Healthcare Revenue Cycle Management, ICD-10, Claims Reimbursement, Medicare, Medicaid


Examining the Basics of the Healthcare Revenue Cycle

Managing the healthcare revenue cycle is about more than just collecting bills. Organizations must master these basics if they wish to build a successful financial future.

Healthcare revenue cycle management basics

Source: Thinkstock

By Ryan Mcaskill

- There are a number of different tasks that go into running a successful healthcare organization. However, regardless of whether you are a multi-location hospital network spread across the country or a private practice consisting of one doctor and one nurse, revenue cycle management is one of the most critical processes that organizations need to master to be successful.

Revenue cycle management (RCM) is the overarching combination of claims processing, payment, and revenue generation. In the simplest terms, it is a health care organization’s financial circulatory system. It consists of all administrative and clinical functions that contribute to the capture, management and collection of patient service revenue. It is the entire life of a patient account.

Dig Deeper: What Is Healthcare Revenue Cycle Management?

RCM includes the use of technology to keep track of any claims through their entire lifecycle, ensure payments are collected, and address any denied claims. Revenue cycle management tools allow health care providers doing the billing to follow the process and identify any issues quickly, allowing for the steady stream of revenue.

A system running effectively prevents denials of claims and maintains a visible, efficient billing process. RCM also encompasses everything from determining patient insurance eligibility and collecting co-pays to properly coding claims using ICD-10.

READ MORE: Key Ways to Start A Hospital Revenue Cycle Turnaround Process

Phyllis Wright, the Office Manager at Lake Shore OB/GYN, has said that RCM is nothing magical. But how an organization pays the bills and optimizes these solutions is critical to success.

A streamlined and efficient revenue cycle is one of the pillars of a successful health care organization. However, one that lacks efficiency, properly trained staff, and effective denials management can negatively impact the healthcare facility’s bottom line.

In order to develop a frictionless revenue cycle, organizations need to consider the basic steps involved:

• Scheduling/pre-registration

• Point of service registration counseling collections

READ MORE: Leveraging Group Purchasing for Hospital Supply Chain Management

• Encounter utilization review and case management

• Charge capture and coding

• Claim submissions

• Third party follow-up

• Remittance processing and rejections

READ MORE: Healthcare Consumerism Challenges Primary Care Business Models

• Payment posting, appeals and collections.

Clearly, the revenue cycle includes more than just ensuring the end balance on any account is zero. It starts the moment a patient calls to make an appointment and ends when all outstanding payments are collected. There are many steps that need to be taken from the very beginning to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Failure to capture insurance information while setting up an appointment, for example, could lead to wasted time and resources when it is discovered that a patient’s payer is not accepted.

The revenue cycle management marketplace has experienced substantial innovation in recent years. Because it is such an important aspect of operations, it is no surprise that there would be new software and systems in this area. This has happened through direct software systems and approaches, as well as indirectly through electronic health records and other health care technologies.

According to Alan Soberblom, the vice president and CIO at Adventist Health, the revenue cycle is an area that is experiencing constant change.

“I think the area for some of the most innovation is around revenue cycle,” Soberblom said. “Innovating around improved integration and operational efficiency are what set ‘Most Wired’ organizations apart from others. Having registration, scheduling and patient account workflows on a single platform can dramatically increase efficiencies by helping users to complete tasks without having to switch between multiple solutions.”

Dig Deeper: Preparing the Healthcare Revenue Cycle for Value-Based Care

It can be hard for a revenue cycle team to manage multiple high-priority projects at once. However, it is even harder when these systems are separated and not as seamless as possible. This is creating a need for hospitals to examine the entire revenue cycle. While many organizations have a solution that works, it may not be ready to handle the latest technology.

There are several areas that health care organizations need to focus on when it comes to investing in tech solutions that will help revenue cycle management solutions be more successful. These include:

System Integration – Revenue cycle systems can be very siloed. This leads to lost revenue opportunities. Organizations need to examine integrated software and hardware systems that can combine patient accounting, billing, collections, and electronic health records.

Billing and claims management – Reducing denials and rejected claims, training staff on denial management processes, improving point-of-service collections and decreasing delays in patient billing can all improve revenue cycle productivity.

Contact analysis – Robust data and proper strategy can help hospitals and other providers to leverage negotiation sessions. The revenue cycle has to have the confidence to both effectively negotiate rates and adjust the contracting process as needed to boost revenue opportunities with payers.

Coding/ICD-10 – Physicians need to ensure that they are coding everything correctly in ICD-10, as a single mistake can lead to overbilling and cause any health care organization to fail an audit.

Clinical documentation demands – Much like ICD-10, systems like meaningful use and other electronic documentation solutions can also impact revenue systems.

Understanding the components of the complex revenue cycle can help providers break down their processes, examine any weaknesses in the financial management chain, improve efficiency, and ensure that organizations are collecting maximum amount of revenue for the services they deliver.


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