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Healthcare Leaders Say Greatest Financial Efficiencies Found in Revenue Cycle

October 11, 2013, 07:27 AM
Filed Under: Healthcare

A new report by HealthLeaders Media and Bank of America Merrill Lynch explores the hidden opportunities in financial processes, including changes that can improve financial and operational performance and increase patient satisfaction.
HealthLeaders Media, a division of HCPro, Inc., and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have released a new research report as part of their collaborative “Executive Insight” project, designed to provide healthcare executives with insight and solutions for the industry’s top strategic challenges.

The report, Opportunities from Financial Efficiencies, analyzes the results of this month’s buzz survey, in which CFOs and other healthcare leaders are asked where they see the most opportunity for streamlining within their organizations. The 125 healthcare leaders in the respondent pool include 56 senior executives, and the report can be downloaded  by clicking here.

Of the financial leaders who participated in the survey, most say revenue cycle holds the greatest potential for efficiencies. Many organizations are increasing their focus on improving revenue cycle management to mitigate the impact of new healthcare reform mandates on reimbursements.

“Many organizations consistently feel they are below optimum in operational performance. There is no better time to begin conversations that combine the best of internal and external intelligence to design the right revenue cycle system for your organization,” says John Hesselmann, head of Specialized Industries at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Part of the company’s Global Commercial Banking business, Specialized Industries provides healthcare clients with solutions such as core credit and treasury management, and also helps provide leasing, retirement capabilities and other capital-raising products.

Respondents identify additional opportunities for financial efficiencies in the central business office, comprehensive payables, outsourcing, and fraud and risk management—in decreasing order.

The survey also asks healthcare leaders to rate the level of exposure to potential losses their organizations face with each of these opportunities. Revenue cycle management tops that list as well, with one quarter of respondents indicating they feel very exposed to potential loss in this area. Their anxiety is also high regarding losses from vendor management and the central business office.

Derek Ellington, senior vice president and regional healthcare treasury manager for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, suggests that incorporating high-quality data into supply chain management may reduce this exposure, “It’s better to spend $2 more for a catheter that has been shown to have a lower incidence of causing infection,” he says. “That degree of supply-chain data tracking is increasing.”

According to the survey data, healthcare leaders turn to four key sources for guidance and solutions regarding financial efficiencies. Eighty-two percent of senior leaders rely on internal resources, while 79 percent seek external expertise, such as consultants, contractors and financial advisors. A smaller proportion obtains financial advice from peers groups and outsourcing.

The report features an executive spotlight of Tim Rice, CEO of Cone Health—a six-hospital provider in Greensboro, N.C. Like many organizations in this post-reform landscape, Cone Health is under financial strain and has had to restructure much of its business to address new challenges to financial efficiency. “We used to be in an era where maybe we could have been able to get by with being sloppy, but now we have to do everything well,” Rice says.

The leadership team at Cone Health is focusing its improvement efforts in preregistration function, coding processes, revenue cycle management and an accountable care strategy, which Rice calls “the most powerful tool for physician engagement.” Cone Health leaders are also drawing expertise from a management agreement with Carolinas Healthcare System.   

Ellington suggests the best strategy for maximizing financial efficiencies is long-term planning. “The key is not adopting a system based on the way the health system is operating today, but thinking about the next five to seven years and understanding that things will change,” he says. “Nimble organizations will be in the best position to capitalize on opportunities.”

As a supplement to the “Executive Insight” research, HealthLeaders Media has also launched a dedicated Executive Insight Center microsite on -, featuring healthcare business resources and expert analysis.

To read the full Opportunities from Financial Efficiencies report, click here.

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