Survey: Providers Remain Challenged with Optimizing Revenue Cycle-Related EHR Functions

Timothy Kinney, Healthcare Informatics

Healthcare providers continue to focus on technology to spearhead revenue cycle improvements, but remain challenged with optimizing electronic health record (EHR) functionality, according to new research from consulting firm Navigant and the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).

The survey of 107 hospital and health system chief financial officers and revenue cycle executives, released this week, found that 68%  of respondents said their revenue cycle technology budgets will increase over the next year, down from 74% last year.

Results also showed that, compared to last year: 39% fewer executives project a budget increase of 5% or more; and 53% more executives predict no change to their budgets.

However, this slowing of IT spending does not mean providers are satisfied with their current EHR functionality, researchers noted. Fifty-six percent of executives said their organizations can’t keep up with EHR upgrades or underuse available EHR functions, up from 51% last year.

Further, 56% of executives suggested EHR adoption challenges have been equal to or outweighed benefits specific to their organization’s revenue cycle performance. Both hospital-based executives and those from smaller hospitals cited more challenges than benefits, compared to health system and larger hospital executives. This is likely due to greater capacity and scale in health system and larger hospital IT departments, researchers concluded.

“Hospitals and health systems have invested a significant amount of time and money into their EHRs, but the technology’s complexity is preventing them from realizing an immediate return on their investments,” Timothy Kinney, managing director at Navigant, said in a statement accompanying the survey. “When optimized correctly, a good portion of the ROI can come from EHR-related revenue cycle process improvements.”

When asked which revenue cycle capability their organization is most focused on for improvement over the next year, most executives (76%) once again selected technology-related capabilities.

Revenue integrity continues to be the top area of focus among them, cited by 24% of executives who noted such revenue integrity program benefits as reduced compliance risks, and increased revenue capture and net collection.

The survey results also showed that, compared to last year, EHR optimization as an improvement priority rose from 15% to 21%, while physician documentation fell from 18% to 12%.

What’s more, even though providers do appear to be better prepared to address consumer self-pay, the area continues to be an issue, the research revealed. Eighty-one percent of executives said they believe the increase in consumer responsibility for costs will continue to affect their organizations, down from 92% last year. Among them, 22% think that impact will be significant, compared to 40% last year. Executives from health systems and larger hospitals believe their organizations will be more heavily impacted by consumer self-pay.

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