HFMA ANI 2009: Revenue cycle management rules the day

Readers, I'm about to board a plane to leave lovely Seattle and head back to our Washington, DC headquarters, but before I go, I'll share with you my impressions of HFMA ANI 2009. What a great show: lots of great ideas to consider, thoughtful audiences at sessions and a manageable conference space. There was a bit of a vendor overload on the exhibit floor, but that's to be expected, no?

My key takeaways from the show include the following:

* Revenue cycle management topics were by far the most interesting thing at the show. Banks, investment funds and technology vendors are well aware that if providers can't cut costs any more, and can't borrow money easily, collecting money quickly and easily is key. Where collecting from self-pay patients isn't working, new factoring schemes are blossoming, too.

* Making it easy for patients to pay--particularly through well-placed kiosks and web portals--seems to be a winning strategy for hospitals. (See our case study on how Adventist Health has built self-service volume despite doing virtually no little marketing.)

* Capital markets continue to be very tight, and there's no magic bullet for improving your credit rating and access to funding. Solutions that the consulting pros offered were the same old song, including consolidation, improving care quality and the like. (The Build America bonds offered under the stimulus plan may not be any help, as they offer irregular cash flow, according to one speaker.)

* Beware the RACs: They're as tough as you expect them to be. But obsessive preparation through internal chart reviews and case management, plus connecting with a physician adviser for review, can help in winning RAC challenges.

If you were at the show, I'd love to hear what you noticed, what you learned, and especially, how you plan to respond. I realize that with reform looming, some of you are taking a wait-and-see posture, but life goes on regardless of what the wise men and women do on the Hill. So tell me: Are you ready for what's next? - Anne