPA, system vice president, revenue cycle/HIM for Ochsner Health, New Orleans. In times of extreme stress, Wells said the natural reaction is to pull back from employee development activities, though that would be a mistake in the current environment in which workers are in short supply. “The truth is, now is the time to double down on it; people have all the options in the world.”

David Bittner, FHFMA, CPA, MBA, who is senior vice president and chief revenue officer for Trinity Health, Michigan, noted that Trinity created a training and development division solely for its revenue cycle. “We’ve had a concerted effort to provide additional education for all of our [team] members,” he said. The organization is also making a push for staff to seek HFMA certification of some type, expecting that to boost engagement.

OSF HealthCare emphasizes the creation of professional goals for its RCM employees, including those with and without college degrees, said Stephanie Hurwitz, FHFMA, MBA, senior vice president for revenue cycle and managed care. The help includes encouragement to receive HFMA certifications, and assistance in developing a career. Both approaches can make employment more than just a job.

Hurwitz said she feels passionately that “career paths shouldn’t just be for people with degrees.’’

2. Patients’ human side deserves more attention within RCM

The opening keynote by Jason Wolf, president and CEO of The Beryl Institute, focused on the importance of treating patients like the healthcare consumers they’ve become.

His talk included a story about a hospital inpatient who was so desperate for information on her discharge situation that she called the reception desk and was able to learn more there than she could from her caregivers. When that sort of thing happens, “We’ve missed something in the process, we’ve missed an opportunity for communication, a link to what matters to people,” Wolf said.

“The context for [patient] experience matters, and it happens in places we might not always think about,” he said. You can hear more of Wolf’s perspective during a recent episode of the HFMA podcast “Voices in Healthcare Finance” that was hosted by Joseph J. Fifer, president and CEO of HFMA. 

3. There may be an untapped pool of potential RCM staffers

Joe DeLoss, founder of the fried chicken chain Hot Chicken Takeover, offered an intriguing way to ease the RCM workforce shortage: hiring people with police records.

He reminded the audience that he operates a for-profit business and thus can’t make decisions to be charitable, but he’s come up with a hiring approach that engages employees and limits turnover. His method involves having everyone take shifts working in the dish tank, which is exactly what it sounds like — the dishwashing department. A similar step should be adapted for RCM leaders seeking to give such an approach a try, he said.

DeLoss also can be heard discussing his approach with Fifer on an HFMA podcast episode. 

4. Benchmarking remains big

There was a lot of interest and information-sharing on the topic of RCM KPIs at a workshop session on applying for an HFMA MAP Award. In addition to answering questions on the MAP App measurement tool, leaders offered insights on the appropriate use of KPIs in general.

Todd Nelson, FHFMA, MBA, HFMA’s director, partner relationships and chief partnership executive, said the panelists did a nice job of explaining how to use different types of measures, be it an internal benchmark, the MAP App or an external software-supplied measure. “Each of them is different and each gives you a different look at your data, and you use them differently,” Nelson said.

Panelists included Christine Aucreman, vice president, enterprise performance management and support services, revenue excellence, Trinity Health; Sterling W. Coker, chief revenue cycle officer, Mercy; and Leah Klinke, assistant vice president of revenue cycle, WVU Medicine.

5. People were glad to be at an in-person event

A definite buzz was felt at sessions large and small, and people seemed eager to mingle during the breaks. There was not an attendee to be found with the glassy-eyed stare of someone who had been at one too many conferences or attended a conference for one too many days. That may bode well for the HFMA Annual Conference scheduled for June 26-29 in Denver. 

Perhaps it was Jason Wolf who got the ball rolling on the good vibes with his opening keynote. “I have to start with a ‘thank you,’” Wolf said. “For the first time in two years, I get to wear pants in front of people. This is exciting.”



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