5 Steps to Simplify and Strengthen Your ASC’s Revenue Cycle

Ambulatory Surgery Centers have a significant strategic advantage compared to traditional hospital settings. From lower costs for patients and payors to higher earning potential for surgeons and lower operating costs for investors, ASCs are attractive to every stakeholder.

However, these advantages are only possible when an ASC’s revenue cycle is stable. Whether due to inefficiencies or non-payment, ASCs nationwide struggle to manage their way to profitability.

In this article, we’ll share five steps for simplifying your ASC’s revenue cycle to increase efficiency, recover more payments, and avoid interruptions to your cash flow from denials.

1. Proactively Communicate Patient Financial Responsibilities

Unpaid patient debt seems like it comes with the territory for ASCs, but the truth is no revenue cycle can sustain it. As deductibles and patient responsibility for out-of-pocket costs increase, the risk of unpaid patient debt grows for ASCs.

To stabilize your revenue cycle, collecting patient payments upfront is crucial. Doing so successfully starts with proactive communication and price transparency. Once a procedure is authorized, connect with the patient to discuss their payment obligations and put a payment plan in place if necessary. With nearly a quarter of all patients facing surprise medical bills, payment plans can help patients manage treatment costs, especially if they’re in financial distress.

Investing in the collection process is a savvy move. While upfront costs related to staffing or collection tools may seem like a nuisance, the increased payments often drive a more predictable revenue cycle while improving the patient experience.

2. Link Your CPT Codes and Preference Cards

ASCs are fortunate because their procedures are limited compared to hospital ORs. This makes it easier for your facility to use preference cards in tandem with CPT codes to simplify scheduling and billing.

When a CPT code and preference card are linked, your team can quickly prepare for procedures and ensure the necessary equipment is ready. Likewise, after the procedure, CPT codes associated with preference cards can ensure that costs related to equipment and materials are accurately accounted for, reducing billing errors.

Sullivan’s expert consultants have led new standards in CPT use cases for over 15 years. To learn more about how your ASC can optimize its CPT coding, contact our team now.

Related read: Optimize Your OR by Reframing How You Use CPT Codes

3. Leverage Your Technology to Increase Efficiency

A key reason that ASCs see so much success is that they’re at the leading edge of medical technology. In the OR, this allows ASCs to perform minimally invasive procedures, thus decreasing patients’ recovery time and costing them less than in a hospital. However, ASCs need to extrapolate their efficiency in the OR to every area of their operation. Scheduling, instrument tracking, EHR, and billing tools are often underutilized, creating more busy work for everyone. Using these tools to their full potential will stabilize your cash flow and improve your revenue cycle.

To get started making the most of your ASC’s technology, dedicate a point person to investigate each tool or software’s capabilities. From there, identify how current systems can be incorporated into the programs and improved. Finally, when a process is refined, roll it out throughout the organization.

At this point, buy-in from all staff is essential. Permitting surgeons, nurses, or support staff to continue using legacy processes will cause confusion, lead to errors, and give the appearance of preferential treatment. Make it clear why the changes are being made and why each person involved with the process must do their part.

After implementing changes to your facility’s workflows, continue exploring software updates and new product capabilities. Changing your processes as your tools evolve will help your facility continue growing while seeing fewer significant shakeups. It’s often easier for staff to make a series of incremental changes than to learn an entirely new system.

Finally, understand the concerns your staff will have as processes change. Surgeons, nurses, and administrators may want to continue using old systems they’re more familiar with. Ensuring that your staff has the support they need to make the transition successfully is vital for reducing errors and seeing a positive impact on your revenue cycle.

4. Complete Same-Day Dictation

A smooth cash flow and revenue cycle depends on your ability to submit claims to payors as soon as possible. A common cause for delay is the time patient-note dictation and transcription take. Delays in dictation mean your facility is waiting around to get paid.

Unfortunately, saying ‘do it faster’ isn’t a real solution. Talk to your surgical staff to identify what’s holding them back and implement solutions that address their pain points. Good starting points often include:

  • Using an EHR with built-in dictation and transcription capabilities.
  • Accounting for dictation while scheduling procedures so surgeons have time to complete it as promptly as possible.
  • Redistributing tasks among support staff so surgeons can prioritize dictation.

5. Conduct Regular Audits to Identify Revenue Leaks

Complacency leads to lost revenue in ASCs. If you don’t regularly audit your facility’s revenue cycle, you’re probably leaving money on the table. Typical revenue leaks that appear over time include:

  • Coding errors: Using the wrong codes can result in non-compliance, denials, and inadequate reimbursement. In short, your ASC will be in the red if your coding is full of errors.
  • Accounts receivable management: Lengthy payment collection timelines lead to an unstable cash flow. If you have a significant amount of bad debt, it’s a good sign that your collections process — and your pre-procedure payment communication — needs improvement.
  • Denials: Whether they’re due to a lack of authorization or pre-approval, billing errors, incomplete documentation, or anything else, denials can create severe problems for your ASC’s revenue cycle. If your facility faces numerous denials, investigate the causes and implement a verification process to reduce them dramatically.

Ready to Stabilize Your Revenue Cycle and Manage to Higher Margins?

A stable revenue cycle is the foundation for a profitable ASC. However, getting there is no simple task. Fortunately, your team doesn’t have to figure it out through trial and error. Sullivan Healthcare Consulting’s experts have guided ASCs to profitable outcomes for decades.

Our seasoned consultants can help you benchmark your services, identify what isn’t working, build consensus for an evidence-based solution, and help you implement it. To learn more about how our team of perioperative experts can help elevate your ASC’s margins, get in touch with Sullivan Healthcare Consulting today. 

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