Cloud-based software boosts revenue cycle management, eases EHR switch

One hospital used data analytics from cloud-based software to ease the transition to a new EHR, keep track of payer trends and more.

When Brookwood Baptist Health in Birmingham, Ala., moved over to Epic Systems Corp.'s EHR, its initial goal was to find a way to continue to track trends in revenue cycle during the transition. However, the health system discovered that cloud-based software combined with data analytics enabled users to do much more.

Brookwood Baptist chose MedeAnalytics' Business Office, a cloud-based software that analyzes revenue cycle data, such as accounts receivable, transactions and charges. The technology needed to meet specific aims: To keep revenue cycle operations up and running, avoid having to build a new platform and make use of the robust analytics MedeAnalytics provides, Pete Welch, senior revenue cycle analyst at Brookwood Baptist Health, said.

"Rather than building a platform from the ground up, we tried to keep all of our classic reporting that we'd been using for the previous five or six years but just turned it into something that looked more like Epic," Welch said. "Mede[Analytics] was really great at helping us do all that mapping and helping us determine exactly what data elements we needed to send over to them."

The main goal in using MedeAnalytics was to gain deep insight into payer trends. However, Brookwood Baptist discovered that using this software also helped it maintain patient satisfaction, relieve the pressure on the IT team and create ad hoc reports in a timely manner.

How MedeAnalytics works

Baptist is currently still using its old EHR system that deals with accounts receivable as well as Epic. "[MedeAnalytics] takes all that data for both of those systems and then puts it into a database," Welch explained. "Then they give us a platform that does heavy analytics and trending, a lot of graphing capabilities, [which] just enables us to do a lot of things with the data that we wouldn't be able to do within the EHR system."

Tom Schaal, director of product management at MedeAnalytics, said that the company's Business Office software sits on top of a variety of technologies, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Vertica, SQL and Hadoop.

He added that users can transmit their data to MedeAnalytics in a variety of ways. For example, "Either real-time via an HL7 message that comes across through a VPN tunnel," Schaal said. "[Or] a batch file that we accept via an sFTP server and then load through an ETL process, which is extracted, transformed and loaded into our system."

Rather than building a platform from the ground up, we tried to keep all of our classic reporting that we'd been using for the previous five or six years but just turned it into something that looked more like Epic.
Pete Welch, senior revenue cycle analyst at Brookwood Baptist Health

Typically, MedeAnalytics' Business Office software takes 90 days to implement, Dena Moye, subject matter expert/product strategy at MedeAnalytics, said. However, healthcare organizations are often juggling many other priorities and that can prolong the implementation process.

"The [MedeAnalytics] implementation team delivers file specifications to the client, and often we have background with the host system that the client is using so that we can also suggest actual data element sources from the host system to speed up the extract process," Moye explained. "The client writes the extract, we partner with them to check it and balance it back to the host system."

She added that MedeAnalytics also typically loads two years' worth of historical transaction, charge and account data.

"From the beginning, the client will have the ability to trend volume and look at their business as a whole," she said.

Benefits of revenue cycle data analytics

For Brookwood Baptist, the initial goal was to use this cloud-based software to better pinpoint trends in their revenue cycle data while switching EHRs. But data analytics proved more valuable than just helping with an EHR transition.

The cloud-based software also helped Brookwood Baptist resolve problems that had the potential to annoy patients.

"We had a situation where all of a sudden we had more private pay than we had traditionally had," he said. "It turned out there was a process or workflow issue that was keeping us from getting the insurance onto some of the accounts that were coming in through the emergency room."

Brookwood Baptist was able to discover this problem because MedeAnalytics' cloud-based software spotted anomalies.

"We were able to get most of those fixed before bills would have gone out to patients," Welch said. "So we didn't have patients getting huge bills when they were insured." This undoubtedly saved patients a lot of grief.

Welch added that the software also helped alleviate pressure on the IT team because MedeAnalytics allows people working on the administrative side to build their own reports. Doing so means "we don't have to constantly bombard our IT staff with requests for new reporting," Welch said. This, in turn, meant the IT team could focus on staying on schedule during the transition to the new EHR and moving functionalities into the new system.

Welch said he thinks the ability to create ad hoc reports quickly is a real benefit.

"When somebody, say a CFO, spots a trend and then they think [it] looks odd, we're able to pretty quickly produce several reports that look at what might be causing that," he said. MedeAnalytics can drill into the reports and look at the details underneath. For example, Welch said he can look at the accounts that are causing fluctuations. Most of the time, Welch added, this enables the revenue cycle team to respond to the CFO within the same day.

"Traditionally, those things took a lot longer," he said. "The response time that we're able to get things back to people when they're asking questions is a real benefit to everybody."

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