Technology Might Be the Answer to RCM Workforce Shortages
Remember the corporate tagline “Better living through chemistry?” For RCM leaders in the healthcare industry, that phrase should be changed to “better living through technology.” That’s because many hospitals and healthcare organizations are turning to technology to help overcome the growing RCM workforce shortages.
The bottom line
Stories about the “Great Resignation” continue to dominate the news. Just about every industry is suffering from workforce shortages. RCM departments throughout the healthcare industry are no exception.
According to a recent survey of 411 chief financial officers and revenue cycle leaders:
- 60 percent reported between one and 10 open RCM roles.
- 14 percent had between 11 and 20 openings.
- 7 percent reported between 21 and 30 vacancies.
- 19 percent had more than 30 available revenue cycle roles.
All survey respondents reported having at least one vacancy in their revenue cycle department. And around 25 percent noted that they would need an additional 20 or more employees to have a fully staffed revenue cycle department.
But these shortages are also creating serious financial strains on RCM organizations.
According to a 2022 survey of CFOs and vice presidents of revenue cycle from healthcare organizations, 21 percent of those surveyed shared that shrinking margins are their biggest financial concern. And 66 percent believe that there will be additional strain on RCM operations as more patients return for elective health appointments.
The problem is growing, as uncertainty remains around budgets, hiring, and more. This leaves RCM healthcare leaders with few options.
The choice is yours
Burying their heads in the sand and hoping the problem goes away isn’t a viable strategy. That leaves hospitals and healthcare systems with two options — improve in-house RCM efforts (even with a limited staff) or invest in the expertise of outsourcing professionals.
Some RCM leaders are choosing to outsource more of their RCM tasks. But others have a strong desire to keep RCM efforts in-house. They believe internal issues and problems are best solved from within.
But whether RCM operations are kept in house or handed off to an outsourcer, RCM organizations will still have to overcome the staffing problem. And that will likely be done with technology since adding headcount is likely not happening any time soon. More RCM leaders and outsourcers are looking at technology solutions that will help automate processes, leaving valuable staff to focus on higher-yield activities.
In fact, 56 percent of RCM leaders said they are adopting automation technologies to address RCM labor shortages.
The right technology
Whether you’re an outsourcer or a health system/hospital organization looking to improve your RCM processes, you’ll need an RCM solution that can help make your employees more efficient to help combat the workforce shortage and enhance the patient experience. One of the key features of many available solutions will be automation, but it must be purposeful automation, not just automation for automation’s sake.
The best solutions will feature workflow automation — created with robotic process automation (RPA) and AI technologies — to reduce the administrative burden on representatives while improving end-user productivity and increasing revenue recovery. This workflow automation supports skills-based routing, allowing representatives to work at the top of their license and increase their contribution. It also promotes process adherence with up-to-date workflow protocols accessible within flexible workplace environments.
Automation should also prioritize accounts and activities configured to meet your unique financial procedures, while also reducing denials and write-offs by automating optimized presentation of these accounts for follow-up. For example, like-account grouping presents similar accounts together, which can increase the number of accounts worked for every payer call.
Other features, such as workflow configurability, can give representatives a better understanding of payer behaviors to help optimize their time. For example, representatives can speed up connectivity to an insurance agent and improve the insurance follow-up experience by making calls outside of peak busy hours.
Any automation must also help optimize the patient experience by providing an end-to-end view of a patient’s financial journey. It should enable tailored communication methods and frequency. And it should include personalized payment options that are easily adaptable to the patient’s individual affordability threshold. This puts the patient in control of their financial decision making. This personalized outreach and consolidated billing also help support patient understanding of their responsibilities.
While that seems like quite a lot, these features are must-haves for RCM organizations and outsourcers. These innovative solutions can help organizations overcome the current labor shortages while still enhancing the patient experience.
The time is now
Technology has made many everyday tasks easier — in our personal and work lives. This blog post is just one obvious example. Thankfully, it wasn’t typed on a typewriter! Innovative technology companies will keep looking for new ways to use technology to make our lives easier. And RCM leaders must take advantage of this to help with the current workforce shortages. They can do this by partnering with a vendor who shares their vision of increasing purposeful automation and workflows that streamline, personalize, and improve the healthcare financial experience for patients and staff.
It’s time to take control of your RCM processes.
This is the final article in a two-part series about dealing with RCM workforce shortages in the healthcare industry. Be sure to check out the first article.
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