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Financial Perspectives from the HFMA Annual Conference

Posted on June 26, 2018 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.

I always enjoy attending the HFMA Annual Conference (Formerly known as ANI) which brings together healthcare CFOs and others in the healthcare financial management community. Or as someone once told me, this use to be a conference of CPAs. In spite of its roots, there was an interesting mix of people at HFMA including health IT professionals, HIM professionals, and of course CFOs at the conference.

In one of my interviews at the conference, I sat down with Dan Berger, Director of Healthcare at AxiaMed. We had a wide-ranging conversation about healthcare payments and payment processing, but he struck me pretty hard when he talked about what would happen if a hospital or health systems payment processing went down. We talk a lot about EHR downtime and encourage healthcare organizations to have downtime procedures, but we don’t talk about payment downtime.

In some ways, this may be an appropriate response to downtime. If the EHR is down, that could impact patient care and literally patients lives. So, EHR downtime should be important. However, from a financial perspective payment processing downtime is a really big deal for healthcare organizations as well. The problem is that no patient will complain if you can’t collect their payment. The patients won’t go to the news with stories of payment processing issues. However, your business office will definitely feel it if the cash stops flowing.

This example is a simple reminder of how healthcare is a business. You see that in full view when you’re at a conference like HFMA’s annual conference. In some ways that’s a good thing since healthcare organizations have to be financially sound if they want to fulfill their missions. However, sometimes that can be taken too far as some people treat patients as a number on a spreadsheet.

I have seen some hope here at the conference. There are quite a few companies working hard to personalize the payment experience, to make pricing and payment information available to patients in ways it hasn’t been available before, and efforts to improve things like legible bills. These are small things, but they make a big difference to a patient.

I was also impressed with a number of companies that were using financial data to understand the patients better and when combined with other data can really personalize the care a patient is provided. A great example of this is Clarify Health Solutions which is making patient financial data useful and optimizing the patient journey. This is challenging stuff, but the data is getting there and companies are starting to see success and build up data that can be used by any healthcare organization.

What’s become more and more apparent to me is how challenging all of these healthcare problems are and how many people have to be influenced for change to happen. The wide variety of stakeholders that can hijack a great project is amazing. Dan Berger from AxiaMed who I mention at the start of this article commented on how payment processing used to be largely owned by the business office. He went on to share that now he’s seeing the CISO get involved and even the CIO. In many cases the CISO has veto power over vendors that don’t meet a healthcare organization’s security needs. Given all the security issues healthcare faces that’s generally a good thing. However, these types of group decision making do make the process of adding new innovations to your organization more complicated.

Hospitals Put Off RCM Upgrades Due To #ICD10, #MU Focus

Posted on December 29, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

If you look closely at the financial news coming out of the hospital business lately, you’ll hear the anguished screams of revenue cycle managers whose infrastructure just isn’t up to the task of coping with collections in today’s world. Though members of the RCM department — and outside pundits — have done their best to draw attention to this issue, signs suggest that getting better systems put in has been a surprisingly tough sell. This is true despite a fair amount of evidence from recent hospital financial disasters that focusing on an EMR at the expense of revenue cycle management can be quite destructive.

And a new study underscores the point. According to a recent Black Book survey of chief financial officers, revenue cycle upgrades at U.S. hospitals have taken a backseat to meeting the looming October 2015 ICD-10 deadline, as well as capturing Meaningful Use incentives. Meanwhile, progress on upgrades to revenue cycle management platforms has been agonizingly slow.

According to the Black Book survey, two thirds of hospitals contacted by researchers in 2012 said that they plan to replace their existing revenue cycle management platform with a comprehensive solution. But when contacted this year, two-thirds of those hospitals still hadn’t done the upgrade. (One is forced to wonder whether these hospitals were foolish enough to think the upgrade wasn’t important, or simply too overextended to stick with their plans.)

Sadly, despite the risks associated with ignoring the RCM upgrade issue, a lot of small hospitals seem determined to do so. Fifty-one percent of under 250 bed hospitals are planning to delay RCM system improvements until after the ICD-10 deadline passes in 2015, Black Book found.

The CFOs surveyed by Black Book feel they’re running out of time to make RCM upgrades. In fact, 83% of the CFOs from hospitals with less than 250 beds expect their RCM platforms to become obsolete within two years if not replaced or upgraded, as they’re rightfully convinced that most payers will move to value-based reimbursement. And 95% of those worried about obsolescence said that failing to upgrade or replace the platform might cost them their jobs, reports Healthcare Finance News.

Unfortunately for both the hospitals and the CFOs, firing the messenger won’t solve the problem. By the time laggard hospitals make their RCM upgrades, they’re going to have a hard time catching up with the industry.

If they wait that long, it seems unlikely that these hospitals will have time to choose, test and implement RCM platform upgrades, much less implement new systems, much before early 2017, and even that may be an aggressive prediction. They risk going into a downward spiral in which they can’t afford to buy the RCM platform they really need because, well, the current RCM platform stinks. Not only that, the ones that are still engaged in mega dollar EMR implementations may not be able to afford to support those either.

Admittedly, it’s not as though hospitals can blithely ignore ICD-10 or Meaningful Use. But letting the revenue cycle management infrastructure go for so long seems like a recipe for disaster.

HFMA’s ANI Conference in Las Vegas

Posted on June 4, 2014 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.

I’ve been gearing up for the big HFMA ANI (HFMA National Institute) conference happening in Las Vegas June 22-25. This conference is largely focused at hospital CFOs, but all of the solutions being offered are now leveraging some form of technology. So, I certainly have a learning curve when talking to many at the conference, but it’s a great place to see where hospitals really plan to spend their money.

I think this will be my third time attending the event and it’s quite the experience. While not as large as the enormous HIMSS annual conference, the booths are just as big and I think that more cash flows at ANI than at HIMSS.

I like to describe it this way. All of the deals being talked about at ANI are a question of whether the organization can save them $5 million or $100 million. In fact, a lot of the contract discussions at ANI have some form of performance metric in order for the vendor to get paid. It makes for a really unique experience.

You can see from the keynote speakers that they’re heavy on leadership. I always enjoy a professional leadership speaker, so I’ll do what I can to cover them. Plus, I’ve never heard Atul Gawande, MD in person and so that should be interesting.

My schedule at ANI is really filling up, but if you’re planning to attend I’d love to meet up if we can. We can at least hang out together at one of the evening receptions or parties. I always love to meet readers and learn from them.