UConn Health medical center is growing at a rapid rate. Recent achievements include combining an $864 million infrastructure improvement project quickly with the implementation of a new system-wide electronic medical record (EMR). CFO Jeffrey Geoghegan seized on the opportunity to leverage the new EMR system to make the revenue cycle more efficient and patient-focused.
“In the past, we had 34 different sub-systems across our revenue cycle,” Geoghegan said. “Patients visiting a physician were on a separate system from those visiting our hospital. These systems did not communicate with one another and it made for a frustrating patient experience. This EMR upgrade was our opportunity to shift to a single billing office.”
The expansion had the potential to stretch the existing staff and systems beyond their capacity. The goal was a unified billing system to support the increased patient volume without adding staff, incurring new costs, or imperiling customer satisfaction.
Success Tied to Change Management Efforts
Employees who were focused on billing-related work had to undergo a cultural shift to a more patient-centric mindset to achieve these objectives. Initially, they tried combining the call center, scheduling, and registration teams into a single unit to streamline the process. However, that negatively impacted workflow and patient satisfaction.
“It’s important to recognize that even if you do move forward and find that something’s not working, you shouldn’t be afraid to course correct. Our biggest indicator of success or failure was patient satisfaction,” Geoghegan said.
They regrouped and focused on measuring the efforts of the individual functions. For billing, they concentrated on speed and simplicity metrics. The old system required anywhere from 5 to 15 days to get a bill out. Patient confusion and frustration was compounded when they received multiple bills due to invoices coming in from various departments at different times.
The new measure of success was to send out one unified bill and, in less time, than one departmental bill. “When modernizing any system, the ability to monitor, have a baseline, and be able to calculate where you stand against your baseline is the best strategy for success,” Geoghegan said.
Key Lessons Learned
Geoghegan noted that the organization learned many valuable lessons during the process that will shape the future direction when implementing new systems. Some key takeaways included:
- Move patient information and payments to the front of the revenue cycle.
- Carefully measure the impact of change, and don’t be afraid to adjust when the desired goals aren’t being met.
- Recognize that billing is part of the customer experience. Even if all aspects of the interaction prior to billing are positive, an upsetting bill can negate the patient’s otherwise positive views.
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