Purpose Driven Revenue Cycle

There’s a gaping hole in your revenue cycle: Purpose. Specifically, it’s the lack of understanding that your revenue cycle staff has about the purpose of their work. Here’s a question you’ve heard before: “what do you do?” Now, which one of these answers would you imagine is more likely to kick off an engaging conversation: “I do healthcare financial management.” [yawn] Or “I support folks who preserve health and save lives.” 
Perhaps the yawn was overkill, but you get the idea. One of these answers sounds like an invitation to an insurance seminar, the other one will get someone to lean in for more.  
Here’s the point: when you are in healthcare you are either saving lives and preserving health or your support the people that do. The problem is your revenue cycle staff has little to no sense of how the work that they do leads to meaningful impacts on people’s health. Seriously, go ask them.  
Healthcare is about impacting communities, lives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, etc. It’s about life expectancy and quality of life. Unless healthcare leadership and revenue cycle leadership in particular make the effort to create visibility of that meaningful impact for their staff, many, if not most, of that staff will spend their time working for no reason other than for the paycheck that it earns them.  
Can you run a health system like that? Sure, but if you have ambitions to be a force for change in American healthcare you need to reach further. You need to go beyond just giving people a job. You need to give them a job that has meaning and make sure they get to see the impact of their work.  
Your average biller, coder or collector sitting in a cube blocks or even miles away from your care facilities is never going to know the impact of their work unless you put in the effort to make it evident to them.  
If you’re measuring your revenue cycle in denials, DNFB days and cost to collect, you’re covering the basics, but just as having a social media presence was once optional for business, purpose is fast becoming part of the basics. What kind of visibility are you providing your revenue cycle staff for the capital investments you’re able to make as a result of their efforts? Is it something you discuss in your regular meetings? How are you connecting the dots between clean claims and saving lives or preserving health? Your staff may be able to recite your mission statement but can they tell you exactly how the work they do from a cube in the back office fits in? 

A 1% reduction in first pass denials means something, a $5M annualized lift as a result means something more, but 14 lives getting saved because of early detection made possible through the purchase of a new $5M imaging machine is something you go home and tell your kids about. The same goes for an $8M increase in the amount of charity care that a hospital can provide due to stronger revenue cycle performance. Or a new shipment of wheelchairs. Or 10 more minutes that a doctor is able to spend with a patient, educating them on staying healthy, because they have a team handling the claims work.  

Individuals today have unprecedented access to knowledge (Google), talent (UpWork), capital (Kickstarter), production capacity (MakerSpace), commercial infrastructure (Shopify) and markets (Facebook). It used to be only institutional investors and fully-fledged corporations were privileged to have access to these ingredients for business, but now they are at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection. In this exponential age of access, if you’ve got something you are passionate about (a sense of purpose) you can make a living at it. 

In an era where individuals are that empowered there is no business or industry left un-disrupted.  Both in terms of competition for sales and competition for talent. The pace of startup activity is dizzying and the rate that unicorns are coming onto the scene is upending the market paradigm of the last century.  

In today’s employment climate, finding a job isn’t a high bar. More and more, purpose is what attracts talent. Purpose is the new killer perk. Employees that believe their work has purpose report that they are more likely to give extra to get the job done. They are also more likely to say they are proud to share where they work and that they want to work there for a long time.  

But don’t get it backwards. Purpose isn’t something you do because you want to get more out of your employees. Even a beautifully articulated purpose will degrade into a platitude faster than you can say “quarterly earnings,” if you don’t mean it. Purpose has to be real. It has to be the real reason YOU get out of bed to go to work and the real reason your organization exists. Purpose needs to be articulated, disseminated and operationalized. It needs to be on the agenda every time management engages staff, it needs to be measured against and it needs to made visible.
You need to connect the dots. Tell the stories. Clearly illustrate to your staff how it is that revenue cycle excellence translates to better physician experiences, better patient experiences and better health outcomes.  
Use your wall space. Create “impact” infographics. Make videos. Do a newsletter. Have your clinical leaders come in a talk with them about how. Collapse the distance that exists between your clinical operation and your revenue cycle operation. Invest in purpose with the same urgency that you would have advised Blockbuster to invest in digital delivery, because it will define who wins and who loses in the 2020s.

When purpose is truly at the center of what you do, your people will lead you to success.  

Colt Briner, Chief Marketing Officer
Ensemble Health Partners