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Analysis

Nearly 70% of Hospital Leaders Expect Increase in Self-Pay Due to COVID

By Jack O'Brien  
   September 30, 2020

More than one-third of leaders expect to see their organization's revenue cycle IT budgets increase, while over 25% said their IT budgets will likely decrease.

Approximately 70% of hospital leaders expect to see an increase in self-pay patients due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Guidehouse Center for Health Insights analysis of a survey conducted by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) released Wednesday morning.

Alongside an expected increase in Medicaid beneficiaries, health system executives predict that reimbursements from commercial insurers will slide.

Guidehouse's analysis underscores the ongoing budget challenges that hospital and health system leaders face because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"With health system margins primarily driven by elective services, the pandemic is gravely impacting provider revenue streams and payer mix," Timothy E. Kinney, partner at Guidehouse, said in a statement. "Healthcare leaders need to closely evaluate their payer mix and develop winning consumer experience strategies to overcome a slow recovery in patient volumes and an uptick in self-pay and Medicaid enrollees."

Related: Connecticut Children's, Guidehouse Form RCM Company

On the technology side, nearly all leaders said that their organizations have embraced telehealth to treat patients.

Additionally, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they have implemented financial counseling and payment plans, along with over half who have established patient portals to provide price estimates, to "better engage consumers."

Executives also pointed to a greater adoption of electronic health records (EHR) during the pandemic.

Over 40% said EHR adoption benefits are "outweighing challenges," nearly 70% said they "appropriately utilize available EHR functions," and 55% said they "adapted to functional releases," all of which marked increases compared to the results of the 2019 survey.

Related: 4 Things to Look for in the New HFMA Medical Bill Guidance

More than one-third of leaders expect to see their organization's revenue cycle IT budgets increase, while over 25% said their IT budgets will likely decrease.

Nearly 90% of providers have shifted their revenue cycle management workforce to remote settings. However, while half of the survey respondents stated that they are continuing with remote work going forward, 12% said they expect employees to return to "pre-pandemic arrangements."

Related: 3 Ways to Increase Revenue and Reduce Bad Debt During COVID-19

Only 12% of surveyed executives said their organizations are currently ready to comply with the price transparency rule that is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2021.

Almost 40% of respondents cited concerns about disclosing rates to "payers, media, and consumers" as the biggest obstacle to embracing the rule, while just over a quarter of respondents cited a lack of a data analytics infrastructure.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Alongside an expected increase in Medicaid beneficiaries, health system executives predict that reimbursements from commercials will slide. 

More than one-third of leaders expect to see their organization's IT budgets increase, while over 25% said their IT budgets will likely decrease.

However, only 12% of surveyed executives said their organizations are currently ready to comply with the price transparency rule that is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2021.


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