It's time to peer into our crystal ball as health systems head into 2023 battered but hopeful.
As the patterns and procedures in a COVID-19 world have largely been normalized, the healthcare system will be able to focus more fully on day to day operations.
Meanwhile, inflation still rears its (less ugly?) head, mergers and acquisitions continue at hyperspeed, and the staffing crisis looms large.
Yet there are irrefutable bright spots. Revenue cycle management (RCM) technology is at its most developed and nimblest, allowing unlimited opportunities to improve performance, reduce expenses, and alleviate well-documented strain on coders and clinicians.
Here is where we believe the new year is heading.
1. Emphasis on cost-cutting to keep up with inflation.
Throughout the pandemic, costs spiraled upward as providers were forced to continually adapt to an ever-changing reality. Unfortunately, the new reality has stabilized at a place of decreased revenues while costs are at an all-time high. According to a recent Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey, "85% of health system leaders said staffing challenges would have a significant impact on their strategy for 2023," and "76% cited inflation as a significant factor."
2. Staffing shortages will continue.
While the market is beginning to get on the other side of the jobseeker feeding frenzy of 2022, many unfilled positions remain in virtually every healthcare sector – with revenue cycle particularly hard hit. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the number of healthcare positions will grow 13% from 2021 to 2031, adding 2 million new jobs, while a survey by R1 revealed that 90% of health system CFOs and Revenue Cycle VPs are experiencing a labor shortage in their revenue cycle department. Further, a recent Medical Group Management Association survey found that 58% of 673 medical practice respondents reported staffing as their biggest challenge heading into 2023. It outpaced the second concern, expenses (see prediction #1), by 35%.
3. Revenue cycle operations won't be hit by layoffs.
Prediction #1 suggests lay-offs are on the horizon. However, as cash-strapped health systems seek to curb spending, revenue cycle operations will remain intact as these short-staffed departments are already the bottleneck in health system cash flows at a time when interest rates are escalating.
4. Patient financial experience will be increasingly important.
It was only a matter of time before the consumer-centric business models that propelled multinational juggernauts such as Amazon into the stratosphere made their way into healthcare. Now that customers have experienced newfound power over their product purchases, they are eager to apply the same seamless, instantaneous transactional abilities to their healthcare journeys. According to a recent YouGov survey, nearly 40% of Americans are confused by their medical bills. As automation technologies begin to mature, the vision of a real-time revenue cycle will start to materialize, led by integrated delivery networks who are eager to improve both member and patient experiences.
5. There will be a heightened need for automation.
The rise of generative AI has brought the power of this newest wave of technology to the forefront, and it is no different within revenue cycle. In the face of escalating labor costs and shortages, technology is not only a viable solution, but a necessary one.
In fact, according to research by Bain & Company, 50% of providers cited revenue cycle management as their top category for technology spend in the coming year.
Not only can technologies such as Fathom reduce costs and alleviate staffing burdens, but the precision of AI can lead to better revenue outcomes: higher acuity, higher capture, reduced denials. Thus, automation contributes to both top- and bottom-line impact at a time when providers need to squeeze every penny while ensuring the revenue cycle continues to run.