The Critical Revenue Cycle Element that Hospitals and Health Systems Need May Surprise You

Operating a financially sound healthcare system poses unique challenges – high among them, hiring and retaining high-performing employees. A strong revenue cycle management (RCM) workforce is particularly essential to empowering a health system to nimbly navigate change and advance its mission.

Yet workforce challenges have historically hindered RCM operations. Today, this is compounded by factors like pandemic burnout, competition with non-healthcare organizations for the same workers, and rapidly advancing technology. What’s more, the revenue cycle process is inherently dynamic, with many players – from lawmakers and insurance providers to technological innovators – affecting daily functions. RCM teams must continuously adapt within an ever-evolving system.

As health systems grapple with attracting and retaining talent, they often overlook one critical aspect: culture.

The power of culture

Many healthcare organizations address employee recruitment and retention through tactical solutions, like updating wage indexes. But a purely transactional approach isn’t effective. Leaders will see far greater impact from fostering a culture that inspires candidates and retains existing team members. Healthcare ranks lowest among industries for purposefully engaging employees; only 57% of healthcare workers feel engaged with their work - contributing to a turnover rate only rising since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a complete overhaul of processes or organizational structure to implement meaningful improvements within RCM teams. Three key strategies can make short-term progress while laying the foundation for healthy long-term culture.

1. Clearly define career paths.

Revenue cycle management roles often lack defined career paths, despite the field’s tremendous growth potential. For new employees, clearly communicating available future opportunities beyond their roles will encourage longevity. Publishing career ladder plans that include self-promotion criteria across RCM jobs and departments can demonstrate what’s expected for progression through roles.

As employees advance, providing them with continuing education can distinguish good workplaces from great workplaces. Unlike pure training, pre-programmed protocols to correct issues or fill gaps within the RCM team, professional development offers exploration. Opportunities of this kind can encourage team members to stay at hospitals that support them. For example, Memorial Healthcare in Hollywood, FL, boosted its training programs in 2017, intended to bolster career progression and skill building. As a result, 30% of its open positions were filled, up from 18% in the previous year.

2. Embrace flexibility.

Even in the best of times, healthcare employees experience challenges with work-life integration. Given today’s stressors, and the normalization of remote work, any healthcare organization must strategically consider flexible schedules to prevent burnout and retain employees. RCM teams are no exception.

Of course, some functions require 9-to-5 availability; call centers or insurance follow-up for issues like adjudication or claim status questions often operate only during business hours. Other roles require consistent daytime hours for team continuity, meetings, and coverage, but can accommodate flexible start/end time ranges (e.g., 6-9am start times) for individual situations like early long commutes or childcare and school drop-offs and pick-ups. Some responsibilities, from coding and claims submission to reporting, can be completed asynchronously and provide even more options.

For specific teams and roles, reimagining work hours and location, whether remote, in-office, or hybrid approaches, enables organizations to maximize the clock across the entire workforce. While needs vary based on organization-specific factors, like size and breadth of services, flexibility has clear benefits over a one-size-fits-all mentality and supports work-life balance in a way that employees will value.

3. Facilitate intentional team connections.

Increased remote and hybrid work schedules demand thoughtful communication patterns to engage RCM colleagues who may have never met each other. New employees and managers alike can benefit from detailed onboarding structures clearly outlining expectations. Intentional 1:1 meetings with other team members can also encourage new employee integration.

Personal touches go far: for example, spontaneous check-ins with leaders, virtual lunches, and “water cooler” Teams chats. In the world of RCM, where information updates every day, these small steps can deliver high return by cultivating proactive information-sharing to keep teams flexible amidst daily operational fluctuations.

Prioritizing people

The immediate future holds further internal and external shifts for revenue cycle teams. That’s why at Cloudmed, we’re prioritizing culture-building alongside our clients, as we are committed to retaining our people who form the foundation of our strong customer partnerships. Gestures both big and small – from monthly recognition boards, company merchandise, sponsored lunches, and active Employee Resource Groups to a flexible-first environment – help us retain and grow our world-class workforce.

Since we see RCM teams as the heartbeat of a health system, we believe culture must be addressed. For an operation that serves as a key touchpoint in the healthcare landscape and drives revenue for the whole system, individual team members must be a leading priority. Culture, built through personal moments, creates team buy-in across the system to cultivate agility amidst change.

John Lynch

John Lynch is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Denials and A/R Services at Cloudmed. He is an accomplished healthcare executive with considerable experience in growing and building high-performing teams and cultures through senior leadership roles in operations, consulting, and tech implementation. Prior to Cloudmed, he held RCM leadership roles at R1, Optum360, and HBI. 

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.