Q&A: Novant Health Senior Vice President of Finance Discusses Revenue Cycle Success

Novant Health recently consolidated billing and implemented a better end-to-end patient experience.

The patient’s financial experience is burdensome and billing statements can be difficult for the average patient to navigate. As the patient’s financial experience begins to play a bigger role in an organization’s overall success, revenue cycle managers are now turning to streamlined bill-paying technology to create a positive financial experience for the patient, protect patients from surprise medical bills, and allow revenue cycle staff to spend more time on meaningful work.

However, this is not always easy.

Many organizations rely solely on mail, email, and/or EHR communications to reach patients, which frustrates patients who intend to pay their bills but are ultimately frustrated with their experience.

Recognizing this gap in the financial experience of his own patients, Novant Health’s senior vice president of finance, Geoff Gardner, decided the organization needed to consolidate hospital and physician group billing and established a better end-to-end patient experience for bill payment via email billing and text notifications.

According to Gardner, this has led to the following results for Novant Health: a 90% patient satisfaction score, 87% of collections now fully self-service, a 43% drop in collection days, and a return on investment multiplied by nine.

Gardner recently spoke with Health Leaders on Novant Health’s journey in establishing this successful revenue cycle.

HealthLeaders: What prompted Novant Health to seek a solution to streamline their financial and billing experience?

Geoff Gardner: For years, we have been working to modernize and improve our customer experience and the organization of our revenue cycle. We used to rely on mail, email and MyChart to reach our community. While we saw slow and steady improvements, we knew we needed a completely overhauled process to deliver the streamlined patient billing experience we had envisioned.

HL: Health care has been through a lot of turmoil and upheaval recently, and it’s been very difficult financially. Can you share your experience and how technology has helped Novant Health see an increase in collections?

Guardian : Like many other healthcare systems, Novant Health has experienced financial challenges such as inflationary pressures on salaries, supplies and medications. On top of that, the need to use contract clinical work has led to a significant increase in expenses across the system.

We launched Cedar Pay, a patient engagement and payment platform that integrates with our Epic system for both hospital billing and physician billing.

After implementation, we saw both an increase in collections and a significant decrease in collection time. Specifically, over a 12-month period, collections have increased by tens of millions, while collection time has dropped by more than 40%. And, in addition to the financial impact, our patient satisfaction has improved dramatically, now standing at 90%.

Pictured: Geoff Gardner is Novant Health’s Senior Vice President of Finance. Photo courtesy of Novant Health.

HL: What changes do you see for the financial experience of patients over the next two years, especially in light of the no surprises law and the price transparency rule?

Guardian : In light of recent legislation on price transparency and surprise billing, it is essential that providers listen to their patients and find ways to engage this work for them. We decided to implement new technology in part because we wanted to optimize our billing experience on mobile devices. I’m sure we’ll see this trend continue, both at Novant Health and across healthcare systems in general. Providers should offer patients a digital experience that helps patients understand their bills and how insurance benefits apply.

HL: Are there any additional solutions or strategies that you plan to leverage in the future to further improve the patient experience and/or your revenue cycle function?

Guardian : Our revenue cycle leadership team is constantly looking for ways to improve our various processes and how our patients experience the payment process. We are looking for new ways to automate certain workflows through robotic process automation and AI so that our teams can focus on higher value work. On top of that, the pre-service experience is on our radar, and we’ll be working to modernize and improve it in the future.

HL: What advice do you have for other leaders looking to digitize certain revenue cycle processes?

Guardian : I would recommend partnering with a state-of-the-art provider that understands the complete end-to-end healthcare billing journey and truly understands what consumers want. Combining acute and ambulatory into a unified patient experience was something we wanted to do for a long time. We had asked several other vendors but went with the one that said they could do it and kept that promise.

Amanda Norris is Revenue Cycle Writer for HealthLeaders.

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