Ballad Health, Ensemble Health Partners Announce Strategic Revenue Cycle Partnership to Leverage Innovation, Bringing Up to 500 New Jobs to Appalachian Highlands

Leaders from Ballad Health and Ensemble Health Partners (“Ensemble”) today announced a historic strategic partnership which will result in the placement of a regional operations service center in the Appalachian Highlands region. This center will eventually employ up to 500 more people in the region, and will service hospital and health care clients from throughout the nation. 

Ballad Health has utilized various services from Ensemble since 2015, and now joins other leading health systems, such as Bon Secours Mercy Health, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, ThedaCare, Ardent, Adena, Covenant Health (New England), The Christ Hospital Health Network, and others, in selecting Ensemble to provide comprehensive revenue cycle services.   Ensemble Health Partners currently employs over 5,000 associates, providing services in 36 states and internationally. 

“We provide services to health systems all over the United States, and even in Europe,” said Ensemble founder and chief executive officer, Judson Ivy. “We could place our newest regional operations service center anywhere, but we chose the Appalachian Highlands as a place we want to invest, grow and become part of the fabric of the community. We could not have done this without the innovative leadership of Ballad Health. They sold us on the region – from the culture and work ethic of the people here in Appalachia to the incredible access to quality education, low cost of living, and the infrastructure, we believe this is an incredible opportunity to become part of the growth story of this region.” 

“This is a time of hope and opportunity for our region,” said Ballad Health chairman and chief executive officer, Alan Levine. “We are certainly faced with unprecedented challenges, but at the same time, we believe now, more than ever, it is time to look to our region as a good place to invest, a safe place for families, and a place where business can be successful. This partnership resulted from innovation and showing the best of what our region has to offer. Once Ensemble saw it for themselves, they were excited about growing here.”

Levine pointed out that, in 2015, when Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance could have chosen to join larger health systems, as many as 1,100 local jobs would have been at risk as revenue cycle services would have been consolidated to the acquiring systems’ campuses.  

“Rather than losing as many as 1,100 jobs, which is what would have happened, we instead chose to demonstrate the incredible capability of our people and our region as a strength that could, instead, serve health systems all over the nation,” Levine said. “Instead of losing 1,100 jobs, we are going to keep those, and gain up to 500 more.”

Ivy agreed. “Ballad Health has the critical mass of size and people in the geographic region that was required in order for Ensemble to choose to make this investment. We could not have done this with either of the legacy systems, as they would not have had the scale needed for us to make the commitment to place a regional operations service center here. And there is no doubt that, given the size of the legacy systems alone, the revenue cycle functions would likely have been absorbed by whomever was doing revenue cycle services for the acquiring system. That’s the trend we’ve seen as more consolidation has occurred in the industry. We are pleased we can make sure Ballad Health, and this region, benefit from that trend rather than become a casualty of it.”    

One of the key opportunities identified by Ballad Health over the last two years, based on input from patients and other stakeholders in the community, is a new approach to revenue cycle management that prioritizes patient satisfaction, enhanced engagement with sophisticated insurance companies, and expanded engagement in value-based arrangements with payors and government programs. Ballad Health’s Board, in June 2019, approved a plan to reinvent the revenue cycle function based on its desire to improve patient experience and modernize the function. Ballad Health sought the best partner for full revenue cycle services and chose the industry’s top-ranked leader in financial management services for healthcare providers. 

Ensemble is designated #1 and “Best in KLAS” by healthcare providers around the country for full revenue cycle services and excellence in improving patient experiences and financial outcomes. Ensemble has also been recognized as a Top 150 Places to Work in Healthcare by Becker’s Hospital Review and was recently awarded, alongside their client, the 2019 Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) MAP award for high performance in Revenue Cycle, placing Ensemble’s level of performance as among the best in the nation. Ensemble clients who utilize full revenue cycle management services have seen impressive improvements in operational metrics and patient satisfaction.   

Beyond attracting a new company to the region and adding jobs, the partnership provides significant benefits for patients, the health system, and the team members. The partnership will overhaul Ballad Health’s entire revenue cycle process, infusing technology and analytics not currently utilized – leading to a more efficient and patient friendly experience. The national presence of Ensemble will provide better integration and visibility with national and government payers, providing Ballad Health more agility when working with the sophisticated and evolving payment systems utilized by the many different payers and their payment policies. With Ensemble’s Best in KLAS rated program, created in part by its proprietary real-time training systems, team members will always have the most up to date information, enabling them to provide better support to patients. Additionally, team members will benefit from a generous compensation and benefit package competitive with other national companies.

“The partnership with Ensemble will implement best practices in Ballad Health’s revenue cycle functions, ensuring our processes from registration to patient financial services are among the best in the industry,” said Lynn Krutak, Chief Financial Officer of Ballad Health. “Many health systems, including Ballad Health, have a revenue cycle platform built on a framework tied to payment models that are no longer contemporary. With the rise in value-based payment, much higher patient liability due to high deductibles and with expansion of risk-based models of payment, our processes must reflect the current environment. We sought a partner that has helped other health systems succeed in achieving the goal of patient satisfaction, a smooth process for registration and discharge, accurate collection of data and information and an efficient process for billing and collection. Our partnership with Ensemble will help us forge a healthier path forward to improve customer service and financial performance, allowing us to focus on improving outcomes and reinvesting in patient care and the patient experience.” 

“In today’s healthcare environment, the complexity of the insurance companies and their payment systems make it challenging for hospitals and providers to navigate, creating dissatisfaction among patients and the hospitals,” said Ivy. “This inefficiency costs hospitals millions of dollars per year, a liability which often ends up either being shifted to patients or written off as uncollectable. This is not fair to anyone. Bringing the best technology and processes to bear creates a more seamless system which ultimately benefits patients who rely on an effective system for the coverage of their health care services.” 

“Ensemble’s mission is to redefine the possible in healthcare by empowering people to be the difference. Our focus is on delivering exceptional results, so our partners can focus on caring for their communities,” said Shannon White, President of Ensemble Health Partners.

Affected team members that perform Ballad Health’s revenue cycle functions were notified of the upcoming change yesterday, and the transition is expected to take place immediately.

In the near term, Ensemble will utilize the current locations of the Ballad Health’s revenue cycle functions, but will be commencing a process for determining where within the region it will locate its new national service and operations center.