Kaitlin Howard

By Kaitlin Howard

Kaitlin Howard is a researcher and writer producing insightful content across the healthcare revenue cycle. She has written and produced content for Zelis, Waystar, and Recondo Technology, as well as agencies. With a B.A. in English and Writing from University of Denver, Kaitlin stays current on market updates on claims management and healthcare payments, publishing a regular educational blog series on industry trends and Zelis offerings.

Increasing costs. Shrinking margins. Labor shortages. Impending recession. In other words, a healthcare organization’s nightmare come true.

Nearly half of health systems in the U.S. are behind on their 2022 revenue goals. And the reasoning is simple: if you don’t have enough people, you can’t do the work, and if you don’t do the work, you won’t get paid.

Luckily, the way out is already right under our noses. Automation.

The great resignation

A phenomenon sparked by the pandemic, the great resignation refers to the higher-than-usual number of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs.

And, yes, it’s a whole lot more serious than you might think.

In 2021, just under 4M workers quit their job each month. This year, more than 40% of the worldwide workforce is considering quitting their jobs.

Quiet quitting

Quiet quitting, the idea that millions of people are no longer going “above and beyond” at work, is very much real. Moreover, unless something changes, it’s only going to get worse.

U.S. employee engagement took yet another step back during the second quarter of 2022, with the proportion of engaged workers remaining at 32% and the proportion of actively disengaged increasing to 18%.

This overall decline signals a growing disconnect between employers and their employees.

Automation: the no-brainer solution

Healthcare organizations must remove the dissatisfying aspects of jobs. Leave the redundant tasks to automation. Freed from the mundane, employees can then focus on more important (and rewarding) tasks.

For healthcare providers, that means an increase in patient interaction and care. Better yet, automation improves business workflows (like your revenue cycle management processes) to reduce costs and denials and improve productivity and payment.

According to a recent survey by AKASA and HFMA, among organizations currently dealing with labor shortages, key steps being taken by respondents in the revenue cycle include:

  • Adopting automation technology: 56%
  • Expanding employee benefits/compensation: 51%
  • Partnering with a strategic RCM company: 44%
  • Consolidating job function: 40%

Automation plays into this. People should be doing the things humans are best at: higher-order decision making. Leave the mundane to technology.

But many organizations are unsure where to begin.

As automation technologies (e.g., machine learning and natural language processing) become more commonplace, you can automate almost every aspect of the revenue cycle process from the time a patient enters the health system to final payment.

A great first step is to audit your current workflows and focus on automating processes with the highest impact on the business.

Before implementation, it’s important to ask yourself one question: “How will this technology impact my employees work day?”

The benefits

1. Increased employee satisfaction and retention.

96.1% of hospitals view retention as a key strategic imperative.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. When you automate, employees are freed to engage in more patient interactions that require a truly human touch, like answering questions, walking through care processes, and building out financial plans.

Automation makes it possible to get more done with fewer human resources. Meaning: less overtime hours and a better overall work-life balance.

2. Improved productivity.

Automating manual tasks speeds up requests and decreases denials, errors, wasted time, and soaked labor costs. Employees then have immediate access to updated and relevant information, allowing them to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.

Without wasting time switching between programs or searching through databases to get the information they need, your team can approve and file ten items per hour instead of one.

In other words, your team of 10 now has the power of a team of 100.

2. Reduced costs.

Claim processing and patient onboarding are completed faster, more correctly, and at a lower cost when workflows are digitized.

Healthcare organizations can greatly benefit by gaining greater insight into business operations and performance. This leads to better business decisions and less interoperability, workflow issues, and preventable denials. (Hello, savings.)

But that’s not all.

When staff is allowed to work where they excel, staff dissatisfaction, productivity loss, and lacking employee morale decreases. Meaning: staff is more engaged, and staff retention increases.

As a result, you no longer bear the brunt of certain costs associated with low staff retention (e.g., recruitment, onboarding, orientation, staff overtime, temp pay).

The wrap up

Leveraging automation to do traditionally manual work saves time, increases productivity, and improves staff satisfaction. But it also ensures staff can focus on engaging and educating patients.

Automating manual processes and scaling resources doesn’t mean staff will lose jobs or job satisfaction. In fact, it means the opposite.

Not only will employees be able to work where they excel, improving the patient experience, productivity, and your bottom line, but they can also now focus fully on what made them want to work in the healthcare industry in the first place: helping others.

Which sounds like a win-win, if you ask us.

If you’re interested in learning how Zelis can help you reduce your administrative burden by receiving faster, more accurate claim payments, visit our website.