Instead of always working on "high effort, high impact" projects, revenue cycle leaders should also focus on "low effort, high impact" projects that deliver quick wins.
There are big-picture, high-impact projects on every revenue cycle leader's wish list, from implementing a new charity policy to installing a new claim system.
While these projects are important and necessary, they often take months or years to implement and require approvals from multiple outside departments, IT capital, and other resources.
Instead of always working on these "high effort, high impact" projects, Patrick McDermott, a strategic advisor for revenue cycle management, encourages revenue cycle leaders to also focus on "low effort, high impact" projects that use what he calls a "no-huddle offense" strategy.
McDermott described this strategy during the HealthLeaders Revenue Cycle Ideas Exchange in mid-March.
When football teams use a no-huddle offense strategy, they dispense with the time-consuming huddle and instead run prearranged plays that allow them to score quickly.
Revenue cycle leaders can apply the same idea to their own projects.
"The no-huddle offense is about creating these quick wins through projects that you have total control over, and you can move forward in 90 to 180 days," McDermott says. "In the revenue cycle management sector, we're under constant pressure to reduce costs and increase net patient revenue, so having a no-huddle offense is a really good part of your portfolio."
Quick, high-impact projects can be especially helpful in the age of COVID-19. That was the case at the health system ProMedica, where McDermott was interim vice president of revenue cycle during the height of the pandemic shutdown.
"We didn't need a long-term complex project," he said. "We needed to move into cash flow acceleration and return our cash to normal levels by the end of the year."
One example of a no-huddle offense project is reducing denials by focusing on your organization's worst payer, since they have a higher cost-per-claim and a higher denial rate than others. Revenue cycle leaders can identify their worst payer by sub-stratifying all their denials by plan codes.
While it's certainly valuable to develop a big-picture strategy that focuses on every payer, that can be time consuming.
"By reducing the scope to your worst payer, you can create a lot of opportunity very quickly and do a no-huddle offense strategy in only 90 days," McDermott says. "You can drive $5 to $8 million of benefit in a $1 billion organization."
In addition to increasing cash flow quickly, McDermott says no-huddle offense projects are good for team morale. It also gives leaders the opportunity to delegate responsibility to promising employees within the department.
"These are psychologically very important projects because they build momentum, they build confidence, and they build skill," he says. "As you do the no-huddle offense, be fearless with your direct reports: Delegate with purpose, give them parameters, and develop your future leaders."
The HealthLeaders Exchange is an executive community for sharing ideas, solutions, and insights. Please join the community at our LinkedIn page.
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.