Measuring staff productivity used to be as simple as the number of claims filed, or the number of lines of data entered. Not so anymore – the revenue cycle is more complex than ever, requiring innovative measures and tools to measure efficiency.
The pandemic led many organizations to transition as many staff as possible to work from home. Now, many healthcare employers are retaining that structure. A survey of 587 chief financial officers and RCM leaders at health systems found that 75% of organizations will permanently change to work-from-home (WFH) RCM positions.
As they forge ahead in this new hybrid work environment, organizations are now looking for the best ways to monitor and improve staff productivity. The revenue cycle is under constant scrutiny for ways to reduce cycle times, improve cash flow, and find new efficiencies in workflows. Staff productivity is one such area that bears a second look – particularly as work patterns change.
Are Remote Employees as Productive?
As the country sits at (hopefully) the end of a 2.5-year pandemic, there is enough workplace data to compile some conclusions about remote work. Pre-pandemic, only about 5% of the workforce worked from home. In May 2020, that number climbed to 60%, almost overnight. A two-year study of more than 800,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies found that most people reported increased productivity levels after employees started working from home.
Employees found that by ditching the commute and lengthy in-person meetings, they had more time in their day to be productive. They also found that they could often structure their day to accommodate family responsibilities and errands, leading to fewer days of work missed.
While remote work is no doubt a viable system, RCM staff productivity affects the bottom line in multiple ways. Labor costs are increasing, and the revenue cycle is being squeezed for every penny. It is worthwhile for managers to take a look at processes in granular detail, looking for inefficiencies and bottlenecks to improve upon from both a systems perspective and as individual performance indicators.
Measure the Right Things
Days in A/R and cash received are key indicators of how well RCM is functioning overall, but staff productivity needs to be examined on a more detailed level. Large organizations with multiple locations and at least a partially remote workforce need the right technology in place to maintain performance.
Productivity numbers in claims processing are complicated. Some claims are simple, and some are very complex, with a lot of moving parts. Comparing “apples to apples” can be difficult. Software tools can take the guesswork out of it, as well as the tasks of trying to gather data and create manual reports. Dashboards with comparative performance indicators over time enable managers to set fair standards and measure against realistic benchmarks. Timekeeping and remote work tools ensure that employees are maintaining agreed-upon work hours and striving to meet productivity expectations.
In addition to pure productivity measures, the quality of work must be assessed. After all, simply going through the motions without attention to detail is often counter-productive – requiring rework and resulting in increased denials. Software that automates quality audits flags incomplete claims, and gives insights into problem areas can be very valuable when trying to refine processes.
Work queues for RCM staff are typically on a first come/first serve basis. This can be problematic, as priorities sometimes should be adjusted to promote faster payments and meet deadlines. Also, RCM staff may have multiple levels of expertise, such as training in both outpatient and inpatient claims. By customizing workflow and directing it in the best possible way to maximize worker productivity and cash flow, the organization can realize even more benefits. Software that creates customizable queue parameters can make this change simple.
The Right Technology is Essential
Organizations that have been the most successful in transitioning to remote work already had systems in place. The rest have had to rapidly adopt technology to support WFH staff, without a lot of time to weigh the options. Is your organization managing remote staff well and maintaining productivity levels? Do you have accurate productivity measurements? If not, the Rise family of companies has some solutions you will be interested in learning about. Rise empowers organizations with financial stability in unstable times – managing the revenue cycle with a philosophy of continuous improvement.