In the past, when healthcare organizations transitioned to new health information systems (HIS), patient accounts traditionally took a backseat to clinical implementation. Not surprising given HIS conversions are pricey, and patient care and safety is the priority. But growing regulations related to patient privacy and billing guidelines, coupled with the need to identify financial opportunities and cash realization has resulted in increasing attention being paid to the patient accounts transition. In this guest post, Cindy Adkins, strategic consultant at a provider of comprehensive data life cycle management technology in the healthcare field, offers some key considerations on how to handle legacy patient accounts data when transitioning to a new HIS.
Healthcare organizations are interested in accelerating cash, mitigating revenue cycle performance risks and identifying strategies to handle the long-term management and access to legacy accounts receivables (AR) data. But the task can be daunting, given the complex nuances involved in the patient accounting transition.
There are operational concerns, such as establishing appropriate personnel, workflow, policies and procedures for resolving legacy AR claims. And there are technological concerns, including how to store and manage legacy AR. If legacy accounts aren’t properly stored and handled, organizations risk not only incorrect billing, but noncompliance with federal guidelines for retrospective audits.
Here are some key considerations on how to handle legacy patient accounts data when transitioning to a new HIS.
Don’t fly solo
Hospital staff who attempt to handle AR themselves often regret it. Using an experienced partner who’s with them every step of the way speeds the process of moving from legacy systems into a data archiving solution. It ensures AR work down before system conversion. The vendor also will conduct data validation to make sure everything maps accordingly.
Explore the active archive solution
Often, organizations leave legacy data on the original vendor system, resulting in high vendor fees and squandered staff resources. Others transfer data to low-functioning archives that basically serve as “cold storage.” They run the risk of fresh collectives being stuck in archives instead of being available for further run downs, resulting in a revenue hit.
By properly analyzing their needed level of functionality, hospitals can find their AR storage and handling sweet spot. Rather than pay to keep the lights on for an out-of-production system or transfer data to what’s essentially a dead file, they can save time and money by transferring patient accounting legacy data to a legacy PA/PM billing and follow-up system archive. This single, secure and active solution allows for continued AR functionality, including AR work downs. The system may not look exactly like the legacy system, but it should offer increased, intuitive functionality that will make it better.
Archive and work down accounts
Hospitals often assume that everything should be worked down to a zero balance before archiving. In fact, newer technology allows quick archiving while working down accounts, making transition easier and more cost effective, and offering improved business productivity. Records remain active for continued billing and reporting, and users have all the necessary functionality of their old HIS without the unnecessary maintenance expense.
Do a clean sweep
There should be built-in checks and balances to ensure that legacy data is accurately transferred to the active archive with red-flag alerts and fixes along the way. Missing files, incorrect information and numbers that don’t add up are common, mostly due to: multiple sources of information (controller reports, balance reports, insurance, etc.), computer glitches and human error. It’s important to do a clean sweep of data.
Set realistic goals
It’s necessary to build in realistic timetables, including cushions for setbacks. Proper archiving of legacy financial data can take an average of four to six months to complete and up to nine months before the old system can be retired. But the result – up to an 80% reduction in costs – is worth it. .
Cindy Adkins is a strategic consultant at MediQuant, a leading provider of comprehensive data life cycle management technology in the healthcare field. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.