Digital Tools Prove Essential to the Revenue Cycle During COVID-19, Will be Key to Recovering After

Everything feels difficult right now and healthcare is no exception. 

Hospitals, health systems, and medical practices are struggling with low patient volume, fewer incoming patient payments, and the costs associated with keeping the organization up and running. Elective surgeries have been canceled, specialists are closing their doors for the time being, and hospitals and health systems have started to furlough employees. Changes at this scale are unprecedented across the entire industry at once, and yet there’s a shared understanding that everyone is doing their best to protect staff and patients. These are decisions made with much angst but out of the highest regard for patient and staff safety.

COVID-19 has shed light on healthcare’s imminent need to shift to digital as soon as possible, for many it has launched their organizations into the use of digital tools they had yet to embrace. Those who implemented these tools prior to the pandemic are finding it easier to flex to the new demands of healthcare and we suspect they will also find an easier road to resuming normal operations when the danger of coronavirus declines. Medical offices and healthcare organizations are working hard to find ways they can provide care, protect patients, and minimize the financial impact of COVID-19 to their organizations. 

Telehealth means patients can still access care and providers can still generate revenue.

Health systems, hospitals, and medical practices across the U.S. are shifting to Telehealth as the best way to limit exposure to both patients and staff. Movements like the CARES Act, which makes it possible for providers to receive advance payments, are helping aid practices financially while relaxed HIPAA regulations and the addition of new billing codes have expanded acceptable platforms from which practices can conduct telehealth visits and made it possible for providers to get paid for the services they deliver via Telehealth. A new $200 million program from the FCC is also helping medical practices obtain the services and devices needed to support telemedicine initiatives. 

Telehealth isn’t just a way to protect patients and staff, it’s a lifeline for those who are trying to keep their revenue streams flowing during this temporary downturn. Patients and their caregivers, acutely aware of the need to isolate and reduce their own risk of infection, are likely to put off getting the care they need unless they have a good option for accessing care without walking into the clinic. Whether the restriction to getting care is perceived or real, the risk is high for letting minor health conditions go untreated for an extended period of time. Telehealth can prevent minor conditions from turning more serious, saving patients more invasive treatments and higher cost of care while also providing medical practices and health systems the ability to provide care and generate billable time so they can be around for their patients long after COVID-19 is over. 

Patient Engagement is Aiding in Cost Reduction

The disruption to the revenue cycle makes it even more important now for medical practices, hospitals, and health systems to find ways to cut unnecessary spending. One often overlooked expense is the cost associated with paper statements and manual work that goes into sending those statements out. Billing managers and healthcare leaders are turning to digital solutions like mobile payments and texting patients their balances to streamline the revenue cycle and empower patients with the self-service tools they want. These strategies give patients access to their bills and account summaries and offer them the ability to pay by text while streamlining RCM process with auto-posted payments. Other digital tools like digital intake and self-scheduling are helping practices identify payer information earlier in the process so it can be verified and accounted prior to the appointment. Going digital makes it easier to collect patient financial responsibility at the time of the appointment, bringing in revenue and reducing aging A/R. 

This is temporary. 

This will end at some point. And while life may never look exactly the same, there’s good that can come from this, too. COVID-19 forced many into an age of digital tools and many are finding their patients have been waiting for these options for a long time. Telehealth will likely decline some in use after this is over but will remain a go-to for patients who need care but don’t need to be seen in-person. And the digital tools we’re using to engage patients right now are here to stay as they are needed as much in the normal day-to-day operations of running a thriving medical practice as they are to surviving a global pandemic. 

Make sure you have a partner. 

Your patient engagement partner should be ready to assist you with the tools you need to expand your patient engagement strategy and respond to the current need quickly—reach out and ask them for help. If you’re not sure how to get started, we’d love to help. 

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