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Revenue Cycle Management: How Digital Health Can Affect Your Bottom Line

by Libby Webb, Executive Director of Product Management

Earlier this year, I spoke at the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA) Revenue Cycle Conference at Gillette Stadium (home of the New England Patriots). Hundreds of executives gathered to discuss the changing landscape of health care payment models, hospital pricing and reimbursement, managed care organizations, and medical practices. As the conversation came around to mobile technology (as it often does when discussing health care) talk turned to revenue cycle management—and how it might be affected by the mobile world.

Mobile technology impacting revenue cycle, you ask? The topic hasn’t received much airtime compared to the dazzling attention that’s been lavished on the latest innovations in mhealth, perhaps because revenue cycle management and mobile functionality presents a surprising juxtaposition for even the seasoned digital health pundit. At HFMA, however, it was abundantly clear that those in health care financial management already know which way the wind is blowing: Amazing revenue cycle workflows are being driven by mobile adoption. The health care organizations that spurn them do so at their own peril.

We are witnessing a fundamental behavioral shift toward health “consumerism,” as patients grow more engaged with their health and demand convenient access to the tools that help keep them healthy. This is radically changing the way consumers interact with their health care technology, but is also affecting how the health care industry designs tools for patients.

The product creators and decision-makers in health care are increasingly taking cues from the airlines and banking industries, among many others, which offer convenient, online access to a variety of services. Patients are checking in for their medical appointments ahead of time, from their own homes, just as they would for a flight.

Like the OpenTable model of restaurant reservations via mobile phone, patients can schedule their appointments on-the-fly, through a practice’s mobile patient portal, or through a provider’s sourcing partner such as Vitals.com (currently available in our athenahealth Marketplace). Solutions like these help drive important schedule density outcomes and, ultimately, revenue.

And there’s more mobile functionality that can have a positive effect on the bottom line. Patients are opting for paperless statements and are paying their medical bills online, behavior they’ve long taken advantage of with their credit cards. And speaking of credit cards, patients can now save their credit card information on their health care practice’s bill pay site, just as online shoppers do on Amazon.com. The result is not just tremendous convenience, but, in some cases, improved payment yield and reduced days in accountable receivable (DAR).

When it comes to the revenue cycle, providers need to interact with each patient before, during and after care is delivered. Mobile technology is just one tool caregivers can leverage to help influence patients’ decisions to select their care services, and then navigate the payment process expeditiously.

Through the athenahealth More Disruption Please program, our incubator and marketplace for the nation’s most innovative health care services, we have partnered with organizations that specialize in these areas to assist our clients. Practices can also extend the strategy further, using the online medium to source new patients—or recapture former patients. To assist them, we’ve partnered with iTriage, one of the top downloaded consumer healthcare apps in which patients can find relevant local providers and directly schedule appointments. Yet another tool in the growing toolbox of mobile functionality that affects the caregiver bottom line.

How does your practice leverage mobile technology to improve revenue cycle?

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