Healthcare providers typically rely on a multitude of vendors to help them deliver care to patients. Some partnerships flourish seamlessly, while others are burdensome and take more resources to maintain. Depending on time and interests, physicians themselves may or may not work directly with revenue cycle management vendors; however, healthcare administrators communicate with vendor representatives more frequently — weekly or even daily.
For administrators, a robust reporting dashboard can substantially lessen the burden of vendor relationship management. Intelligent, insightful, and intuitive analytics save time and capacity, make budgeting more transparent, and allow for ongoing adjustments as circumstances continuously evolve. Providers and vendors work together to establish initial goals and KPIs based on historical data. Ideally, each party is incentivized to ensure those objectives are met.
Unfortunately, not all relationships prove fruitful. When partnerships sour, providers may be negatively impacted due to termination conditions that can make it hard to disengage without incurring substantial expenses. This is the reason some providers choose to maintain ties with vendors they aren’t satisfied with, even if doing so negatively impacts their overall operations. And if a provider does abandon a vendor after implementation has begun, they might lose valuable data related to the progress that’s already been made.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Selecting a partner that maximizes both the revenue cycle and the patient financial experience is a practice in purpose and passion.
Partnering for Trust, Transparency, and Results
Like any solid and enduring relationship, one with a revenue cycle partner should be based on trust. Begin with setting clear expectations on everything from fee structures to the handling of patient engagement in order to ensure transparency throughout the partnership. Work together to determine the best route for sharing and viewing key performance indicators, such as claims processed, payments posted, denials, service adjustments, and other behind-the-scenes priority items.
Setting partnerships up for success also calls for the ability to communicate well with one another. At the start of the relationship, discuss communication frequency, type, and content. With a foundation of trust and transparency, results and relationship fulfillment will come naturally. While these tips are helpful for avoiding mishaps with established vendor relationships, providers should take note of the following five steps before choosing a vendor.
1. Do your research.
Whenever possible, seek referrals from a prospective partner’s current or former clients. Website testimonials might be filled with praise, but transparent feedback from an unbiased third party is far more useful. To that end, ask vendors to provide client lists, and call a handful of those clients to learn more about their experiences.
During these calls, ask the important questions: Are vendor personnel knowledgeable, experienced, efficient, and supportive? What impact has the relationship had on the client’s bottom line? Are patients well cared for? Getting answers to questions like these will help you make the decision that’s ultimately best for your practice.
2. Meet the team.
Vendor contracts often involve multi-year commitments, so it’s imperative that you meet the people you’ll be working with during that time. You might be meeting with them weekly or even daily when there is a lot to be done, and you’ll want to know that you can count on your partners to provide the support you need when you need it.
As your practice evolves, a good vendor will help guide your growth with recommendations based on real-time analytics and deep domain expertise. Look for a partner with experience, passion, and values that align with your own.
3. Demo the solution.
Healthcare technology vendors can often talk for hours about platform features and benefits, but you should never tie yourself to a solution that you haven’t seen in action. Assess each platform from both an administrator’s and a patient’s perspective to ensure it streamlines the complexities of the healthcare finance experience.
A comprehensive RCM solution does so much more than billing. An end-to-end platform will include RFI coding, scheduling, review captures, and more tools that help providers easily and quickly access the information that matters most. You should be able to see exactly how the platform will help you achieve your objectives prior to making an investment.
4. Think outside the box.
It’s natural to want the highest-quality products at the best prices, but the value a partner provides isn’t always quantifiable. Experience and brand longevity play a significant part, and often the lowest prices don’t equate to the best outcomes or maximum output.
Ask questions that can help you understand what additional attributes a prospective partner might offer as you assess whether you can justify the expense. Do they use innovative machine learning approaches to create efficiency in client operations? Are they eager to share data related to industry trends and best practices? Can they help you with your EMR relationship or offer legislative guidance? Do they have an innate ingenuity and curiosity to constantly enhance and do better? These extra offerings aren’t just “nice to have” — they can give you a significant competitive advantage and ensure the success of your practice.
5. Navigate the long-term objectives.
When it comes to negotiating, you need to navigate the extended goals of the practice. You must know what’s best for your practice and exactly what you need to meet your objectives. Conduct financial analysis to determine what kind of investment is needed to get from your current state to your target state.
As you review vendor pricing menus, map each expense to your overarching goals. If there’s no correlation, be honest with your prospective partner about why certain costs don’t make sense.
Every provider is unique. A good vendor will structure its offering to meet your needs because doing so is in everyone’s best interest. While no relationship is perfect, partnering with a revenue cycle solutions provider that you trust to work on your behalf will make obstacles easier to navigate and enable you to focus on what matters most: providing excellent patient care.
About Joey Cavanaugh
Joey Cavanaugh, RN, is the chief operations officer at Zotec Partners. With more than three decades of healthcare experience, she is committed to all aspects of operational excellence for the company and its clients.