“Can you work my old AR to clean up my legacy system?” It is common for Americollect to receive this call from health systems throughout the nation. The answer is always, “Yes, but“. This article is about that but, the what to consider, and the how to put the patient experience at the center of the legacy AR decision.
System conversions can be a stressful time when your entire operations is about to be put in flux. For a majority of conversions it is not the operations that is the problem because the operation can be tested. It is the people that a system change can affect more. Your team will become frustrated, slower, and all together less productive. Have you ever called your spouse when they are frustrated about something? It normally ends with some sort of transference of that frustration to you. Not intentionally, but it happens. Now let’s put the patient in the middle of that frustration and you have a recipe for lower customer satisfaction scores and loss of revenue do to patients going elsewhere for services.
So, how do you put the patient in the middle of the decision on what to do with legacy AR. Let’s diagnose the problems that I have seen.
1. Multiple Statements – While system conversions is a great time to make changes to partnerships, it is not the right time to add a level of complexity to your patient experience. I have seen it time and time again on health systems websites:
- If your date of service is before X you will receive this statement.
- If your date of service is after X you will receive this statement
Multiple statements are the death of patient experience. Imagine getting two statements from your credit card provider because they decided to change systems. It would never happen. It will be easier for your team, easier decision to make, and some statement providers (who will make more money by sending more statements) will even want you to make this decision because it will be easier for them, but you know who it will not be easier for right? Yes, I am talking about the patient. The patient doesn’t want two statements, with two payment plans and two sources of confusion. It is hard enough for patients to understand deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket maximums so how does adding another statement make for a better experience?
Solution – I would highly suggest that you work with your statement provider to find a way to combine both systems into one statement. The “good” partners know how to get this done with the data you provide. It may cost more money in programming for these companies, but it will be well worth the money to keep your patients happy!
2. Multiple Payment Portals – If you are working with separate online portal from your statements or moving toward your new systems portal such as My Chart this can be tricky conversion. I will give you a few suggestions ranked by what I believe provides the best experience to worst.
Solution – My first recommendation would be to pay the extra-money for adding the legacy systems API data to the new portal but this isn’t always possible. My second recommendation would be look external for a partner that can combine both charges for the first year. After one year, legacy systems will be almost completely worked down. There are many services who offer such in a payment portal. It will cost more money for one year, but the patient experience will be there.
3. Live Agents or IVR – “Press 1 if your date of service was before X, Press 2 if your date of service was after X.” As mentioned before, this isn’t the best approach to patient experience. Many of your patients will have dates of service before and after, so where do they go? What if they press 0 or what if they have questions about both? This is where the patient experience dies. The patient doesn’t care that you just changed systems; they just want answers for all their accounts in one place.
Solution – Maybe to create a better patient experience, it may make sense to outsource your revenue cycle call center at least three months before go live and maintain that outsource agreement for 9 months afterward. This will allow your team to focus on the system conversion and less on call center operations. You could even repurpose some of your team to help patients understand the changes, upfront collections, financial assistance, learn the system, and/or improve the patient flow. The other solution would be to add staff ahead of the conversion to cover longer call times.
4. Legacy System Shutdown – “We are going live 04/01/2017 and we plan on shutting down within six months”. “Ouch” says the patient experience. Patients call in every tax season to request an itemized statement for tax purposes. Medicare bad debt audits will require data in the legacy system. 501r audits may require access to all patients that have received financial assistance.
Solution – My solution maybe a little late, but maybe the next contract should plan for the next separation with an agreement to host the legacy system and data for seven years. Finally, if all fails, then hire a third party company that specializes in hosting legacy systems.
Conversions are done to create a better patient experience. Don’t let the legacy system start that conversion off on the wrong foot with patients. Oh, and call Americollect if you are open to discussing the “Yes, but” on legacy systems.