October 23, 2020

Ten Ways COVID-19 Will Transform the Revenue Cycle

Staying on top of industry trends is as important for RevSpring as it is for your healthcare organization. In that spirit, we recently presented a timely webinar sponsored by Becker’s on “Ten Ways COVID-19 Will Transform the Revenue Cycle.” (To view a video of the full presentation, click here).

With several hundred revenue management industry professionals taking part, we could not resist the opportunity to test RevSpring’s research and hypotheses about COVID-related “waves of change” with those in attendance. We asked a series of questions, some of which are recapped below, along with an overview of our predictions.

As providers cope with unforeseen pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic, look for the following 10 trends to drive wide-spread adoption of long-time healthcare financial objections, such as using high performance digital channels to reduce print and related costs by up to 30 percent.

Prediction #1:  Healthcare professionals will make existing technologies work harder by maximizing their value through creative new uses.

Webinar attendees agreed, with a majority naming email and text messages, websites, appointment reminders, broadcast messaging and EMR platforms as tools that are working harder than ever before to reach patients with important information. When RevSpring surveyed other revenue cycle leaders prior to the webinar, 69 percent said they had the technology they needed to connect with patients when the COVID crisis hit.

Innovation is driving creative new uses of existing technology. One example: broadcast messaging—formerly only used for appointment reminders—now is being used to communicate about COVID and how healthcare systems and practices are providing care in response. Corporate websites, billing statements and portals also are being used as message centers and ways to share links to telemedicine.

Bottom line: Doing more with less is happening now and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Prediction #2:  Providers will find new ways to avoid waste, which must be done carefully to avoid negatively impacting revenue cycle management results.

When asked “What do you wish you could do less of?” respondents replied: “will look to use more automation” (34%) and “using multiple products and platforms that do similar things” (25%). In fact, many providers are using technology to deflect inbound calls. IVR is being deployed to handle them, which frees up agents to focus on calls that require more human interaction.

Reducing costs has become more critical than ever. However, cost-reduction strategies must be optimized without negatively impacting revenue cycle management results.

Bottom line: One important way to reduce costs (without harming revenue cycles) is avoiding waste.

Prediction #3: Billing and collections will become more efficient with greater reliance on digital platforms.

A whopping 74 percent of attendees acknowledged they are using digital methods for medical communication but rarely for financial communication. This coincides with what RevSpring hears consistently from providers and it points to the tremendous opportunity to close the digital gap in healthcare. Digital information exists but it can be challenging to obtain.

Frequently, digital consent does not extend to financial communications, yet there are many good reasons to use digital methods to communicate about financial matters with patients. Saving money and the ability to see results are chief among them.

Bottom line: Patients tell us they want it. It is less expensive than print and it is more flexible and actionable—and 80 percent of patients who engage digitally self-serve for payments.

Prediction #4: The time has come for personalized financial digital engagement.

Most webinar attendees said that patient satisfaction and feedback surveys provided data for tailoring patient communications. Propensity to pay scoring was the second most popular response. While not what we predicted (i.e., predictive analytics), we are excited about the responses. Using the true voice of the patient and operationalizing that feedback is an important complement to using predictive analytics to deliver the experience every patient desires.

Keeping patients financially engaged requires applying empathy and smart revenue management technology in equal doses. RevSpring recently adapted its propensity to pay model to reveal which patients might be struggling due to financial effects of COVID-19. We found that 30 percent of patients that previously would be considered high propensity to pay were in financial distress due to COVID.

Bottom line: Personalized patient communication will remain an important area of focus—and even grow in importance as providers work to precisely match engagement strategies to the needs of each patient.

Prediction #5:  Technology will keep evolving to keep patients and staff safe.

Webinar participants were asked, “What was the biggest safety change you had to make for COVID?” Among the top responses, “Changes in telemedicine” (43%); Virtual call centers (33%); and “Online patient check-in and forms completion” as the third most common safety change (13%).

We also see contactless patient payments and virtual waiting rooms emerging as safety measures, with new technology solutions facilitating these changes.

These are not “one shot” changes. A group of Harvard disease experts predicts that “some form of intermittent social distancing may need to be in place until 2022.”

Bottom line: As long as COVID-19 remains a threat to human health, providers will continue to find ways to deliver essential services with the least amount of human interaction possible.

This is the first of a 2-part blog series, check back for the next 5 predictions next week.