By Mark Spinner, AccessOne
It’s no secret that an Epic installation can initially pose challenges for any organization, from decreased productivity in the months after go-live to billing issues, scheduling difficulties, and more. But the experience of one health system shows a well-thought-out strategy for maintaining patient financial engagement can support a seamless experience—and protect revenue.
Two years ago, Atrium Health, a large, integrated delivery network in the Southeast, sought to integrate patient financial information from its legacy systems during its Epic installation. It was a move that would eliminate the need to access patient financial data from multiple systems, presenting a more seamless way to engage patients in discussions around total cost of care, billing questions or options for payment. The approach also offered the potential to expand self-service options for patients.
Atrium Health’s goal was lofty, requiring strong collaboration between all partners involved. Together, these providers worked to integrate data around benefits verification, claims, payment plans, and patient billing services, all while ensuring the workflows for these functions would fit within Epic workflows. They then supercharged the patient portal with self-service options that enabled patients not only to view their balance online, but also establish payment plans on their own.
The results were outstanding:
- Almost immediately, average speed to answer for customer service calls decreased 67 percent, by an average of two minutes.
- A significant jump in the number of electronic statement opt-ins - from zero to 16,000 patients.
- Nearly 30,000 new patient payment plan accounts have been established - a 52 percent increase. Atrium also offers patients the ability to consolidate bills by family.
Atrium Health’s experience points to four strategies for maintaining and even increasing patient financial engagement during and immediately after an Epic installation.
Don’t resign yourself to financial engagement challenges during an Epic install. Epic offers strong potential to drive increased efficiency, productivity and revenue once installation is complete, but there are pain points with any installation—especially when it comes to integrating data from legacy systems. Partner with outside sources to identify potential issues that may have negative impact on revenue during the installation process, and catalyze the rapid improvement needed to overcome these challenges.
Innovate with the patient in mind. The last encounter many patients have with their provider is the patient billing and collections experience. If that experience is fraught with challenges, it will color the patient’s impression of the provider as a whole. Look for ways to bolster patient satisfaction during an Epic install, such as by supporting real-time access to patient payment information, self-service options for account management and payment, and HIPAA-compliant digital communications around account status.
Use employees as ambassadors for the patient financial experience. For example, at Atrium Health, employees who receive care and require flexible payment options enter into the same payment plans as patients. To date, 6,000 employees are on payment plans, and many share their experiences with patients who have questions about this program.
After go-live, look for ways to leverage Epic functionality in establishing payment plans. For example, Epic offers a new feature that not only makes it easy for patients to self-enroll in patient financing plans, but also dramatically increases staff efficiency. Two years ago, Epic created the Epic App Orchard to help companies streamline their offerings for Epic customers by designing services with input from Epic’s technical team. One feature eliminates the need to manually complete patient enrollment forms for a specific service provider by prepopulating patient financing applications with data from Epic. This automated approach empowers staff to complete patient financing applications in less time. It also speeds completion of patient enrollment forms by patients through the patient portal.
By viewing the Epic install as an opportunity to elevate the patient financial experience, patients become more actively engaged in managing their out-of-pocket responsibility—and more satisfied with their overall experience of care.
About The Author
Mark Spinner is CEO and president of AccessOne, a leading provider of flexible, co-branded patient financing solutions that help patients afford medical expenses for health systems nationwide.