Underperforming EHRs, consumer payments still worrying providers

Information technology budgets are growing as providers focus on pressing needs to ensure modernization and economic stability.

The survey, from Navigant Consulting, finds that healthcare organizations are making new investments in areas such as robotic process automation, better electronic health record systems, revenue integrity and external collaboration for achieving revenue cycle improvements.

The survey for Navigant was conducted by the Healthcare Financial Management Association—it includes responses from 108 hospital and health system chief financial officers and revenue cycle executives.

Nearly two-thirds of provider respondents say they struggle to get optimal value from their EHRs and they can’t keep up with EHR upgrades, or they underuse available EHR functionality.

Kinney-Timothy-CROP.png
Timothy Kinney

Consumer self-pay concerns also remain a enduring issue, with 85 percent of respondents believing the increase in consumer responsibility for care costs will continue to affect organizations, up from 81 percent last year, but down from 92 percent in 2017.

Also See: Pennsylvania rural hospitals to pilot global payment model

To better manage the challenges, nearly 70 percent of executive respondents expect their IT budgets will increase over the next year.

Asked what strategies providers have implemented to cut revenue cycle costs and increase economies of scale, nearly half of respondents have collaborated with external entities such as outsourcers and vendors, with 25 percent using robotic process automation.

“It was anticipated that EHRs would be the main driver of broad performance improvement, but that has not occurred in many cases,” says Timothy Kinney, managing director at Navigant. “Instead, providers are now taking other steps by looking outside their organizations to collaborate with external entities and leveraging advanced technology, and they are finding success.”

To better engage consumers when it comes to healthcare costs, organizations are offering financial counseling, payment plans and portals for price estimates and payment.

The Navigant survey exposes one issue where nearly no providers have been able to get a handle—integrating revenue cycle solutions with clinical operations. Only 3 percent of respondents believe that they have been successful in achieving this.

However, Kent Ritter, Director at Navigant, sees some silver linings on the horizon.

“New technologies leveraging robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning have unlocked significant opportunities to reach previously unattainable levels of revenue cycle performance,” he contends. “As we learned from EHRs, there are no silver bullets. These tools are not plug-and-play, and the ability to integrate operational and technical expertise remains key to provider success.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.