At the Margins

Want to integrate your revenue cycle operations? Here are 3 things you need to do.

by Robin Brand and Trevor Goldsmith

With traditional growth prospects diminishing, many health systems are focusing on improving non-clinical operations to protect margins and to gain strategic advantage. Revenue cycle integration—making the elements of the health system revenue cycle function more effectively together—is a critical strategy for improving operational performance.

3 ways to leverage revenue cycle integration for operational gains

We've spoken with the leaders of progressive health systems around the country to understand how revenue cycle integration can be leveraged for operational gains. Here are three lessons that health system leaders should bear in mind when designing an integration action plan:

  1. Create a baseline performance profile: Finance leaders need consistent data to assess action areas and rally support. Many systems have significant data gaps, but they should proceed with data collection and revenue cycle improvement in parallel.

  2. Don't wait for IT perfection before you get started: High-level integration depends heavily on IT functionalities. But systems can kick start integration efforts by standardizing "best practice" work processes in all their locations.

  3. Build a patient-centric revenue cycle: In a consumer oriented market making the revenue cycle—particularly scheduling, registration, and billing—seamless from the patient’s perspective will be a key to maintaining market leadership and revenue integrity.

Revenue cycle integration will not only require investment, it will require that traditional boundaries—between facility and system, and between finance and other departments—be broken down. To achieve those goals, system leaders at the highest level must understand that revenue cycle integration doesn't just save money and simplify operations—it helps systems achieve other strategic aims.

The revenue cycle is the central nervous system of the health care enterprise: It communicates and coordinates information about the system's most important relationships—with patients, providers, and payers. An integrated revenue cycle will help health systems strengthen these relationships, which are the foundation for sustainable operational excellence and durable strategic advantage.

 

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