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By Titus Leo, vice president and head of healthcare provider practice, HGS
Hospitals hoping to rebound from 2020’s financial havoc may have their work cut out for them as the pandemic, and the host of challenges it brings, continues to overwhelm healthcare systems and staff, and providers continue to struggle financially.
U.S. hospitals are expected to lose $54 billion in net income this year, according to Kaufman Hall. Further, more than one-third of hospitals are expected to maintain negative operating margins this year.
As the Delta variant continues to spread, many health systems have been forced to delay elective surgeries in the interest of freeing up hospital beds and resources for the influx of COVID-19 patients. For cash-strapped health systems that were severely strained last year, this could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It’s become critical for providers to focus on improving cash flow as they become the frontlines of the pandemic once again. But maintaining financially stability requires new revenue cycle management strategies supported by technology.
These four strategies can help healthcare providers focus on their financial recovery journey as the pandemic continues to overwhelm the industry.
Automate back-office functions to create efficiencies.
While hospital volumes are up and administrative labor resources are often scarce due to the labor shortage, automation can step in to fill the gaps. Automation technologies can take over mundane and repetitive manual processes to free up administrative resources for front office work and patient interactions. This is particularly helpful at locations and markets experiencing high attrition rates.
Apply analytics to the revenue cycle workflow to use staff more effectively.
Collecting low-balance accounts through manual processes is labor intensive, with recoveries often below the cost of collecting the balance. However, by applying analytics to assess likelihood of payment, for example, health systems can allocate staff resources to follow up on the accounts that are most likely to pay sooner and at a higher rate.
Leverage AI for insight into behavior and habits for data-driven analysis.
For example, AI can be used to analyze historical accounts in order to understand what typically gets paid and what doesn’t. With this level of insight, providers are able to focus on what’s most likely to be collectable. Not only does this help improve cash flow, but it accelerates the work process, ensuring satisfactory and timely patient balance billing – a win-win scenario for everyone.
Consider staff augmentation to fill labor gaps as volumes fluctuate.
Labor shortages plague many industries this year and healthcare is no different. With the level of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 variants and associated hospitalizations, staffing proves to be a major challenge. External Business Process Management experts can provide scalable staff and expertise to offset talent gaps as volumes fluctuate.
Healthcare providers are facing one of the worst economic crises of modern times. As such, it’s critical that they pull all of the levers at their disposal in order to stay afloat financially while fighting on the frontlines.
In moments like this, it is all about finding ways to create efficiencies and leaning into technology in order to prioritize human expertise where it’s needed most: delivering the best possible patient care.