Since the start of the COVID-19 public health crisis, hospitals and health systems have worked tirelessly to shore up and sustain revenue cycle operations amid fluctuating patient volumes. Key functions like patient collections top the priority list as organizations strive to overcome current economic challenges and accommodate patient constraints while maintaining cash flow and preserving revenue.
To learn about hospital and health system leaders’ perspectives on COVID-19 and its effect on the revenue cycle, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) conducted an online survey of HFMA Digital Annual Conference attendees. The following research report, sponsored by TruBridge, explores three key takeaways from the survey.
The negative impact on revenue cycle operations was universal
Nearly nine out of ten (86%) healthcare providers saw a negative impact to revenue cycle operations during the first months of the crisis. Larger organizations reported the greatest impact, and very small providers the least. In some cases, organizations were prepared for the disruption. Three-quarters of those that had a business continuity plan for managing revenue cycle operations in a distributed workforce found their plan to be effective. However, one out of five providers did not have such a plan, which may have put their organization at risk. The majority of providers that outsourced revenue cycle or coding services did not see disruption to those services. Those that did were more likely to be larger organizations.
“The amount of risk introduced into revenue cycle operations as a result of the pandemic has been significant,” says Chris Fowler, president of TruBridge. “In general, the pandemic is magnifying two areas of deficiency. First, it’s showing many organizations that they have outdated business processes or products, or in some cases people who don’t have the correct training, tools or skills to perform in a largely remote environment. Second, it’s teaching organizations there’s a greater need to lean on technology to ensure they maximize revenue, especially related to self-pay cash collections and holding payers accountable for reimbursement that’s exactly aligned to contract terms.”
Many providers see a combination of risks presenting a threat to long-term business continuity
According to survey respondents, unpredictable fluctuations in patient volumes represent the single biggest risk to maintaining long-term revenue cycle continuity, with 25% of respondents pointing to this as a concern. However, more respondents note that a several factors are causing risk. Almost half of respondents (47%) note in addition to patient-volume fluctuation, the rise in uninsured patients, staffing shortages and turnover, and the ever-changing regulatory environment are all impacting their organizations’ ability to safeguard revenue cycle continuity.
The impact of COVID-19 on revenue cycle operations
Please describe the impact COVID-19 had on your revenue cycle operations during first months of the crisis.