Overlooked EHR tools that can improve revenue cycle management

Nearly 97% of hospitals possessed certified EHR technology in 2014, up from nearly 72% just three years earlier, according to an ONC/American Hospital Association (AHA) survey.

But just as some smartphone owners use only a fraction of their devices’ features, it’s a good bet many institutions are under-utilizing their EHR systems, ignoring or simply lacking awareness of available functions that could improve patient care and clinical processes.

A fully leveraged EHR system also can improve a healthcare provider’s finances, say revenue cycle management experts. Indeed, many EHR systems already integrate billing functionality within the platform in a way that is designed to improve revenue cycle workflow and reduce time to payment.

Diagnostic Imaging‘s Janet Colwell recently interviewed two revenue cycle management pros who cited several common EHR tools that, if used, could improve the financial performance of hospitals and other healthcare providers. These include:

  • Real-time insurance verification
  • Price estimators
  • Patient credit-card storage
  • Electronic check-in
  • Patient portals

All of the functions listed above are designed to increase the efficiency of the entire process, from intake to final payment, yet some providers fail to take advantage of these EHR features and others.

Overcoming resistance

One reason might be inadequate training by the software vendor or the healthcare organization’s IT professionals. Another might be cultural: As Medical Economics’ Ken Terry noted, “Using an EHR to increase efficiency requires major changes in office processes.”

Unfortunately, because change can be so disruptive, many people adapt by learning (and doing) only what they need to, and no more.

“People want to keep what they do the same, so they try to retrofit the technology into their current processes,” Rosemarie Nelson, a Medical Group Management Association healthcare consultant, told Terry. “But in order to take advantage of what the technology offers, your processes must change.”

Plug the holes

While EHRs are powerful platforms for healthcare providers, they require human interaction and an adherence to processes designed to maximize efficiency while delivering effective care.

This is important because each step along the care continuum – scheduling, treatment plans, patient check-in, coding and documentation, denials and A/R management – can impact the revenue cycle. All should be integrated with EHRs.

Having an EHR and getting the most out of it are two different things. As reimbursements increasingly are tied to value-based care, it is vital that providers fully utilize and deploy the tools available in their EHRs. Otherwise they run the risk of leaving money on the table.

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