Streamlining billing and payments: Top considerations for hospitals

Consolidating health-care billing and payment can make processes more efficient, even as regulations become more complicated

With 214,430 health-care and wellness workers at 19,760 companies across the region, the health-care industry is one of the fastest growing industries in Colorado. World-class research hospitals—the University of Colorado Hospital and Children's Hospital Colorado employ more than 44,000 people, according to Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.

The Anschutz Medical Campus is the largest academic health center from Chicago to the West Coast and has a $5.4 billion annual economic impact to the state.

So for a consumer navigating the maze of health-care systems and processes, there’s nothing more onerous than dealing with a stack of hospital bills. High-performing hospitals dedicated to patient-centered care are moving toward centralized billing and a single point-of-contact for all stakeholders, including physicians and patients.

Many hospitals have adopted a Single Billing Office (SBO) model which has changed the game for hospital and health-care system leaders in light of regulatory developments. This model streamlines the billing and revenue cycle processes. Particularly when integrated with banking partners, it increases automation, reduces days in accounts receivable and delivers greater billing process accuracy as well as patient-friendly billing processes.   

There are three fundamental strategies to adopt when creating Single Billing Office systems and revenue strategies that healthcare financing professionals should consider:

  1. Keep billing central

Hospitals are increasingly centralizing business office functions, offering a single point-of-payment contact that is more patient-friendly. However, payment centralization can complicate the receivable process because there may be several accounts consolidated on a single statement. A strong banking partner can help hospitals by using a lockbox to facilitate the posting of patient payments and customized data feeds representing payment transactions. Lockboxes ensure that payments are reconciled accurately and to the correct care provider and account. This best practice can improve billing accuracy, is patient-friendly and helps reduce the number of accounts receivable days so payments are posted sooner.

  1. Put your bank to work on receivables

Establishing a relationship with an experienced banking team will result in better cash flow, less debt, an increase in recovery of denied or underpaid claims and greater overall efficiency. It is key to identify a team that can share best practices, tactical solutions and strategic advice about effectively managing a hospital through process change, even if it means changing the way they have always done business in order to improve. All parties should be aligned on objectives as new technologies are integrated.

In addition, a good banking partner will offer strong technology expertise to support the multiple patient accounting and finance platforms that may be present in an SBO environment.  This includes the ability to implement the necessary processes, business rules and custom data feeds that allow online and paper payments to be applied to the correct accounts. Many patient accounting and billing systems have created patient-friendly, consolidated bills while at the same time creating new complexity in payment posting and reconciliation processes. It can be the job of the bank to tackle this complexity.

  1. Harness more working capital

To strengthen patient-centric business practices, hospitals should make working capital a key priority. A billing process that is streamlined and leverages automation and technology will provide significant operating efficiencies. Less manual intervention will enable collections and cash posting to be expedited. Reducing days in accounts receivable can increase cash flow which ultimately can be reinvested in initiatives focused on quality of service. With a single billing office, providers spend less time collecting payments, free up more time for posting full, accurate payments without duplicate work and improve patient satisfaction scores.

In today’s healthcare industry, we are always working to improve patient-centered care and striving for greater efficiency in the ecosystem. By consolidating and integrating healthcare billing and payment systems, we can streamline processes even as new regulations threaten to make these processes more nuanced and complicated. Partnering with a bank that has the technology know-how and capabilities to help integrate hospital and physician billing can assist with a seamless transition that benefits all stakeholders, including patients. 

Jodi Rolland is the market executive for Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the Colorado market. She leads a team of commercial bankers who partner across the bank to deliver the full suite of services including investment banking, credit, treasury solutions, investment management and personal banking to middle market companies and institutions with annual revenues of $50 million to $2 billion. In addition to this role, Rolland also serves as the Bank of America Market president for the Denver market and the State of Colorado, where she champions the company’s business strategy and brand both internally and externally. 

Lynn Wiatrowski is executive vice president and head of Specialized Industries Treasury Sales for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Commercial Banking. In this role, she leads teams across the country that deliver domestic and international treasury, liquidity and custody solutions to clients in specialized sectors including healthcare providers and payers, life sciences/med-tech, not-for-profits, higher education and sports teams.  

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