IT boosts Adventist cash by $2.2M

Health system sees 50 percent increase in POS collections with new platform
By Erin McCann
10:41 AM
U.S. hospitals know a little something about debt -- most happen to be drowning in it. Just in uncompensated care alone, which includes bad debt and charity care, hospitals nationwide lost $41.1 billion in 2011. Making up for these losses proves no easy task, but some healthcare groups are making headway by deploying point of service collection platforms.
 
The 19-hospital Adventist Health system in Roseville, Calif., is one of those groups that has recently launched a platform across 17 of its sites. The application, which generates detailed, accurate patient estimates, has already brought big results. 
 
Over the last year, Adventist Health has increased its point-of-service collections by $2.2 million, representing a 48 percent increase, and once its fully deployed across all sites, health system officials expect POS collections will increase $5-6 million annually. 
 
We caught up with Gary Friestad, corporate registration manager at Adventist Health, who spearheaded the launch, to hear more about the go-live -- and how to do it right.  
 
Friestad said after implementing the platform, a MedeAnalytics patient access intelligence solution, Adventist is tracking measures to gauge progress so far.
 
[See also: Go-live gone wrong.]
 
One of the measures is scheduled appointments with pre-registration complete, which involves four tasks expected to be completed by the time a pre-registration account shows up for service. The target for the measure is 90 percent completion.
 
"Right now eight of our 17 facilities are hitting or besting that target," Friestad said.  
 
Another measure, accounts financially secured, has a target of 80 percent, and nine of the 17 facilities have met the mark.
 
Simi Valley Hospital, one of Adventist's sites, reported collecting 15 to 20 percent more per month in POS collections, exceeding its goal by 135 percent, back in 2011 when the system first went live.  
 
Point of service collections, however, continue to be a relatively untapped source of revenue, officials say. According to a 2011 TransUnion survey, seven out of 10 hospitals and health systems reported collecting less than 30 percent of their payments at the point of service. 
 
Deploying this kind of platform, however, will not automatically solve a hospital's billing problems, added Friestad. The 'how' proves just as important as the 'what.' And the how involves lots of training, lots of test runs and good management.
 
"As marvelous as this tool is...as it gives the staff the ability to perform, it's not a magic trick," said Friestad. "Like many tools, it's only as good as the adoption efforts.
 
"We had a very detailed project plan," added Friestad. This involved going live at two categories of facilities, tier 1 hospitals, which were 150 beds or larger, and tier 2, those under 150 beds.
 
 
The tier 1 hospitals had full functionality with the platform and considerable customization. The hospitals typically had 16 different work lists that were put together for staff to work on and track their progress. Tier 2 hospitals had the full platform but limited customization abilities. These groups would also receive fewer work lists. 
 
"We've had target dates all the way around," said Friestad. 
 
The group also had three field teams out in the field designing and doing walkthroughs to find out specific workflows. 
 
Further, added Friestad, they had individualized classroom training and practice runs. For example, the EHR group would be in one classroom session, preregistration group in another. MedAnalytics also sent a team to be on site for the staff. 
 
Overall, Friestad said he's happy with the results. And the patients seem to be, too. "Patients have a great uncertainty and uneasiness about the financial ramifications. They all know there's more loopholes in insurance," he said. The platform helps eliminate that. "A patient can even call in and say,'I'm being scheduled for a CT scan. I'm just wondering with my insurance what my cost will be. We can load everything into an estimate tool on the fly without even an account in the system." 
 
Everyone knows, however, these systems cost a pretty penny, Friestad admitted. "It's not unknowing that this is an expensive, high-tech best in breed technology," he said. So, obviously hospitals need to be smart and consider the cost aspect. 
 
Adventist Health officials initially anticipated an ROI of eight months, but Friestad said it may be a little longer.