By Bill Wagner, CHPS, CPCO, Chief Operating Officer
Sarah Humbert, RHIA, Vice President of Coding Operations, and I recently had the opportunity to talk with three of KIWI-TEK’s long-time coding partners about the whirlwind year we’ve all had.
In this 3-part blog series we explore some of the biggest changes these revenue cycle experts experienced, how their HIM and coding teams met the challenges, and advice for our readers to help navigate 2021. In Parts 1 and 2, we discussed adjusting to change and the biggest HIM and revenue cycle challenges this year.
KIWI-TEK Customer Blog Series
Part 3 of 3 – Organizational Changes and Advice for 2021
What changes did you make in your HIM workflow or revenue cycle that you think will carry forward in your organization after the pandemic?
Lorie B. Mills, RHIT, CCS, AHIMA Approved I10 Trainer, System Director of Coding and CDI, Health Information Management, Forrest General Hospital: Communication and collaboration between HIM and revenue departments increased significantly during this time. Many other departments that did not support remote staff are initiating plans to do so. I look for this to be a continued practice in the future.
Matt Hoeger, Director of Revenue Integrity, Penn State Health, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center: Now that working from home is considered to be a viable solution, we will be moving toward remote work as the standard even beyond the pandemic. We are already looking at terminating leases for multiple buildings that housed coding staff, IT and leadership.
Tracy G. Hickey, MBA, RHIA, CPHI, CHTS-CP, FAHIMA, Director, Health Information Management, West Tennessee Healthcare: We made three important changes that we intend to carry forward:
- Work remotely and/or relocate staff outside the main hospital facility.
- Hold more Zoom meetings/calls in place of in-person meetings.
- Close the HIM Department to outside visitors or relocate this function to a location where visitors have easy access but stay outside the hospital patient care areas.
Sarah Humbert, RHIA, Vice President of Coding Operations, KIWI-TEK: We have always preferred staffing at approximately 20% over the coding need, and we will continue to share and promote this practice in the event of high volumes and illness.
Having survived all or most of the challenges and changes caused by the pandemic, what advice can you offer other revenue cycle leaders for managing a successful HIM department in 2021 and beyond?
Lorie B. Mills: When faced with unprecedented challenges, don’t fear change. A negative beginning is an opportunity to be the driver and navigate the journey for positive change.
Matt Hoeger: I believe that we should continually test our assumptions about how we do business, and force ourselves to try things outside of our comfort zone. Prior to COVID-19, part of my plan for the past three years was to encourage both leadership and staff to get comfortable with a partial work-from-home status. As a result, the coding staff already had the laptops, connectivity, and other resources required.
In addition, we had gone through an emergency preparation planning session where we detailed plans for such emergencies, which was really helpful. For example, all of the coder cell numbers were programmed into the coding manager’s group text function to enable real-time updates. The best advice is to be prepared for the next “what if” situation. Also, redundancy is essential. Never rely on just one of anything, whether it’s a coder for a particular specialty or one laptop with special software needed to code a line of business.
Tracy G. Hickey: When dealing with a difficult situation, crisis or change, always involve your team in planning and making decisions. Be prepared for anything and don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Communication is critical—especially during a crisis.
Sarah Humbert: Open communication is absolutely necessary. With changes in schedules, volumes and coding guidance, email is not sufficient. Connection through phone calls and Zoom meetings has been paramount to bring everyone together.
As we anticipate potential challenges and opportunities in the post-COVID-19 world, the insights and advice shared by our panel of HIM experts is invaluable. Don’t miss Part 1: Bold Steps Taken to Address COVID-19 and Part 2: The Biggest HIM and Revenue Cycle Changes in 2020.