As part of a new interview series with Healthcare Leaders across the country, the Olive team had the chance to interview healthcare consultant, Six Sigma Black Belt and Revenue Cycle expert April Langford about the biggest challenges facing healthcare today. Previous to starting AML Consulting, her own revenue cycle consulting firm, April was the VP of Finance at UPMC, a leading integrated healthcare delivery system. In addition to AML Consulting, she currently is co-founder and CEO of revcyclematch.com, an online platform that connects providers to their future business partners. revcyclematch.com reimagined Revenue Cycle management partnerships with a new platform that makes tedious marketing and client acquisition practices obsolete.
What are the biggest challenges you see leaders in Revenue Cycle facing?
Today, there are so many new regulations Revenue Cycle leaders have to react to, increasing federal, state and payer requirements, and the shift to value-based care has also come into play. The movement to value based care is more closely aligning the clinical and financial world in healthcare.
This expansion of Revenue Cycle into quality of care is interesting – Revenue Cycle leaders now find themselves responsible for health information management and care management, expanding their scope of management.
What role do you see technology playing in solving these challenges now, and five years from now?
As health systems grow and continue to accumulate multiple EMR, EHR and other disparate software, technology has to play a growing role in interfacing and connecting those systems so that organizations can operate as one integrated health system. Interoperability is important for the institution and the quality of care for consumers. At each point along the Revenue Cycle today, there are new technologies emerging to solve any given issue. Defining, selecting and implementing new systems is paramount to a smooth-running revenue cycle.
In 5 years, I foresee technology playing an even bigger role across the continuum of care. Being able to tie patient data together so that physicians and care-givers have a holistic view of a patient will increase the quality of care. What will the implications to billing be? Contracting and billing for value-based care will bring about increased complexities and new technologies to be able to manage billing and collections to ensure proper payment.
How does the shift to value-based care impact revenue cycle?
This has been an ongoing conversation, and as the shift to value-based care continues, it’s becoming more imperative for healthcare systems to master the evolving value-based payment and delivery models. It’s an evolution and it’s still rather new so organizations are just starting to model how to get there. Working to improve reimbursements, focusing on patient care and looking outside of the industry for innovative strategies to implement are a few areas where I see people focusing as the industry shifts to value-based care. Navigating that shift is one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare organizations today.
At Olive, we talk a lot about the concept of ShiftWork (shifting the mundane work currently done by employees to technology, so people can focus on work that requires a human touch) and how it will impact the current staff at health organizations. What higher-value activities do you see employees taking on as burdensome tasks are handed off to technology?
Honestly, it always seems like there is more work to do in the healthcare industry – often times even more work then there are people to complete the tasks. At many hospitals, there are a significant amount of open positions to fill at any given time.
I think the best approach to shifting work successfully is to talk to the employee first, because I’ve learned that if you understand what a person likes to do, it’s generally what they’re good at, as well. And when you have the focus to re-allocate employees time to more meaningful work, it gives them opportunities to grow and learn, ultimately helping them be more fulfilled.
Tell us about a person who mentored, inspired or impacted you during your career.
I have so many! I would say early on at UPMC, Don Riefner hired me not once, but twice, across different areas of the healthcare industry, so he spent many years influencing the trajectory of my career. And he was a great boss, extremely smart and thoughtful, never micro-managed and was always a calm voice of reason.
Can you share a piece of advice that someone gave you over the course of your career?
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice over the years, but the previous CFO and COO at UPMC was a great mentor and taught me something that always served me well. He taught me that I needed to be able to answer the who, what, when, where, and how before he accepted a recommendation. I needed to be 8 levels deep to achieve expertise. That’s always stayed with me as a truly valuable piece of career advice.