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EMR Add-Ons On The Way

Posted on March 3, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new study backed by speech recognition software vendor Nuance Communications has concluded that many healthcare leaders are planning to add new technologies to supplement their EMRs, Popular add-ons cited by the study include (naturally) speech recognition, mobility options and computer-assisted physician documentation tools. While the results are partially a pitch for Nuance, of course, they also highlight the tension between spending on clinical improvement and satisfaction and boosting the bottom line with better documentation tech.

The study, which was conducted by HIMSS Analytics, was designed to look at ways to optimize EMRs and opportunities to improve care at hospitals and health systems. Conducted between August 17 and September 6 of last year, it draws on 167 respondents from 142 different healthcare organizations. Forty percent of respondents hold C-suite titles, and an additional 40% were in IT leadership. (It would be interesting to see how the two groups’ perceptions vary, but the study summary doesn’t provide that information.)

According to HIMSS, 83% of respondents reported having confidence that their organization would eventually realize their full potential, particularly improving care coordination and outcomes.

To this end, 75% of respondents said they’d boosted their EMR efforts with training and support resources, while two-thirds have increased staff in at least one IT area since implementing their system. Respondents apparently didn’t say how much they’d increased their budget, if at all, to meet these needs – and you have to wonder how these organizations are paying for these efforts, and how much. But the report didn’t provide such information.

To increase clinician satisfaction with EMR use, 82% of respondents said providing clinician training and education, 75% are enhancing existing technology and tools and 68% adopting new technology and tools. To read between the lines once again, it’s worth noting that hospitals and health systems seem to be putting a stronger emphasis on training than new tech, which somewhat contradicts the study’s conclusions. Still, EMR add-ons clearly matter.

Meanwhile, about one-quarter of survey respondents said that they planned to introduce EMR-enhancing tools at the point of care, primarily to improve documentation and boost physician satisfaction. Those included mobility tools (44%), computer-assisted physician documentation (38%) and speech recognition (25%). These numbers seem a bit lower than I would have expected, particularly the mobile stat. I’m betting that establishing mobile security is still a tough nut to crack for most.

While increasing clinician satisfaction and improving care outcomes is important, boosting financial performance clearly matters too, and respondents said that improving documentation was central to doing so. Fifty-four percent said that better documentation would reduce the number of denied claims they face, 52% expect to improve performance under bundled payments, 38% predicted reduced readmissions and 38% thought documentation improvements would better physician time management and improve patient flow.

Again, I doubt that C-suite execs and IT leaders will pay equal attention to tools which improve their finances and those which meet “softer” goals – and financial goals have to take priority. But these stats do suggest that hospitals and health systems are giving EMR add-ons some attention. It will be interesting to see if they’re willing to invest in EMR enhancements — rather than burrowing deeper into their existing EMR tech — over the next year or two.

Value Based Reimbursement: Another Challenge for HIM Professionals

Posted on August 3, 2016 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

How many times have you heard something along these lines: “HIM professionals must stay relevant and current with the continuous healthcare changes.” I must sound like a broken record to my team but it is absolutely true! HIM professionals provide the bridge between clinical data and reimbursement methodologies through CDI, coding, documentation integrity, and health data analytics to name a few. It has been proven time and time again that these HIM skills are vital to healthcare organizations but these skills must also be adapted and be put to good use each time a new guideline or rule is introduced.

Value-Based Reimbursement is an area that continues to grow with the push for quality patient outcomes and healthcare savings with potential penalties for excessive costs and poor quality of care. Reimbursement incentives that are tied to quality of care make perfect sense and HIM professionals need to take the plunge into these initiatives. By marrying departments and cross-functioning teams, we are able to generate proactive data and improve performance.

At my facility, I oversee the HIM department as well as the Quality department because we work closely together and will continue to have an even closer relationship throughout healthcare reform. This is becoming very common in the industry.

In this roundtable article for the Journal of AHIMA, we each outlined how we are bringing HIM to the table for Value Based Reimbursement initiatives and maximizing the tried and true skills of HIM professionals.

I have said it before and I will continue to say it: Always keep your finger on the pulse of healthcare and stay relevant by taking on these new challenges!

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

A Humorous Look at Healthcare as #HFMA2016ANI Begins

Posted on June 27, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As part of RelayHealth’s (Part of McKesson) announcement during ANI 2016, they put out some cartoons that look at some of the challenges that continue to plague healthcare. I’m sure they’ll be posting a bunch of them on Twitter @McKesson_MHS and @RelayHealth, but these two really gave me a good laugh.

Healthcare Sticky Notes Cartoon

Don’t underestimate the power of sticky notes!

Healthcare Claims Cleanup Cartoon

Looks like it’s going to be another banner year for HFMA’s ANI conference. It’s a unique venue where so much money is flowing since there’s so much financial waste in healthcare. Don’t believe me? I saw one company advertise that they were giving away a Harley Davidson or $15,000. Chew on the ROI of that investment. Says a lot about the type of deals that are signed at ANI.

Avoiding Revenue Crunches During EMR Transitions

Posted on May 23, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Most healthcare leaders know, well before their EMR rollouts, that clinical productivity and billings may fall for a while as the implementation proceeds. That being said, it seems a surprising number are caught off guard by the extent to which payments can be lost or delayed due to technical issues during the transition. This is particularly alarming as more and more hospitals are looking at switching EHR.

Far too often, those responsible for revenue cycle issues live in a silo that doesn’t communicate well with hospital IT leadership, and the results can be devastating financially. For example, consider the case of Maine Medical Center, which took a major loss after it launched its Epic EMR in 2012, due in part to substantial problems with billing for services.

But according to McKesson execs, there’s a few steps health systems and hospitals can take to reduce the impact this transition has in your revenue cycle. Their recommendations include the following:

  • Involve revenue cycle managers in your EMR migration. Doing so can help integrate RCM and EMR technologies successfully.
  • Create a revenue cycle EMR team. The team should include the CFO, revenue cycle leaders from patient access and reimbursement, vendor reps and someone familiar with revenue cycle systems. Once this team is assembled, establish a meeting schedule, team roles and goals for participants. It’s particularly important to designate a project manager for the revenue cycle portion of your EMR rollout.
  • Before the implementation, research how RCM processes will be affected by the by the rollout, particularly how the new EMR will impact claims management workflow, speed of payment and staff workloads. Check out how the implementation will affect processes such as eligibility verification, registration data quality assurance, preauthorization and medical necessity management, pre-claim editing and remittance management.
  • Pay close attention to key performance indicators throughout the transition. These include service-to-payment velocity, Days Not Final Billed, charge trends and denial rates.

The article also recommends bringing on consultants to help with the transition. Being that McKesson is a health IT vendor, I’m not at all surprised that this is the case. But there’s something to the idea nonetheless. Self-serving though such a recommendation may be, it may help to bring in a consultant who has an outside view of these issues and is not blinkered by departmental loyalties.

That being said, over the longer term healthcare leaders need to think about ways to help RCM and IT execs see eye to eye. It’s all well and good to create temporary teams to smooth the transition to EMR use. But my guess is that these teams will dissolve quickly once the worst of the rollout is over. After all, while IT and revenue cycle management departments have common interests, their jobs differ significantly.

The bottom line is that to avoid needless RCM issues, the IT department and revenue cycle leaders need to be aligned in their larger goals. This can be fostered by financial rewards, common performance goals, cultural expectations and more, but regardless of how it happens, these departments need to be interested in working together. However, unless rewards and expectations change, they have little incentive to do so. It’s about time hospital and health system leaders address problem directly.

ICD-10 Check-Up

Posted on May 13, 2016 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

It’s hard to believe it has been seven months since we implemented ICD-10 in the US. We talked about this subject and planned for so many years and now it feels like second nature. Looking back, I would label the implementation mostly successful and smooth. Would you say the same?

If you’re like me, you have forgotten some or most ICD-9 codes and have a nice repertoire of ICD-10 diagnosis codes swimming around in your head daily. At least memorizing the beginning of a code is helpful when you only need to search the encoder for the fourth through seventh digits of the code to further specify laterality and detail.

Conducting an external audit on ICD-10 coded accounts at this point is a good idea to make sure coders are accurate with the new code set. It’s important to watch for any trends in DRG shifts that may be attributable to ICD-10. If claims data for the past seven months have not been reconciled with expected reimbursement, now is a good time to be reviewing for coding and billing accuracy.

We were promised more specificity with ICD-10 and I believe we have somewhat achieved that. There are still opportunities to improve physician documentation and gather more detail in order to assign the correct codes. For the most part, I believe physicians have been affected by HIM teams bringing awareness to specific documentation and education on what is needed for ICD-10 coding and billing. ICD-10 has not turned out to be the burden that everyone was initially so reluctant to; at least from my experience.

In the blog post I wrote soon after ICD-10 implementation, I mentioned that coder productivity was a big issue to watch for with ICD-10. With sophisticated coding tools, thorough training, and skilled coders, the productivity impact has been real but not nearly to the extent some HIM managers were bracing for. We are starting to see coder productivity come to a manageable level that will probably be the norm for the foreseeable future.

I’m happy to report that I feel confident in ICD-10 as our designated code set and based on peer input, I think others will agree. The specificity was much needed after many years of vague or catch-all codes. This paves the way for better data reporting and thus more quality information resulting in better disease management. Accurate reimbursement is an obvious bonus as well.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

A Study on the Impact of ICD-10 on Coding and Revenue Cycle

Posted on January 27, 2016 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

Implementing ICD-10 coding has been, in some ways, like learning a new language. We took a specialized task that has been repeatedly performed for over 30 years and turned it on its head with new guidelines, new characters, and new specificity that we have never had before. Many healthcare leaders have been watching for (and possibly expecting) catastrophic effects of the changes to surface after the implementation of ICD-10 such as a reduction in reimbursement and an increase in denials. A recent study commissioned by Primeau Consulting Group surveyed respondents to see how healthcare organizations are doing with ICD-10 and how they are preventing denials.

It’s no surprise that ICD-10 has led to a decrease in coder productivity. In fact, the survey showed that 66% of those surveyed had experienced some negative changes in coder productivity. Some respondents claim somewhere between a 25% to 35% decrease in productivity. I know all HIM leaders want to know if this will be a permanent or temporary loss in productivity and that is yet to be determined. When equating this productivity loss to A/R days, this can have a huge impact on the number of accounts in an unbilled status waiting for coding. Unfortunately, 34% of respondents to the survey have already seen negative impacts on the revenue cycle since ICD-10 was introduced.

In preparation for ICD-10, it was difficult to predict if additional training and education would be needed after the ICD-10 go-live. Some feedback in the survey showed that respondents did not necessarily plan for additional formal ICD-10 training for coders in 2016 but will keep up with the standard continuing education that has always been part of a coder’s job. I think this is still yet to be determined pending the results of coding audits that will show areas for education and documentation improvement.

While ICD-10 has been relatively smooth thus far, HIM leaders are still proceeding with caution and bracing for any potential downsteam impacts that could result from the drastic changes we have undergone. The study revealed that the most commonly perceived risks with ICD-10 in 2016 center on physician documentation and specificity. Again, I believe auditing will be key in determining education for coders as well as physicians.

How has the ICD-10 experience been for you? Are you seeing similar issues or risks?

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

Social Media 101 For Healthcare CXOs – Part 2

Posted on January 14, 2016 I Written By

David is a global digital healthcare leader that is focusing on the next era of healthcare IT.  Most recently David served as the CIO at an academic medical center where he was responsible for all technology related to the three missions of education, research and patient care. David has worked for various healthcare providers ranging from academic medical centers, non-profit, and the for-profit sectors. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here.

This is a follow up to my last blog post regarding social media for CXOs.   I increased my action on social networking sites around four years ago when another new employment in Abu Dhabi forced a vast physical separation between me, my colleagues and critical emerging trends in healthcare IT back in the United States. I’ve been a daily Twitter and LinkedIn client from that point forward.

Social media provided the platform to build up solid associations and relationships with different influencers and pioneers in the industry. I also utilize social media to recruit talent, promote the organization’s achievements, speak internally with staff, and update everyone on rising trends.

Leaders who have a big department may not have the capacity to converse with each individual worker. I attempt to use social as one of the communication tool in addition to face-to-face time in order to share my thoughts about where we’re going from a strategy initiatives perspective. I also use the channel to share articles related to industry trends so people can keep up with what’s going on in the market.

My day by day online networking routine starts in the early mornings, before work, and after that continue in full drive following my workday. Social networking is not something you can simply say, ‘I’m going to go through an hour with it”,  You truly live it in small increments throughout your day.

Twitter as dynamic news feed
Twitter is currently my go-to news feed in the morning, and I utilize it to locate the most recent updates, news articles and critique on the healthcare business. Twitter is a decent place for individuals to share thoughts, or what’s at the forefront from the various industry thought leaders.  The majority of the Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs or executive groups are on Twitter sharing what’s happening to their businesses, and what’s happening with their organizations. This forum is a great place where you can get a genuine glimpse from the thought leader’s perspectives.  

I consider social important, however I don’t feel the need to post, or check in consistently.  On the off chance that I have a five-minute or 10-minute gap, I will examine what’s going on. I’ll check my notifications. However, I’m not always on my telephone checking the social stream.

LinkedIn for networking and career success
During the previous year, I began blogging, and I tried to routinely share thoughts on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. I appreciate the feedback I get on industry-specific topics and leadership. LinkedIn likewise allows me make and reinforce proficient connections for networking opportunities and professional success.

My Tips
Let me offer a few tips for CXOs who need to hone their social media methodologies from my experience.  First, CXOs ought to do all that they can to cooperate with their social connections. Use social to drive engagement, whether it’s with your associates, your staff or even your bosses. Listening is also key, and CXOs ought to grasp at the chance to act as a sounding boards for others. You truly need to listen and see what’s out there since many have alternate points of view that can expand your thinking on a topic.  

Lastly, CXOs have to invest the time to decide how social tools function best for them.   As I mentioned earlier, social can be an incredible tool for recruiting, department branding and personal branding. However, it takes exertion and work. It’s not something you can benefit from simply because you made a Twitter account and sat back waiting for people to follow you.

For me, social media is mostly a conduit for learning and a springboard to test ideas. Plus, it’s a platform to connect and engage with new thought leaders. If you are looking to jump start your learning and engagement, I definitely encourage everyone to get on a social media platform and start connecting and having discussions. Take the initial step to connect with others. You can start your initial discussion with me on the various social platforms I am using: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

If you’d like to receive future health care C-Level executive posts by David in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Health Care CXO Scene posts here.

RAC Audits Infographic

Posted on July 6, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

RAC audits have quickly become a reality in every hospital system. Plus, the costs of managing these audits is increasing for many hospitals. HealthPort has put out this RAC Audits Infographic that highlights some of the trends with RAC audits.

The Year of Audits Infographic.Rev1.6.11.15

Needless to say, managing these RAC audits effectively is going to be extremely important to a health system going forward. From the AHA RACTrac survey which was the source for the infographic it says that “53% of all hospitals reported spending more than $10,000 managing the RAC process during the 4th quarter of 2014, 32% spent more than $25,000 and 8% spent over $100,000.”

What’s even more interesting is that HealthPort notes that many of the other payers are starting to make similar audit requests to measure the acuity of new patients entering the health system thanks to Obamacare (ACA). As this increases, the financial implications continue to increase as well.

What are you doing to make sure your RAC audits and other similar audits are managed effectively?

Patient Financial Clearance: Ensuring a Successful Revenue Model in Emergency Medicine

Posted on July 2, 2015 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jordan Levitt serves as a Managing Partner and Founder for PayorLogic.
Jordan Levitt
In emergency medicine, most providers know this to be true: medical triage and rendering healthcare services is often the easy part. Financial clearance and obtaining payment is the challenge. This is particularly relevant in light of the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) that ensures public access to emergency department (ED) services regardless of one’s ability to pay.

Even with the influx of patients who now have insurance through Medicaid expansion, EDs are still up against many challenges in terms of collecting payments from urgent care encounters. Emergency patients are frequently transient and difficult to manage. And beyond the traditional self-pay patient population, a growing number of emergency patients are now insured under high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Patients themselves are increasingly responsible for a larger portion of the bill.

The burden is on emergency medicine practice administrators and their billing companies to complete the financial clearance process as early as possible—ideally immediately following medical triage and during the urgent care encounter.  The biggest hurdle is obtaining correct and accurate information to financially clear patients within the emergency setting.

Common Hurdles to Overcome
First, IT systems used during emergency transport and within the ED are commonly fragmented—even within a singular hospital system. Second, emergency encounters must focus first on medical triage and urgent care. Financial clearance is an afterthought. Patient access staff members in the ED often do not have ample time to complete financial clearance before patients are treated—and even released. Third, many organizations experience high turnover in the ED registration area, making it difficult to ensure compliance and consistency.

This article summarizes how one emergency medicine billing company works with its clients to provide financial clearance for emergency encounters—even for patients that present as self-pay.

How it works at ATD Resources, Inc.
As a full-service billing company that serves five emergency departments with a combined 140,000 visits per year, ATD Resources, Inc. knows the financial pressures of increasing patient payment responsibility and non-payment risk all too well. Amy Propp, CPC, CEDC, director of operations at ATD Resources, LLC, sent approximately $1 million to a collections agency each month before revamping her financial clearance process. Furthermore, nearly 50% of ATD’s 180,000 patient statements were returned due to invalid addresses.

To improve revenue capture, ATD focused on obtaining the right information the first time around as close to near-time as possible. This required partnering with a front-end financial clearance solution that integrated with each hospital’s information systems so emergency medicine patient access staff had access to real-time demographics and payment information. A three-step workflow was designed.

Step One:
Verify patients’ social security numbers, addresses, and other demographic information within the emergency department as quickly as possible: upon registration and immediately following clinical triage.

Step Two:
Generate an immediate report of all patients labeled as self-pay/no insurance and use Payor Logic’s financial clearance application to check whether these patients have any billable insurance or other payment sources. For example, in 2014, ATD identified 16% of patients as self-pay for their clients. However, after verification, 35% of these individuals were actually eligible for Medicaid.

Step Three:
For patients with no verifiable or billable coverage, ATD staff members use Federal Poverty Level status information to qualify patients for a discount or charity care—immediately communicating findings back to the emergency medicine group.

Step Four:
Finally, ATD works with Payor Logic to predict likelihood of payment. By calculating a propensity-to-pay score, ATD (on behalf of their clients) focus on patients with the highest likelihood of paying the bill. ATD can identify patients with a history of non-payment, adjust the debt, and quickly forward these accounts to collections.

Thanks to its new financial clearance process, ATD has captured more than $800,000 in revenue over 12 months for its emergency medicine clients. In addition, its returned mail volume was cut by more than 10%.

The Road Ahead
Given the increase in patient financial responsibility, emergency providers and their billing companies must find creative ways to expedite the clearance and collection process.  This critical step is becoming increasingly essential as a new era of self-pay patients are emerging amidst declining pre-acute care reimbursements within emergency services and emergency medicine.

About Jordan Levitt:
Jordan Levitt serves as a Managing Partner and Founder for PayorLogic, a healthcare technology company for self-pay accounts management, insurance verification and financial clearance within emergency services, emergency medicine, laboratory, medical imaging, durable medical, and hospitals. Jordan can be reached at: jordanl@payorlogic.com.

Lessons To Consider When Weathering M&A Transitions

Posted on June 24, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

These days, the need for sophisticated IT infrastructure and the shift to risk-bearing insurance contracts are increasingly favoring large, muscular players. Not surprisingly, healthcare industry M&A is reaching a new peak.  Just about any substantial healthcare organization is facing the question of whether to acquire outside players and bulk up, merge with a bigger healthcare player or risk going it alone.

Particularly if you’re doing the acquiring, however, achieving critical mass is just the first in a long, difficult series of steps necessary to success. Health systems, in particular, face difficult management challenges when they try to integrate all of the moving parts necessary to survive as a next-gen organization.

A new study commissioned by West Monroe Partners, however, may shed some light on how to think about M&A integration issues. The study, which focuses on mid-market deals (between $300M and $2B) looks at post-merger integration across several industries, but I’d argue that its lessons still make sense for hospitals. Their tips for managing post-merger transitions include the following:

  • Start planning early:  West Monroe researchers found that companies which considered integration strategies as they began targeting and negotiating with merger partners were more successful in integration. Specifically, these companies were able to integrate more deeply than firms that didn’t began planning till pre-merger preparations were already under way.
  • Pay close attention to cultures: Here’s an eye-opening stat: more than half of companies surveyed by researchers said that merger value was lost due to lack of attention to differences in corporate cultures. Clearly, giving lip service to this issue but failing to address it intelligently can be costly.
  • Poor change management impacts future dealmaking:  In a clear case of “sadder but wiser,” a whopping 94% of survey respondents said that they would place more emphasis on change management next time they managed post-merger integration efforts. The study doesn’t spell out why but it seems likely that their past efforts blew up on them. Given that many health systems won’t stop at one deal in this climate, this is an important point.
  • Communicating change well is essential: About three-quarters of mid-market execs said that communicating change to their staff was one of the hardest parts of integration, and 62% said that communicating to outsiders was a major challenge. Many seem unhappy with the results of the past efforts, as 57% said this was a key area for improvement.

Some of these suggestions may be discouraging for hospital leaders. After all, required and important changes like the ICD-10 transition and ongoing EMR changes may already have staffers near burnout, and they may react badly to coping with added cultural changes.

That being said, the survey results also suggest that many of the integration challenges healthcare organizations face can be headed off somewhat by smart planning.  At least there’s something execs can do to cushion the blow.