On February 28, 2019, The Hudson Valley Chapter of HFMA put on another great event. It was great to see knowledgeable speakers talking about relevant topics.
The Patient as the Customer
The theme of the day revolved around the patient-as-a-customer movement. Topics focusing on price transparency, patient satisfaction, and patient access all had common themes:
- Healthcare is transforming from a provider-led experience to a patient-led experience.
- Initiatives around publishing prices and quality measures are transforming healthcare. Consumers will be turning to the internet to make educated decisions about where to get care.
- Price transparency provides the ability for consumers to research the best value. Providers will need to adjust. Soon there will be no hiding price. Consumers will be in a much better position to choose how much they are willing to pay for services.
Choice. The word of the day is choice. Patients are being given unprecedented control over their healthcare purchasing decisions. Providers need to adapt to these changes so that they are the ones chosen to deliver care.
A Human Patient Access Experience
I work with the Crouse Health IT team and know them to be forward-thinkers committed to excellence. Seeing leaders in their revenue cycle talk helped me complete the big picture. Jeffrey Youngs put it best when he said:
“At Crouse, our objective is to make the revenue cycle human.”
Every once in a while, you hear a statement that is simple in words but resounding in the message. This was such a statement. We learned that Crouse is taking strides to express empathy and understanding. Their goal is to make the patient experience as comforting as possible.
Patient Access Lacks Time
It came up again, as it always does. Patient access plays a critical role in a successful revenue cycle. They also struggle to find time to get everything done. Registration can be a pressure cooker. This diagram provides a glimpse of what any given registration clerk is dealing with at any one time:
That’s quite a bit of demand, and it only says “patient.” Usually, it’s more like “patients.” The fact is, it’s tough for these folks to get everything done they need to do. Error rates are high because of it and experienced registration people learn “short-cuts.” That means selecting which tasks are important and which aren’t. The tension between patient access and patient financial services is common, and this is one reason why. Patient access might ignore issues that don’t become a problem until later downstream.
Most of the panelists talked about preparing staff to be more efficient. They mentioned things like talk scripts and playbooks. Some in the audience talked about technology tools they relied on to take some of the load off their teams.
There is no reducing the work needing done in patient access. The best you can do is give your team the training and tools to make them as efficient as possible.
It is difficult to get employees to work undesirable shifts. I heard things like, “No-one wants to work the Friday overnight.” They also said if someone on an undesirable shift calls out, it's impossible to find a replacement.
Nothing is worse for productivity than low morale, yet you must staff your hospitals. Jarrod Pence, Director of Patient Access at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center and Drew Franklin, the Chief Strategy Office at ENT Allergy and Associates shared a common prescription. They both said to keep employees motivated, they need a career map. They need to see how the sacrifices they make today will contribute to their future growth.
Keeping employees motivated and productive on less desirable shift requires morale building measures.
Attracting and Retaining Skilled Labor
I’ve heard this in every walk of healthcare. “It’s impossible to find and keep good employees at the registration desk.” I heard some interesting solutions to this challenge on the panel.
Jeffrey Youngs and his team put energy behind developing and training their employees. They’ve also implemented some fun initiatives intended to build morale and engagement. For example, employees are entered in raffles when they meet objectives. If they help a partner in a different department, they are nominated for awards. He says the staff has responded well to the programs. They've entered into a healthy competition, which is driving results.
Drew Franklin recommends increasing the pay rate to attract talent. He'd like to hire people that have proven ability. My understanding was that he feels quality employees can earn more in other jobs, so he feels that paying a competitive wage will attract top talent.
Jill Barton, VP of Finance at St. Lukes Cornwall Hospital and Jarrod Pence suggested that training and tools are critical for boosting talent.
- Consider raising the pay structure for patient access staff.
- If raising pay isn’t suitable for your organization, look to tools and training.
- Make work fun! Introduce competitions that drive results.
Breaking Down Silos
Jeffrey Youngs introduced a topic that was very interesting. His goal was to increase communication and cooperation. To accomplish this, Crouse has several standing meetings that bring the departments together. A fun initiative involves having patient access and patient financial services meet once a month. During that meeting, they announce nominees for the teamwork prizes. The way to get nominated is by helping a teammate in a separate department. The teammate you helped can nominate for participation in the prize raffle.
Drew Franklin made a strong statement. He asked how many people in the room had regular meetings with department heads. When only a few people raised their hands, he said, “If you’re not getting your department heads together regularly, start.” By getting his department heads together, they have they can identify bottlenecks and work together to address them.
- Again, keep it fun
- Foster collaboration and cohesion between departments
I can’t stress what a good job HFMA Hudson Valley did putting together this event. All the speakers were informative, engaging, and relevant.
Healthcare is changing fast. It is shifting from a provider-led experience to a patient-led experience. Those not looking to the future are going to struggle to keep up in the tomorrows.
My parting thought is this: If you can meet with your peers in a collaborative setting, take advantage of it. The ideas presented and developed are worth the time and investment.
Let’s keep the conversation going. If you have ideas to share, please leave comments for your peers to read.