The holiday season is an exciting time of the year, but it can also be one of the most stressful for medical providers. Why? First, the months of November and December are when revenue cycle management (RCM) staff implement newly-effective ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes and get ready for CPT code updates that take effect January 1. Second, it’s a time before the annual healthcare deductible reset when patients tend to book medical appointments and procedures they’ve put off throughout the year. Third, it’s when RCM and patient call center staff tend to want to take time off for vacation. Add these three challenges together and you have a perfect storm for potential disruptions in business continuity and a negative impact on the patient experience.
If your organization doesn’t have a back-up plan in place to keep things running smoothly, here’s what ends up happening:
- Aging accounts receivable (A/R)—particularly patient A/R—increases.
- Employee morale declines rapidly.
- Opportunities to appeal denials go unrecognized.
- Patient calls go unanswered, or they aren’t returned in a timely manner.
- Unbilled claims start to pile up and negatively affect cashflow.
Fortunately, your organization can take proactive steps during the upcoming holiday season and beyond to promote operational stability and a positive patient experience. Consider the following eight strategies:
- Connect with previous employees.
Send a friendly email to former RCM and patient call center staff to see whether they would like to work during the holidays.
- Consider an offshore staffing partner.
International staff solutions can be a life saver your organization because they can often provide coverage for U.S.-based holidays with ease. An added bonus? Time zone differences will allow your organization to get a jumpstart on work submitted within the last 24 hours, improve turnaround times, and expand operating hours.
- Embrace employee cross-training.
Maximize those who do work during the holidays by cross-training them to perform multiple functions. For example, with proper training, a medical coder may also be able to perform some scheduling duties.
- Explore independent contractors.
Many medical coders and billers, for example, may work on a freelance/contractual basis and be more than willing to take on a temporary gig during the holidays.
- Get creative.
Some RCM and patient call center staff may not necessarily need or want to take time off for the holidays. Consider offering a one-time bonus, floating holiday, or extra paid time off next year to those who can cover extra shifts. Another thought is to let employees work from home and flex their hours over the holidays.
- Plan in advance.
This may seem obvious, but the more time you give yourself to plan the holiday schedule, the better. It’s not too early, for example, to ask staff to start thinking about the fourth quarter several months beforehand. You may even want to give them a deadline by which they must submit a vacation request.
- Prioritize vacation requests.
For instance, you may need to rely on seniority or a lottery system when granting requests for time off. You can also prioritize vacations for employees who have not been on performance improvement plans over the last six months. However, be sure to clearly articulate this policy in an employee handbook that everyone signs.
- Use technology.
Consider leveraging smart scheduling software to appropriately staff the RCM department and patient call center during spikes in visits and calls. Other types of automation can reduce the administrative burden on staff.
In conclusion, hopefully these strategies can help your organization navigate one of the busiest times of the year with ease.Having a plan in place to ensure adequate coverage during the holidays is on of the most important steps you can take for your business and your patients.
Founded in 1999, Global Healthcare Resource has been a leader in revenue cycle management solutions and proudly employs 6,000+ HIPAA compliant coders, billing professionals and patient call center agents. Global operates as an extension of your office to improve productivity and increase ROI.