In a consumer-driven world, 92% is barely good enough

Andrew Slotnick

That’s a pretty strong message. HFMA has been consistently focused on patient engagement as a content theme this year and at this week’s HFMA MAP event the trend continued. My five key takeaways from the event can be summed up in a single statement: “you’re either all in … or you’re not.” And honestly, I could sense that many in attendance were not. That should not come as a surprise, however, given the audience and the challenging environment that administrators and financial leaders of healthcare systems across the country are dealing with.

My five takeaways are as follows:

  1. Patient what? Yes, patient engagement. Financial leaders must take ownership of the patient journey. Just when you thought traditional metrics such as AR days, cost to collect and net patient collections were too much to maintain, a new twist has been added to the mix. And it make sense, too, after all the first and last touch point a patient is likely to encounter as part of their care experience is revenue cycle related. (Scheduling/registration and their final bill(s))
  1. Leaders lead by example. For organizations that on the forefront of patient engagement the topic is far from academic. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but let me share a few examples of how leading organizations are walking the walk. The incentive compensation structure for the revenue cycle team at one organization is no longer tied to ‘traditional’ revenue cycle metrics, patient satisfaction scores now drive 100% of the incentive compensation plan. Another team of financial leaders reexamined their organizations charter to make sure analytics and patient satisfaction were positioned at the core of what it hoped to achieve. They took their suggested changes all the way to the board and executive teams for complete commitment and alignment.
  1. Competing in the era of (patient) consumerism requires differentiation. We are in a technology-driven services economy that healthcare can no longer escape from. Customer feedback and social media are not going away and as out of pocket costs rise and more and more young tech-savvy patients enter the system, organizations must be laser focused about the experience they are providing for their customers. Organizations that achieve superior customer service will benefit from these trends to help build brand awareness, grow market share and retain patients.
  1. New outcomes require new tools. Revenue cycle analytics and business intelligence is a perfect example where ‘homegrown’ tools have served a purpose over time and have uncovered key problem areas, but should now be re-considered. As insight becomes a core competency for organizations to deliver a best in class experience for their patients, relying on a single person or small department to maintain homegrown analytics tools and dashboards from across a health network is not a cost-effective or wise strategy. Organizations that are generating actionable insights in the area of claims denials management and patient engagement are rallying around new and advanced technologies so that they can focus their people and processes on their customers.
  1. Standardize, centralize and personalize. Consistency is a big part of how organizations plan to differentiate amidst a rapidly consolidating market, but as they are learning it’s not as easy as just centralizing business offices and standardizing workflows. To deliver a Starbucks, Zappos or LL Bean-type customer experience, organizations must find or train the right people with the right skill sets to personalize each patient experience. I heard a great example from a CFO this week, who carries personalize business cards in her pocket with her wherever she goes. When she experiences phenomenal customer service, she hands the individual one of her cards that reads something like “you just delivered a great customer experience, thank you. My organization needs people just like you to deliver exception experiences for our customers. Here is my direct phone line, please call me if you are interested.”

At the end of the day, a 100% commitment to patient experience is a change for many in healthcare and getting there will take time. For some organizations, the concept has infiltrated the C-suite and they are ahead of the curve because of it. For those that are not there yet, there is good news; there is no shortage of opportunity to improve your patient engagement game. With millions of newly insured patients entering the system, as well as with the patients your organization serves every day, the opportunity to differentiate starts now!


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