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The Frustrating but Promising Evolution of Patient Payments

Posted on July 5, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

As a mother of two, and someone prone to over-preparation, I like to have an accurate idea of how much a visit to the doctor’s office will cost me. Am I looking at a $40 co-pay, $100 trip to the ER, or a flat $1,000 fee for pregnancy and delivery services? It’s easy enough to call up Aetna and ask for costs of expected doctor’s visits. It’s not so easy to understand your financial obligation when you’re uninsured and calling around to find a good price on an x-ray for a potentially broken collarbone. The few providers I spoke with to get that X-ray estimate didn’t offer a flat rate, and couldn’t even give me a ballpark figure over the phone. My type A personality was extremely frustrated.

My frustration can in no way compare to the angst the Kennett family felt when Chip, the father, fell ill with lung cancer and had to turn to raising money on Kickstarter to pay the medical bills his admittedly “good” health insurance wouldn’t cover. His wife mentions in a recent Kaiser Health News article that she was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family who have so far donated $56,800. “We kept saying how lucky we were,” she wrote in the Team Kennett blog. “Now, just how messed up is that?”

“Messed up” is a pretty accurate description of the frustratingly hard-to-understand patient payment system that has been cobbled together by hospitals and payers over the last few decades. And I’m not even talking about the costs for care. I’m speaking strictly about the methods healthcare providers use to collect their fair share.

I came across a few vendors at the HFMA ANI show I’ve covered over the last few weeks that are trying to take a step in the right direction by offering payment collection methods tailored to patients’ lifestyles. As I told one booth rep, I’d have much rather received the text or email his company offers reminding me to pay the bill for the birth of my daughter rather than the phone call I got from the hospital just two weeks later asking for money. I think all the sleep-deprived, hormonally shell shocked new moms out there would agree that time frame is not the greatest for trying to get money out of us.

I chatted with Bird Blitch, CEO of Patientco, about the need for a more patient-friendly payment collection method after I ran into him on the show floor. Patientco, which is seeing great traction in offering hospitals a variety of payment options that allow patients to choose how they want to pay, is steadfastly working on this very problem. Blitch explained to me that one bad payment collection experience has the potential to ruin an otherwise positive patient experience for a hospital. And it seems to me that hospitals should be paying attention to that last piece of the patient visit to ensure their patients come back to their facility rather than take their business to the competitor down the street. Referrals are fast becoming a big differentiator in most hospital markets, and a bad billing experience can certainly impact word-of-mouth recommendations to friends and family.

Much is being made of the need for greater transparency into healthcare costs. I hope the industry pays just as much attention to the bill that contains those costs. It would be ideal to see them evolve hand in hand.

Highlights from the HFMA #ANI2013 Show Floor

Posted on June 27, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ll share a few highlights from the HFMA ANI 2013 exhibit hall this time around. The show floor was fairly busy over the three days it was open to attendees. I do believe this is the first event I’ve attended where the convention center shut the lights off right at the end of exhibit hours on the last day. Talk about a clear message to vacate the premises!

I’ve captured most of my experience via pictures and captions below.

coniferband

Conifer played host to the opening night reception, welcoming attendees with some island tunes that made me want to grab the next flight to Tortola. At their booth, the company once again offered attendees a chance to donate money to select charities. I had fun playing plinko and making a donation to the Red Cross.

siemens

Siemens offered attendees a chance to help make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.

relayhealth

RelayHealth was of a similar, charitable mind. I lent my chips to the Giving Comfort cause this time around.

zirmed

The ZirMed team was actively tweeting during the event, so I used that as an excuse to find out more about their recent rebranding. It seems they offer a little bit of everything, “connecting providers, payers and patients to make the business of healthcare faster, clearer and more efficient for everyone,” according to the flyer I picked up.

torture

I forget the name of the company that likened going through a RAC audit to literally being on the rack. This was definitely stop-you-in-your-tracks marketing.

stilts

I just couldn’t resist capturing this conversation for posterity’s sake. Oh, the things you see at trade shows.

racecars

I’m pretty certain this was part of the MedeAnalytics booth, whose team was fitted out in some pretty snazzy racing gear/booth attire.

m2sys

The friendly folks at M2SYS

kforce

Speaking of friendly, the folks at Kforce are always ready to chat about IT staffing solutions, though when I snapped this pic they did look a bit lonesome for their colleagues @Brad_Justus and @BocaHudson.

jvion

The jvion team knows how to have a good time on the show floor. Enticing me with a wig and mic offered the perfect excuse to tell me more about their solutions that focus on “reducing the financial impact and burden of converting to ICD-10, and helping providers protect their revenues from increased financial waste associated with mandated changes and increased payor scrutiny,” according to their website.

ipadrace

I’m sad to say I didn’t take down the name of this company, but I did play the game you see above. Needless to say, I’m sure my four-year-old could probably have done a better job than I did of getting the iPad controlled ball through the maze.

healthport

You can’t go wrong with sweets, and HealthPort took things a step above the typical candy in a bowl. I had the chance to meet with Dawn Crump, HealthPort’s new Vice President of Audit Management Solutions. She seems to really know her stuff, having moved over from the provider world quite recently. She is the first super user HealthPort has ever hired, and it seems as if she has big plans for their products.

cognizant

Cognizant’s booth says it all. Many attendees were looking for ICD-10 and ACO solutions, though as I mentioned last week, value-based care seems to be the next iteration of accountable care.

allscripts

I didn’t make it to the Allscripts booth, but did make a point to visit their coffee stand. If there’s a quick way to my heart, it’s through coffee.

I did make it to the athenahealth booth, and chatted with John Lewis about the company’s ICD-10 conversion guarantee. The company has gotten a fair amount of traction with the offer, and, as Lewis explained to me, it has definitely helped start meaningful conversations with providers.

I also had the opportunity to meet with Mel Tully and Ann Joyal at the Nuance/J.A. Thomas booth. They caught me up on what the companies are doing in the areas of intelligent systems for clinical documentation.

Other exhibitors of note included Health Business Solutions, which showed me their latest patient-facing product. Revel is a mobile application that facilitates patient after-care payment via smart phone.  I would definitely have appreciated something like this right after both of my daughters were born. I was in no mood to take a phone call from the hospital wanting their balance due. I would have much rather received a call or text on my phone that I then could have handled at my convenience.

Healthcare management information systems provider Ormed had some pretty compelling customer testimonials rolling at their booth. It seemed to have a steady stream of folks sit down for their brief presentations throughout each day. Kudos to the presenter who kept each one moving along.

AMN Healthcare caught my eye with its “Use of Social Media and Mobile by Healthcare Professionals” report. Though it’s from 2011, I think many of the statistics are still relevant. I hope to see the third version of this come out in time for ANI 2014.

Stand-Out Themes at HFMA #ANI2013

Posted on June 24, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

My third trip to the HFMA ANI show was by far the best yet, for a number of reasons. I found the overall event to be easily manageable in terms of way finding, session offerings and overall organization. Every HFMA volunteer I encountered had a smile on their face, and that’s saying something at 7:15 three mornings in a row. This positive attitude was also evident in the brief keynotes given by the association’s executives and board members, including Ralph Lawson, Steve Rose, Melinda Hancock and Joe Fifer. Each exuded an air of gratefulness at being put in a position of leadership, and seemed optimistic – yet realistic – about the future of healthcare.

Rose was particularly realistic in his comments, noting that the event’s theme of “Whatever it Takes” is one that he applies to his own life, most notably (visually at least) in the area of weight loss. I have to admit, it’s always nice to see healthcare professionals being healthy. (I didn’t see many taking advantage of the doughnuts during the continental breakfast each morning, though everyone does seem to love their caffeine and a few even snuck a cigarette – yuck!)

The only tone of dissension I detected amongst HFMA’s ranks was a result of the keynote given by Joe Gibbs, a celebrated football coach and racing team owner unknown to me before the event. As Gibbs spoke about leadership and picking the right players, I wondered how his testosterone-fueled keynote would compare to the first “Women as Leaders” session held a few days later. While Gibbs’ presentation was so-so, the female-centric session held a few days later was amazing. It was at times confessional in tone, always blunt and occasionally tear-inducing. Five HFMA board members shared their struggles, their triumphs and advice around working, parenting and trying to juggle both. It was refreshing to hear each of them go off script – touching on faith, values, husbands, kids and extended family.

I had the chance to attend most of the keynotes, a session on the challenges faced by small, independent hospitals, and the Women as Leaders panel. I spent a ton of time in the exhibit hall, and will cover that part of the show in next week’s post. For now, I’ll cover some high-level themes I gleaned from talking with attendees and exhibitors, and share a few pictures.

1. It’s time for hospitals to be more proactive in reaching out to payers and physicians, especially when it comes to sharing data. I had no idea that the “H” in HFMA once stood for Hospitals, so this inclusiveness has been in the works for some time. My thinking is that as the industry consolidates and hospitals try to become payers, payers buy hospitals, and physicians get caught in between, it’s only natural that an association like HFMA broaden its horizons to better serve its constituents.

2. Value-based care seems to the new name for accountable care and/or coordinated care. It’s certainly a phrase that will resonate better with consumers, which leads me to number three.

3. Everyone is aware of the need for more transparency into healthcare costs. Consumers have become more vocal in demanding it, and some hospitals are beginning to see the light, offering pre-service estimates. In fact, Fifer announced that HFMA has formed a task force to address the issue of price transparency in healthcare. You can view his announcement below:

4. Health insurance exchanges were covered copiously in sessions I was unable to attend. The “what ifs?” certainly outnumbered the “without a doubts.” I’ll be interested to see how these conversations go next year, once every state is in deep.

5. I did not hear one mention made of mobile health during the entire conference. I realize the attendee demographic is more finance than IT, but I would have thought at least one or two sessions would have addressed mobile health and the benefits this concept and technologies bring to healthcare’s bottom line. Isn’t mobile health key to cost containment and patient engagement?

vista

I’m beginning to think Orlando is my favorite city for conferences. This picture pretty much says it all – beautiful area of town, sunny skies with the typical once-a-day shower, and definitely warm. Even though it was humid, the outside atmosphere was a welcome respite from the absolutely freezing temperatures inside the convention center.

gibbs

Joe Gibbs gave Monday morning’s keynote. He kept referring to “salesmen,” which made me wonder if he’d been properly debriefed.

smallhospitals

This was a pretty interesting panel on the fate of small, independent hospitals. It helped paint a much clearer picture for me of the competitive markets these types of hospitals face.

Berwick slide

Dr. Don Berwick, former head of the CMS, gave my favorite keynote on Tuesday morning. It was fairly high level in nature, but he presented seven or eight examples of healthcare organizations that were taking the term “value-based care” to new levels. He referred to the much venerated “Triple Aim” often, and shared a number of slides, including the one above on “The Structure of the Affordable Care Act.” Notice the word “partial” at the end. To me, this slide conveys the complexity and somewhat confusing nature for the ACA.

That’s all for now. I’ll follow up next week with observations from the exhibitors hall. I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who attended what they took away from the event.

Must-See Sessions, Exhibitors at HFMA #ANI2013

Posted on June 13, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

It’s that time of year again. The Healthcare Finance Management Association’s annual ANI conference is just days away. I’ve come to associate the month of June with all things revenue cycle and the anticipation of learning more than I ever wanted to know about financial risk, reimbursement strategies, RACs, coding … the list could go on and on. I do enjoy the show, almost more than HIMSS, because it is smaller, shorter and so much more manageable from a logistics standpoint. HFMA puts out a great mobile app each year, and this year marks the first time I’ll be able to take advantage of it thanks to a (finally) upgraded phone.

Last year in Las Vegas, the show floor and educational sessions were largely focused on ICD-10 and ACOs. Flipping through this year’s brochure, I see that health insurance exchanges, Stage 2 of Meaningful Use and payer relationship strategies will also see a bit of the limelight. Personally, I’m looking forward to learning what healthcare finance folks think of this surge in healthcare consumer cries for price transparency. Are they paying attention? Will charge masters ever change (for the better)?

I thought I’d share some of the sessions I’m most looking forward to attending. I admit that I’m a big fan of panel discussions. Solo presenters can turn into sleep-inducing monologues far too quickly.

To Merge or Not to Merge: Hospital Executive Panel Discussion (Monday, 6/17)
What are the advantages and challenges of maintaining stand-alone status? What factors could influence a decision to see affiliation partners? What various affiliation strategies have worked for others?

Living in Atlanta, which has seen its fair share of hospital mergers and partnerships, I’ve often wondered why some facilities choose to go it alone and some choose to affiliate. I’m looking forward to hearing some inside scoop from the four scheduled hospital executives.

Transitioning to Value: Barriers, Solutions and Opportunities (Tuesday, 6/18)
Former CMS administrator Don Berwick will give this keynote address, which promises to “identify the barriers that must be overcome to reform the delivery system, the outcomes of successful delivery models, and the signals of progress within provider organizations.”

I can’t help but wonder how his stage presence will compare to Farzad Mostashari’s, and what sort of neck attire he’ll don.

Physician/Hospital Revenue Cycle Integration: a Panel Discussion (Tuesday, 6/18)
This session will cover the “opportunities and challenges of unifying the revenue cycle to reduce overall costs while increasing collections and patient satisfaction.”

I think it will be interesting to hear from providers just how important patient satisfaction (and presumably referrals) are to a provider’s bottom line. I expect at least one of the panelists will bring up Stage 2, as I’m learning that patient engagement and satisfaction are closely intertwined.

Women as Leaders: Charting the Course (Tuesday, 6/18)
As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m looking forward to learning how the HFMA board members (dare I call them #RevCycleChicks?) on this panel manage careers, families and communities.

Quiet: Harnessing the Strengths of Introverts to Change How We Work, Lead and Innovate (Wednesday, 6/19)
This keynote from author Susan Cain seems tailor-made just for me. Until social media came into my life, I’d always considered myself an introvert. But social networks have turned that idea on its head in unexpected ways, and so I wonder if Cain will touch on digital media in her presentation.

Best Practices for Managing Consumer Payments in the Current Environment (Wednesday, 6/19)
This “late-breaking session” promises to share best practices on improving collections and patient satisfaction.

I hope they’ll touch on the “future” environment, as it seems reasonable to assume that 2014 will likely make a number of current best practices out of date.

Then, of course, there is the exhibit hall, which I always enjoy roaming around without plan or purpose. A few recent postcards have piqued my interest in several companies:

sock

I’m not even sure what the name of this company is, but the idea of a singing sock intrigues me.

emdeon

I fared poorly at Emdeon’s Cash Stacker games last year, and am determined to do better this time around. Plus, the company always seems to be doing interesting things in the revenue cycle space, so I look forward to catching up with several of their team members to get the inside scoop.

relayhealth

I’m very intrigued by the idea of provider benchmarking at the moment, so I’m planning to learn more about what RelayHealth is doing in this area.

athenahealth

While this postcard doesn’t allude to athenahealth’s recent claims of guaranteed ICD-10 compliance, it will definitely be my main talking point when I stop by their booth.

Good works are always a good idea, and several companies are making charitable contributions in lieu of giveaways:

optum

jpmorganbnymellon

What sessions and exhibitors are you looking forward to? Let me know what I shouldn’t miss via the comments below.

Revenue Cycle Management Interview with Rishi Saurabh – GE Healthcare

Posted on July 25, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you know, I had the chance to attend the ANI 2012 conference in Las Vegas that’s put on by HFMA. This conference is a hospital CFO’s home since all of the major players in the healthcare financial management space were in attendance. Around every corner was another Hospital CFO it seemed.

While at the conference, I was able to corner the Global Product Marketing Manager at GE Healthcare, Rishi Saurabh, for a short video interview about revenue cycle management. In the video Rishi provides his insights into the biggest challenges facing hospitals today and also provides some insight into how GE plans to approach these challenges. I hope you enjoy the video:

HFMA ANI Las Vegas: That’s a Wrap

Posted on June 28, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Though it was only my second time attending the annual HFMA ANI show, I think it’s fast proving to be my favorite when compared to HIMSS – at least when both are held in Las Vegas. The shorter exhibit hall hours; a smaller, more manageable venue; and a general feeling of being less rushed to accomplish every task I set myself was a welcome contrast to the breakneck speed at which we all seem to attend HIMSS.

Though the ANI show had a more laid back vibe, it was by no means any less meaningful to its attendees and exhibitors. Some of the exhibitors I spoke to noted that while booth traffic wasn’t as brisk as they’d have liked, they were having deeper, more meaningful conversations with the folks that did stop by. Others told me that it didn’t seem like many members of the hospital C-suite were in attendance, and decided to send their seconds-in-command instead. (Perhaps they were too busy back home attending to projects related to any of the following healthcare IT acronyms – EMR, HIE, ACO, CPOE, ICD-10, SCOTUS.)

I didn’t get a chance to attend any educational sessions, but from the tweets that I saw, most folks really enjoyed keynotes from Olympian Carl Lewis and renowned pilot Sully Sullenberger. Speaking of tweets, the volume of chatter on Twitter was pretty dismal. There were a few devoted tweets around the #ANI2012 hashtag of course, but for the most part, Twitter (and social media in general) was non-existent.

I walked the show floor Tuesday to see if I could spot any technologies tied into EMRs, and didn’t find much to choose from – at least not as many as I came across last year. I did have some interesting conversations with the folks at Nuance about new solutions being sold under the Dragon Medical umbrella.

Population health management was a phrase I heard (or saw) a number of times, as was predictive analytics and the ubiquitous “Big Data” – all three of which tie together in the world of hospital CFOs. In my mind, it seems that it will be necessary from a financial standpoint for hospitals to get a firm grasp of what “Big Data” means to their organization, and then how to use predictive analytics to derive meaning from that data in their population health management programs, especially if they plan on successfully participating in any sort of coordinated or accountable care program. MedAssets is doing some interesting work around this concept that I hope to learn more about once I get back home and settled.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about the show, especially if you were an attendee. How did it compare to last year? Did you think, like me, that many folks were seduced by the lure of the pools at Mandalay Bay to the detriment of folks working the exhibit booths? Gather your thoughts while you peruse a few pictures I took on the show floor:

I stopped by the MedAssets booth to talk population health management with Carol Romashko, Director of Marketing.

AfterHours UR intrigued me with its pleasant logo and hospital utilization review service founded by nurses.

The folks at Executive Health Resources had a catchy come-by gimmick with a caricaturist creating portraits on etch-a-sketches.

 

EnableComp definitely had kid-friendly schwag. I'm still kicking myself for not going by there during the last hour of the show.

Emdeon's Cash Stacker games seemed to be a big hit on the show floor.

HumanArc knows that creativity really does pay off, at least when it comes to attracting passers by with Lego-inspired logos.

It was interesting to me, being an Atlanta native, to note how many Georgia-based revenue cycle management clients MediRevv has.

My favorite part of the Nuance booth was the tag line "Use it for Good."

Objective Health, formerly known as McKinsey Hospital Institute, had a very inviting booth. It was nice chatting with their CEO, Dr. Russ Richmond.

I didn't see any "whack a mole" type attractions, but this game from PNC definitely grabbed attendees' attention.

I didn't get a chance to stop by the Premier booth, unfortunately, but it was certainly eye-catching.I heard several interesting customer success stories from the Protiviti team, which I hope to cover in greater detail in the near future.

The VisiQuate booth impressed me with its high-tech feel.

It certainly wasn't all work and no play. I enjoyed Dell's evening event at the Shark Reef Aquarium with Stephen Outten, Content Marketing and Social Media Strategist at Dell, and Amanda Woodhead, Manager of Corporate Communications at Emdeon.

My First Impressions from ANI 2012

Posted on June 26, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m in the middle of my first time attending the ANI 2012 conference in Las Vegas. For those not familiar with ANI, it’s HFMA’s (Healthcare Financial Management Association) National Institute. It’s kind of like HIMSS for the financial side of healthcare. I must admit that I was mostly driven to attend ANI because a number of advertisers and other connections I had started emailing me asking me if I was going to be at ANI since it was conveniently located in Las Vegas. I have to admit that I’m really glad I’ve been able to attend.

Some of my initial reactions are that ANI has a very different audience than most of the other healthcare IT conferences I’ve attended. Sure, many that attend ANI are at the other conferences, but when I first got to the ANI reception I tweeted that I bet the average age of ANI attendees was about 20 years higher than the other healthcare IT conferences I attend. When you think about healthcare financial management (the people who hold the purse strings) it makes some sense that the audience would be a bit older.

I sent the following tweet late last night which also captures my initial impressions of ANI 2012 quite well:

I can tell that many of the same people at ANI were also at HIMSS. Although, the pace feels more relaxed at ANI and I’ve been able to connect with some of the very same HIMSS people on a much deeper level. I think both things have their place, but I’ve enjoyed some of the deep conversations and understanding that’s come from ANI.

Another great story from my ANI experience was from this tweet that I sent:

While waiting in line for a Joe Montana signature, I struck up a conversation with a CFO who was in line next to me. Upon learning that I was a blogger, he asked if I was the one that tweeted about all the tweets coming from vendors and not attendees. How funny that indeed I was the one and what a great lesson. Many of the CFO attendees aren’t tweeting, but it was a great illustration that many are still reading and following the tweets. The power of social media to bring people together.

One final observation before I head back to the ANI exhibit floor. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a palpable sense of money flowing at ANI. Maybe it’s because it’s a healthcare financial management event, but I think if we dug into the underpinnings of the event we’d see a lot of financial transactions happening. One illustration of this was in a meeting with Craneware where they talked about one of their hospital clients who found $6.2 million in previously unfound revenue.