For small critical access hospitals (CAH), it is nearly impossible to find the internal resources required for those special projects or challenges that seem to come with great frequency, but without much consistency.
Small hospitals take pride in that many of their staff are jacks-of-all-trades, able to wear numerous hats simultaneously. But the blunt reality is that despite the miracles that are performed by limited staff every day, there are always those tasks and jobs that are just too big to tackle with available resources, which is where a good extended business office partner comes in.
CAHs have challenges specific to their very nature, but what many managers of those facilities may not know is that extra resources are only a telephone call away to address many of the most unusual and even common challenges, among them:
- Once-in-a-lifetime projects. These are those rare, transformative events, such as migration to ICD-10, that require tremendous outside resources.
- Course-of-business projects. Systems get old and need replacement, generally on a regular predictive schedule, but during testing, training, or go-live, there is usually a need for additional resources.
- Workflow bottlenecks. On occasion events beyond an organization’s control, such as an unexpected increase in patients or loss of a key member of the team, can increase workload and cause deadlines to slip unless additional resources are put in place, at least temporarily.
- Keeping-the-machine-running tasks. For those hiccups in business processes that require refinement or increased efficiency, but not necessarily additional resources, you might require an outside perspective to help identify issues and smooth them.
Here are some examples of these challenges and how your partner ecosystem can assist with resolving them:
Once in a lifetime projects
Example: Ease transition to ICD-10
There are projects that are one-time events that strain resources beyond available capabilities, regardless of the size of the organization. Migration to ICD-10, which must be completed by Oct. 1, 2014, is one of those projects.
Finding those resources can be a challenge, but before you start spitting out RFIs and RFPs, reach out to your existing support system, your extended business office partners. If you have a solid relationship, they can direct you to resources either within their own organization or among their partner ecosystem that can help.
Example: Speed transition to new billing system
Implementing a major upgrade or installing a new system are common projects that every organization faces. When staff resources, such as those at a small CAH, are limited, these regular events put a strain on workflows. Outsourcing partners can help operate or clean out the old billing system while you transition to the new one.
Example: Regulate flow of delinquent A/R
A small CAH tends to be efficient when managing a normal amount of work, but sometimes the pipeline increases and you get behind — A/R days out increase, the number of denials grow, patient follow-up begins to slip, claims don’t get out the door. All of these directly affect revenue and expenses. A good extended business office partner can be there to handle the overflow, before you get so far behind it becomes a crisis.
Your outsource partner can be there if and when you need them. It is far easier for them to put extra bodies on the front line to handle patient financial services workload. Depending on the size of your partner, they will also have state-of-the-art technology, such as automated dialers, along with internal inventory management systems that can help knock down A/R days out quickly and bring them under control. And as they will already understand your business office guidelines and procedures as well as have knowledge of your patient population, it is easy for them to act as a seamless extension of your organization rather than an appendage.
Keeping the machine running
Example: Smooth existing vendor relationships
When a vendor doesn’t work out, sometimes the time and effort it takes to replace them isn’t worth it. But what many small organizations don’t realize is that have a pre-existing support network in their other vendor partners who can assist with working with your current vendor to improve its performance or who can help you find another vendor to replace them.
Help is only a phone call away
When the resources in-house are not enough, a quick phone call to a trusted vendor may be all you need to solve your resource crunch. Even if your partner does not have the expertise in the area you seek, they can provide valuable counsel and help you refine exactly what resources you need and help you find them.
About Ken Spencer
Ken Spencer (HFMA-CRCR) has over four years of experience managing revenue cycle projects for multiple healthcare facilities, specializing in assisting Critical Access Hospitals.
Array Services Group and its three innovative business units — CareCall, ProSource and J.C. Christensen & Associates–offer professional services in call management disciplines, accounts receivable and revenue cycle management, empowering clients for immediate and future success.