Today, more and more directors of patient financial service departments face increasing challenges while trying to prevent employee morale from bottoming out during the myriad changes occurring in the health care landscape. Patient accounting personnel are witnessing constant changes in how they are required to do their jobs. These changes are being fueled by many factors, including emerging technology, mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, conversions to new billing systems, stringent claims filing deadlines, modifications to billing forms, and complex contracts for nearly all payers.
Get Your Staff Involved. One proven method of keeping workers full of zest and energy is to “empower” them. Empowerment is the process of giving your staff the power, authority, control and opportunity to excel.
As this related to patient accounting, empowered staff members would have autonomy over their own accounts. They would be given a wide range of flexibility in performing their job tasks, including the power to make the necessary decisions to solve problems, establish receivable target goals and develop qualitative process improvements.
Empowerment can bring a sense of excitement and pride to the workplace. Here are five suggestions that you may want to consider when determining ways to empower your staff.
1. Develop team spirit. Divide the patient accounts personnel into self-directed teams. Let them decide how accounts will be divided between them. Assignments could be made by payer-split, alphabetical-spit, financial class, age, balance or team-split. Tell your staff what the end result should be, and request their help in achieving that goal.
Allow your staff to meet weekly for about 30 minutes per session to brainstorm on strategies to solve group problems. Give them the information they need to develop solutions by allowing them to monitor receivable indicators through system-generated reports, such as:
Weekly aged-trial balance reports Billing reports by billers Outstanding balance reports by collectors Electronic exception reports Recovery analysis reports Billed and unbilled reports
View yourself as a coach and team leader. Guide your staff toward active involvement in the ongoing effort to become top-notch. Ask the teams to submit weekly status reports detailing reasons for negative trends or other areas of potential concern, along with weekly action plans.
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s the manager who is accountable for the effective teamwork of subordinate team members. The teams should not be able to change your targeted specifications. They shouldn’t change the nature of the work that has to be done, but they should be able to create the best way to accomplish the work.
2. Have the business office staff assist you in developing receivables goals for all areas of accounts receivable management. Instill your staff with a sense of initiative by involving them in establishing their own receivables targets. A few goals and objectives could be:
Appropriate dollars outstanding for each section of receivables. Acceptable number of weekly rejection notices resolved. Acceptable collection totals by collector. Appropriate number of monthly patient complaints. Acceptable number of required rebills. Acceptable percentage of receivables aged over 90 days. Acceptable backlog of mail returns. Acceptable backlog of patient correspondence. Number of weekly bills produced which are complete, accurate and clean. Acceptable weekly cash collections. Acceptable validity rate of electronic billings. Appropriate time frames for answering correspondence. Acceptable days revenue outstanding. Appropriate methods of resolving patient complaints. Broadcast the goals, and write a few of them on posters to be placed in high-visibility areas around the business office. The more staff thinks about their goals, the more enthusiastic they will become.
3. Train, train, train. Make training a top priority since it can provide your staff with the skill and confidence they need to be successful when changes occur in the workplace. Keep in mind that power comes from knowing what to do, knowing when to do it, and doing it in the correct sequence. Training motivates employees and increases their productivity. Try the following training tips:
Arrange for provider representatives of the large carriers to provide workshops and seminars regarding the do’s and don’ts of billing. Ask your collection vendors to stop by and bat around difference collection techniques that can be used at all points of service. Have your software vendors show your staff how to fully utilize all menus and screens, thus ensuring that you make the most of your patient accounting system. Train patient access personnel on best ways to improve collection of co-payments at time of registration.
4. Listen carefully. Actively seek comments, observations and suggestions from front-end employees all the way through to back-end collectors. This will help to keep them involved and motivated. It’s crucial that patient accounts personnel be confident that their thoughts and ideas are respected and valued by the supervisor and patient accounts manager.
Listen attentively to all feedback. For example, if a team is having difficulty locating patient folders or the needed remittance advices for secondary billing, encourage them to develop ways of improving their access to this information.
5. Provide feedback on results. Providing feedback is a vital ingredient in effective receivable management since patient accounting personnel, like most other employees, crave as much attention as they can get. Try the following:
Do daily spot-check of insurance verification, primary and secondary billings, cash postings, collection comments and incoming correspondence. Talk to staff daily for the purpose of reinforcing positive performance and providing direct nonjudgmental feedback. Devise monthly accounts receivables performance graphs, and post team results on a large blackboards in visible areas in the business office. Hold all individuals and teams accountable for quality output in improving receivables. When goals are reached, be sure to give plenty of high fives. Boost morale whenever possible.
Employee-Driven Work Environments. We are seeing more and more signs of employee anxiety and frustration as our industry continues to experience rapid changes and turbulent times. Negative emotions are being fueled by the overriding fears of staff that they to may be downsized as automation increases while mergers and acquisitions remain prevalent.
Employees are a hospital’s most valued assets. It’s important to remember that you can’t ask patient accounts personnel to continually change the way they perform their work unless they retain some control of the factors that influence the performance of their jobs.
Employee-driven work environments help staff to respond to change much more effectively. The entire business office will benefit by recognizing that the combined knowledge and creativity of patient accounting personnel is at the heart of good receivable management.