2022 Healthcare Operations will Double Down on Digital

Our takeaways, combined with feedback from our industry cohorts, reveal one theme we expect will continue to focus on 2022, providing lift in multiple areas, including improving patient experience, decreasing operation burden, and plugging revenue leaks. 

November 11, 2021

As we continue to reflect on our experience at MGMA’s MPE21 event in San Diego, teams from all areas of healthcare operations weigh in on what they heard and experienced. 

Our takeaways, combined with feedback from our industry cohorts, reveal one theme we expect will continue to be a focus in 2022, providing lift in multiple areas, including improving patient experience, decreasing operation burden, and plugging revenue leaks.

Investing in Digital Tools to Help Healthcare Operations in 2022 

Top of mind for leaders is how to gain operational lift by leveraging digital tools. The necessity to lean on digital assist during COVID-19 removed the mystery and trepidation for many healthcare organizations. As a result of small wins and improved digital fluency for medical admin and patients in 2020 and 2021, medical practices plan to double down on their investment in digital tools to improve operations in 2022. 

“Digital tools” covers a wide range of operational areas and there are unique products that meet specific needs. The top four areas in need of an operational lift, as heard at MPE, were data analysis, scheduling, billing/payment processing, and patient engagement. Provider organizations are seeking to onboard solutions for the first time or leverage their existing toolset more effectively. Here’s a quick overview of these four operational areas and how digital solutions are providing ROI.

#1 Data Visualization

The desire to closely monitor operational data saw an uptick in the late 20-teens, especially among large healthcare organizations interested in achieving pop health and revenue management goals. Medical practices, however, examine the value of data monitoring a little differently, choosing to apply their limited resources to improving day-to-day, one-on-one patient care. While growth-minded practices were beginning to leverage EMR analytics to help understand patient behavior and impact on revenue, adoption of the EMR analytics tools among most practices was slow, largely due to the time and specialization required for data mining and analysis. 

Here we are, just five years later, and practices have renewed eagerness to understand operational gaps, impact on revenue, staffing and patient care – in part due to the unexpected impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical practices suffered a decline in revenue while communities were locked down and patients veered from their preventative care routine. Now, practices are looking for ways to stop revenue leaks and get patients back into the office. Advances in healthcare data analytics, outside of the EMR, are making it easier for practices to consume and act upon patient behavior and operational analytics to meet their operational goals. 

This year at the Medical Practice Excellence Leaders conference, MGMA revealed a new tool that offers medical practices a real-time assessment of operational performance, including top of mind pain points that directly impact revenue: no show rates, days in A/R, daily encounters and related charges, denial volumes, and values. Early feedback indicates the interface is intuitive and will be a value-add for teams seeking to understand operational pitfalls and plug revenue leaks.  Learn more about MGMA’s DataDiscovery

#2 Scheduling

Under the duress of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and provider organizations were pushed to the limit. Physicians and staffers, alike experienced burnout at a scale some had not experienced before during their career.  And managing staffing and schedule fluctuations became a chief operational pain point. Healthcare organizations are looking to 2022 with optimism, hoping to see a significant downturn in COVID-19, a return to a more regular healthcare cadence, all with more stabilized staffing. Managing staffing needs and profitability will help providers regain a foothold economically, and healthcare workers will benefit from more reasonable shift duration. 

For these reasons, provider organizations are looking for automated staffing solutions. While there are many solutions, two options providers might look to add as part of their scheduling solution include automatic shift pick-up with employee self-serve and managing workforce teams. Reducing the manual management in these two areas is expected to give provider organizations a significant lift. 

#3 Billing/Payment Processing

While healthcare is late to the party when it comes to many automated, digital solutions, providers are finding these solutions benefit both the office and the patient. Unified billing and payment processing solutions have risen in interest among provider practices who realize they can reduce errors and decrease the operational burden associated with manual tasks by streamlining front-of-house and back-of-house activities. The proper software can also help a practice scale with ease, meeting the demand of a growing practice. 

Included in the billing category is payments processing, for cash and credit cards. This need is coming up more often and at every conference. Every provider needs a payment processing solution. The one they choose may depend on their budget or patient audience. And as digital natives find themselves paying the bills, they are more likely to ask for modern cash transfer solutions that are deeply aligned with PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and others.

There are many options for billing and payment processing, and a few solutions that provide comprehensive service. While each has pros and cons, and some integrate more deeply with the big players, like PayPal. Finding a holistic, HIPAA compliant healthcare payments solution can take a load off the administration team.

#4 Patient Engagement 

Not just appointment reminders, a unified patient engagement platform automates patient outreach to help providers connect with patients throughout their care journey and in between appointments, all with less burden on the staff. Here are a few patient engagement activities all medical practices should be doing to reduce no-shows, boost care adherence, improve outcomes, and increase patient satisfaction:

•    Educate and inform with broadcast messaging.
•    Patient self-scheduling via SMS or live connect by phone. 
•    Provide pre- and post-procedure instructions to ensure proper prep.
•    Recall patients for preventative care and screening.
•    Close referrals via SMS, allowing patients to self-schedule.
•    Send secure links to informational documents.
•    Deliver SMS messages in one of more than 100 languages.

In an article by Sara Heath, Senior Editor of Xtelligent Healthcare Media, we learn that top clinical quality measures are directly impacted by patient engagement. While the article focuses on clinical quality measures as evaluated for value-based care, the insight is valuable for all providers focused on achieving operational and care excellence.
“In a value-based care contract, meeting clinical quality measures usually results in shared savings for both the payer and the provider.” Further, as Heath cites, “According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), clinical quality measures can be divided into three categories [structural, process, outcomes]. Understanding these measures, and how patient activation [engagement] can shape them, will help healthcare organizations achieve their value-based care goals.”

A robust patient engagement platform will allow your team to automate personalized, customized messages, at scale, to reach patients via SMS, email or phone throughout their care journey. Look for a solution that is deeply embedded in your EHR. For solutions with the deepest integration, the patient engagement platform writes from, and back to, your EHR. This interface reduces or eliminates operational burden including the need for manual information sharing and data transfer. In addition, since patient communications are all captured within the EHR in real-time, providers can address disengagement and provide education and information to help get patients back on track to best care.

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