You have a point-of-service collection initiative. Your organization has invested in the proper tools, technology, and staff training.
You’ve implemented a sound patient engagement strategy on the front-end (one that influences more patients to pay at the point-of-service).
So now what?
How do you motivate and influence registrar staff to keep improving? How do you keep moving the needle on your POS collection efforts?
Conventional wisdom (and common sense) offers managers and supervisors some basic guidelines. Things like, setting goals, giving praise, offering incentives, communicating results and performance, etc.
Yet, research suggests how you execute these tasks can make a big difference in your staff’s performance.
Here are three simple adjustments managers can make to boost their team’s performance – and ultimately their point-of-service collections.
1. Goals: Don’t be too specific, use a range instead
When it comes to setting goals, whether for ourselves or others, traditional wisdom tells us to be very specific.
In our own lives we might have goals such as exercising 30 minutes a day, getting 7 hours of sleep each night, or losing 2 pounds a week.
The collection goals set for registrar teams are usually just as specific. Collect a specific dollar amount per month, or increase overall POS collections by a certain percentage over last month.
However, researchers suggest that this may not be the best approach.
Instead of setting specific number goals, studies show that setting a high-low goal range can lead to better results.
For example, instead of setting a monthly collection increase goal of 3%, the high-low range approach would be setting a goal for a 2-4% increase in collection.
Why it works
Researchers believe the high-low goal approach is more effective because it satisfies the two key factors that drive people to achieve a goal: challenge and attainability.
This means for a goal to be effective, it must be perceived as sufficiently challenging, which feeds our need for a sense of accomplishment. However, it must also be viewed as realistically attainable, to prevent us from abandoning our attempts of achieving it.
The high-low goal range approach is especially applicable in a team setting, where you have a mix of low, medium and high performers. The goal range allows you to continue to challenge high performers, without making performance targets feel unattainable to lower performers.
2. Progress: Focus on the smaller amount
Communicating progress and performance helps managers encourage their staff, boost morale and provide a sense of accomplishment.
Yet, researchers suggest the context in which progress is communicated can influence the motivation levels of team members.
In what has been named the “small-area hypothesis,” studies suggest that when our focus is set on smaller amounts of progress made or effort remaining, we are more encouraged to accomplish tasks and meet goals.
So early on, focus your message on the small amount of progress that has already been made by your team. Then, after your team has crossed the halfway mark, focus on the smaller amount of effort that is remaining to complete the goal.
For example, think about your LinkedIn profile. The famous networking site prompts you to complete your online profile with a message like:
You are 20% away from completing your online profile…
…as opposed to:
You have already completed 80% of your online profile…
Both messages are true. But instead of focusing attention to the larger number, LinkedIn directs your focus to the smaller amount of effort remaining – hoping to increase your motivation to complete your online profile.
On the other end of the spectrum, in the early stages of accomplishing a task or goal, it is better to focus on the small amount of progress that has been made.
For example, if your team has a monthly collection goal, and had a great first week of the month, it’s better to tell them:
We’re only one week in and you’ve already collected 35% of your monthly target…
We’ve made a great start to this month, and only have 65% of the way to go…
The change is subtle, but it may be the difference in getting your staff to remain committed to the goals you set.
3. Incentives: Don’t just offer them, bring them to life
While there’s no denying the power of incentives on human behavior, research in consumer behavior suggests that we often miss the mark when we try to offer incentives to improve motivation and performance.
What studies have found is that we wrongfully assume the people we are trying to influence will automatically see the advantages of our offer.
For example, if a manager offers a $25 gift card to each team member that meets his or her collection goal, we expect those team members to understand the value of the offer. However this is not necessarily the case.
Studies show that incentives are more effective at influencing behavior when the offer itself is accompanied with the advantages of the offer.
So if a manager is offering her staff a $25 gift card, she may also want to ask them to think about how they would spend the $25 gift card. What would they buy?
If it’s a gift card for a restaurant, what meal would they plan on ordering?
If the incentive is a paid vacation day, what would they spend their day off doing?
Always be refining your approach
These insights do not suggest managers and supervisors should completely abandon current point-of-service collection processes.
As part of RevSpring’s Active Patient Engagement™, we do not believe in blindly following best practices or adopting a specific set of tactics. Instead, we hope to provide RCM leaders with the latest insights and research around their self-pay processes – inspiring them to expand their thinking around their day-to-day processes and provide ideas that help them take a more active role in optimizing self-pay collection.
Any adjustments to strategy should be tested, tracked and measured to validate their implementation.