Sharp HealthCare's "gamified" revenue cycle management workflow turns employees' everyday tasks into opportunities to earn points, badges, and compete with each other.
Picture a revenue cycle where employees jockey to work on their colleagues' accounts, the turnover rate is less than 5%, and staff members ask their manager not to fill a vacant position so they can work on extra accounts.
That's what's happening at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, which has "gamified" its revenue cycle management workflow to turn employees' everyday tasks into opportunities to earn points, badges, and compete with each other.
"As they go through their workflow—their normal day—they can watch points start to accrue through the game," Gerilynn Sevenikar, vice president of revenue cycle at Sharp HealthCare, tells HealthLeaders. "But more importantly when they follow a gold-standard workflow, they achieve maximum points for that workflow."
Sevenikar's lightbulb moment for gamifying the revenue cycle came while watching her teenage daughter's laser-focused attention on getting to the next level in a game on her smartphone.
"It was like lightning hit me, and I thought to myself, 'That's how I want my employees to feel when they're at work.' I want them to want to get to the next account so because it will help them get to the next level," she says.
Sharp HealthCare developed the tool Gamify from scratch to use with athenaIDX from athenahealth. It also defined the steps for best-practice workflows within its revenue cycle functions, including pre-billing, customer service, and rejections and denials. Employees not only earn points for working accounts but for completing each step in the pre-defined gold-standard workflow.
Today, employees earn points and badges for their work, although Sevenikar says eventually the system will likely add additional rewards like gift cards and paid time off.
Within the first six months of going live with the cloud-based tool, Sharp realized:
- A 31% increase in credit balance productivity
- A 21% increase in customer service productivity
- An 18% increase in hold bills productivity. Related to that, Sharp gained 863.1 days in throughput, which equates to an increase in output of 3.3 days per existing staff per month.
- A 10% reduction in task lag
- A staff turnover rate of less than 5%
In addition, Sevenikar said, "100% of the time an employee improved productivity…Even the most productive employees improved their productivity a minimum of 10%," while some improved as much as 40%.
Gamify's total transparency is one reason it's been so popular. Employees—who each have an avatar within the game—can see their own point accruals as well as that of their colleagues, and a real-time leaderboard displays the top 10 performers. It allows team members to track their productivity in a way that's nonthreatening, engaging, and playful, says Sevenikar.
"Arming them with that information influences their decisions throughout the day on what they're going to do," she says. "Our employees never knew how close they were to having their best day or having their best week or even being the most productive for the day."
In addition, a task management function within Gamify allows employees who've finished their own worklist for the day to start working through their colleagues' accounts to earn more points.
"That was a real eye opener for us," Sevenikar says. "They wanted the points so bad that they were going into other people's worklists."
That desire for points even resulted in staff members asking their manager not to fill a vacant position so they could work on extra accounts and earn extra points.
"I've been here 40 years and I've never had that happen," Sevenikar says.
Remote workforce management game-changer
Many revenue cycle leaders have worried about maintaining employee engagement with a remote workforce. Gamify offers a way to keep remote employees engaged with their company and coworkers, while giving managers insights into their productivity.
This real-time understanding of remote employee productivity and effectiveness has been extremely valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sevenikar says.
"This is my favorite thing to talk about now with Gamify because this really is the prime tool for managing a work-from-home employee," she says. It lets managers know whether employees are just "cruising" or "whether they're being productive throughout the day."
According to athenahealth, it can put Gamify on any workflows that have discreet task and status progressions to assign a weighted points system to the defined best practice behaviors in the workflow.
"If you're looking for deploying workforce home and you want to stay engaged with employees and have insights to their productivity throughout the day in real time, this is a powerful tool to give you those analytics and allow your employees to stay engaged, not just with your organization but with each other," Sevenikar says. "It serves this evolution that we're in right now in deploying people home and trying to make sure that we do it in a way that is still connects them to the organization [and] your organization's culture."
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.