Healthcare executives continue to focus on tech-related capabilities to drive revenue cycle improvements, even amidst EHR frustrations, a new survey finds.
Expect robotic process automation—an IT process that uses robotic tools to automate repeatable processes—to get a big jump in attention and investments from revenue cycle executives in the coming years.
According to Navigant's annual RCM survey with the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), 15% of health system executives said they were targeting robotic process automation (RPA) to drive future revenue cycle management improvement.
That's a major change from just one year ago, when no health system executive cited RPA in the 2018 Navigant/HFMA survey.
"New technologies leveraging RPA, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have unlocked significant opportunities to reach previously unattainable levels of revenue cycle performance," Navigant director Kent Ritter said in a statement.
Revenue cycle automation has been a growing trend—from insurance verification, to outstanding claims follow-ups, to customer segmentation—but RPA takes it to the next level by mimicking the way humans work.
This year's survey of 108 hospital and health system chief financial officers and revenue cycle executives showed that 62% suggest EHR adoption challenges have been equal to or outweighed benefits specific to their organization's revenue cycle performance, up from 56% in 2018.
Fifty-six percent also say they can't keep up with EHR upgrades or underuse EHR functions, a finding that held steady from 2018, but was up from 51% in 2017.
Despite those challenges, 87% of executives suggest they're most focused on technology-related capabilities to drive future revenue cycle improvements, and 69% of executives predict their organization’s IT budgets will increase over the next year.
That's up from 68% last year but below 74% in 2017.
RPA showed up again when executives were asked which strategies they've already implemented to successfully decrease revenue cycle costs and increase economies of scale.
One in four executives at both health systems and large hospitals cited advanced health IT, including RPA.
Forty-six percent of executives selected collaboration with external entities, including outsourcing and vendor partnerships.
Even as new capabilities like RPA and AI grab attention and dollars, though, Ritter reminds rev cycle execs that, "As we've learned with EHR implementations, there are no silver bullets."
"These tools are not 'plug and play,' and the ability to integrate operational and technical expertise remains key to provider success," he said.
Revenue integrity was the top area of focus for the third straight year, cited by 28% of executives, a 21% increase from 2017.
In addition to executives' IT focus, the survey also revealed respondents' concerns about consumer self-pay.
Eighty-five percent of respondents believe the increase in consumer responsibility for healthcare costs will continue to affect their organizations.
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.