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Rural hospital quickly sees revenue cycle improvements after virtual go-live

by Macon Community Hospital

Published on 1/21/2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic landed in the U.S., and health system leaders’ financial concerns increased, Macon Community Hospital (MCH) chose not only to switch revenue cycle solutions in the middle of it but chose to do it virtually. Following implementation, the hospital saw positive trends in its revenue cycle performance of A/R days and net balance.

Like other health systems, MCH leaders canceled elective procedures and the health system faced extra costs for testing supplies, personal protective equipment and increased staffing to screen patients and visitors.

“We're a small rural hospital. If we hadn't had that ability to improve our cash position, I don't know how we would have made it,” said Scott Tongate, chief financial officer. “With our legacy system, our A/R days had risen, and our collection rate of revenue dropped. We had to make a switch.”

With travel concerns, Cerner offered MCH the option to either wait for travel restrictions to ease or implement virtually. However, Tongate felt waiting wasn’t an option.

“We were bleeding cash and just couldn’t sustain that another three to six months. Had we not done that conversion then we would be struggling,” said Tongate.

Some of the training to transition to Cerner had already been done in person, but additional training was still planned. That training shifted to virtual training sessions, and on March 31, 2020, the hospital implemented Cerner Revenue CycleSM. Staff saw some changes with the new cloud-based system.

“Our documentation is better than it was with the previous system,” said Tongate. “I think with the lower volumes it helped our clinicians get more comfortable with the process. We’re taking more time teaching the clinicians how to document properly so the downstream effects work appropriately.”

Within six months, the hospital’s average A/R days decreased from 57.24 days on its legacy system to 36.79 days.1 At the same time, net payments were 3.55% higher than compared to its legacy system.2 In addition, cash as a percent of revenue went from 29.78% to 35.39%.3

While leaders are happy with their performance, they plan to delve further into their data to see how they can continue to improve.

“We want to utilize Lights On Network® to help us track and trend areas where we can make improvements,” said Tongate. “We made significant improvements in our revenue cycle, but we want to use the data and analytics to help us improve even more.”

Data for this story was pulled utilizing Cerner Lights On Network®.

1 Comparing baseline average A/R days from April 2019-March 2020 to post-implementation average from May 1, 2020-October 5, 2020

2 Legacy net payments data of 29.80% provided by Macon Community Hospital, compared to post-implementation of 33.35% from May 1, 2020-October 5, 2020

3 Comparing pre-implementation from January-March 2020 to post-implementation from April-December 2020

Client outcomes were achieved in respective settings and are not representative of benefits realized by all clients due to many variables, including solution scope, client capabilities and business and implementation models.