A perfect storm of post-pandemic factors has hospital CFOs re-considering their long-standing workforce configuration for patient billing, collections and other business office team members. Competition is mounting for experienced coders, billers, and other support staff. Meanwhile, patient expectations continue to evolve. As a result, the decades-old status quo is ripe for an overhaul.

Why It’s Time for a Business Office Overhaul

Many hospitals are gearing back up to handle scheduled surgeries and other treatments delayed by the pandemic. At the same time, many business office team members have decided they like working from home. Not only did remote work help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but the switch has emerged as an opportunity for revenue cycle teams to cut overhead expenses related to real estate, equipment, and infrastructure costs.

The remote trend also enables organizations to hire from a national pool rather than just a local labor market. But this trend could also increase overhead costs. According to a June 12, 2021 analysis on the website, Healthcare Finance:

“It’s a fierce, competitive market for healthcare staff, not just for clinicians but in revenue cycle departments. There is high demand for billers and coders now that elective surgeries and demand for care is coming back with a vengeance, according to Luke Thiem, senior vice president of Healthcare at Addison Group, which does recruitment and consulting.

“One of the trends I’m seeing right now, the market is very tight,” Thiem said. “There’s more competition, it’s a super-competitive landscape both for clinical and non-clinical. Even since February, I’ve seen the gap between job seekers and openings get wider and wider.”

CFOs Consider Alternatives to Labor & Resource-Intensive Processes

Many health system leaders are embarking a business office renovation. For example, in the past week, Northwell Health announced it would create a new Medical Debt Ombudsman position to communicate with patients about medical debt more efficiently. The ombudsman will communicate with patients about payment plans, discounts, charity care, insurance coverage, and other options for assistance.

Another hospital, Gila Regional Medical Center, has hired an outside management company to return it to financial health. According to a local media report, the outsourcing was made in recognition, as with many hospitals nationwide, that it’s a “struggle” for the health system to successfully manage registration, billing, and collecting money from patients (and insurance companies).

It’s progress that the world of business office operations is finally getting some attention in the way of a redesign. However, adding team members and outside consultants is an expensive fix. There is a more proven, cost-efficient solution.

A More Cost-Effective Strategy for Reinventing the Business Office

According to a survey conducted by HFMA in September 2020, 70% of hospitals and health system leaders anticipate an increase in post-COVID-19 self-pay/Medicaid patients accompanied by a decrease in commercial reimbursement. According to 73% of hospital executives surveyed, the solution to this is “to better engage patients and address consumer responsibility.” Some 63% also cited financial counseling and payment plans as a solution. Another 56% mentioned online portals for price estimates and payments to better engage patients.

Meanwhile, patients have been telling Patientco via its annual State of the Patient Financial Experience Report, that they want a different relationship with the hospital business office. As the 2021 Best in KLAS Patient Financial Engagement Platform, Patientco can facilitate this redesigned relationship. With Patientco, health systems can foster a better patient financial experience without burdening their current business office team or hiring additional team members.

Here are a few ways Patientco supports this:

Easy-to-Understand Billing Communication Reduces Confusion & Patient Calls

Patientco translates medical billing codes into plain language so patients can easily understand their bill. They also consolidate billing communication across all services, including hospital and physician charges. As a result, patients get a complete view of their financial responsibility. This creates a clear, concise billing experience for patients that builds trust. Meanwhile, business office teams will spend less time fielding calls from confused, frustrated patients. 

Real-Time Visibility Provides One Source of Truth

Patientco gives business office teams a real-time view of payment activity and balance information. This is because the platform integrates seamlessly with other health IT systems, including the HIS, estimators, schedulers, registration kiosks and more. Seamless integrations make it easy for your health system’s platforms and processes to work together in an intuitive way.

Today, business office team members within a health system often have to work across multiple systems to do their job. Instead, give your team greater connectivity and visibility when providing patient financial care. Whatever workflow your team uses, your patient payment technology should make it possible to look up a patient’s current balance, take a payment and even set up a payment plan – all within their current workflow. 

Automate Manual, Time-Consuming Processes

As a vertically-integrated payment platform, Patientco allows balances between bank deposits and the HIS system of record to reconcile daily, providing a single daily deposit to the health system’s bank. This may seem like a back-end benefit that just automates manual processes and reduces administrative burden. However, there’s actually a significant patient benefit as well. If your system’s data is accurate, it means patients will see accurate balances on their statements and in their portal. Accurate balances instill trust, which leads to loyal, happy patients.

These are just a few ways Patientco can support the business office 2.0. After all, when the business office team is performing at its best, patients get the compassionate financial care they deserve.

Meet the Author: John W. Mitchell’s job titles have ranged from sailor in the U.S. Navy (broadcast-journalist aboard an aircraft carrier) to COO and CEO for several hospitals. In 2009, HealthLeaders Media named John and his senior executive team the Top Leadership Team in Healthcare for turning around a 90-bed, regional Washington hospital. In 2012, he started his own business, SnowPack Public Relations. John is widely published as a freelance reporter and writer in the hospital, healthcare, and medical sectors. More recently, his projects include writing content on behalf of Patientco. John is also the author of the novel Medical Necessity (four stars on Amazon), and he is a commercially successful landscape and wildlife photographer.