In today’s ever-changing healthcare landscape, physicians are no longer just responsible for providing patient care. Every aspect of the revenue cycle is impacted by physicians: they need to communicate with patient access staff to get patients scheduled and make sure ordered services are authorized; their documentation needs to be clear and specific to ensure accurate coding and billing; and many physicians are being given the responsibility of selecting their own codes for certain patient encounters, all of which can have a significant impact on an organization’s reimbursement. To help bridge the gap between physicians and the revenue cycle, many revenue cycle leaders are starting to provide education during physician onboarding—and some are offering continued education opportunities afterwards—to ensure physicians understand revenue cycle functions and the impact they have on them.
While 2018 HBI survey results show that only 11% of organizations have a formal training program in place for physicians on the entire revenue cycle continuum, 67% reported having one in place for coding, and 78% have a program in place for clinical documentation standards. This is likely due to the fact that coding and documentation are rarely taught or emphasized during medical school, yet have significant compliance implications and impact on an organization’s bottom line.
There is a rising need for physicians to receive revenue cycle-focused education, especially on proper coding and documentation practices. The following strategies can be used to help leaders successfully incorporate revenue cycle topics into physician onboarding and continued education.
Hold Classroom-Style Sessions: During initial onboarding, provide revenue-cycle education in a classroom setting. Start the sessions with broad topics, such as reviewing departmental policies, and lead into more specific education. Physicians may even break out into smaller groups to learn specialty-specific nuances.
Give Examples: To help physicians truly understand how their work impacts different areas of the revenue cycle, share specific examples of how documentation, coding, and communication with different departments can affect patient care outcomes. In some cases, it may be beneficial to show physicians the financial impact of coding or documentation-related denials, though many physicians are more receptive to data regarding patient care than revenue.
Offer Learning Modules: Given physicians’ busy schedules, online learning modules can serve as an effective educational tool that physicians can complete on their own time and easily revisit.
Provide Follow-up Education: To ensure continued optimal performance, monitor physicians’ progress post-orientation by tracking performance metrics and conducting regular audits. Some organizations offer optional follow-up education as soon as they notice a physician’s performance starting to regress, while others may require all physicians who fail their audits to receive additional education.
Make Resources Easily Available: To provide continued support, organizations can give physicians tip sheets, brochures, or even contact information for key support roles, such as service line coders or CDI specialists. One organization even moved the CDI office across the hall from the hospitalists to increase communication and collaboration between both departments.
Solicit Feedback: Regardless of the educational method, ask physicians to provide anonymous feedback on the content and delivery of the education provided in order to improve future education sessions.
The need for physician revenue cycle education is continuing to grow as physicians take on more responsibilities that connect them to the revenue cycle. Even if leaders can’t gain buy-in to include revenue cycle education during physician orientation and onboarding, it is still important to make sure physicians are taught key revenue cycle topics and how their workload affects them in order to enhance accuracy, efficiency, and communication between physicians and the revenue cycle.
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