Bud Meadows

Sticky notes

Healthcare in the U.S. seems to be in a constant state of hand-wringing, not the least of which concerns how complicated it is to bill and pay for care. It is hard to imagine that something so straightforward could be so complex. Curiosity about this, or more of a desire to learn, has always driven me.

Complex, confusing, disorganized, unprofitable, duplicative, wasteful — pick your negative adjective and it’s been applied to the administrative side of healthcare. Thinking about unraveling all the complicated systems can be daunting. Where to start?

When asked how you climb a mountain, the simple answer is: One step at a time. We went to our customers — the billers, the patient financial reps and the case managers — and asked what they did in the five minutes before they used one of our services and the five minutes after.

When we asked, they ended up telling us about their entire day and how they would improve it. Honestly, I think that we were the first who asked them and then genuinely cared to listen. Broken down step by step, their “workflow” went something like this:

  • A billing, admissions, or finance person spends hours online and on the phone checking eligibility and claims status for the provider’s list of patients.
  • They compile a report about their online work and print it out.
  • The paper report starts moving around the office to the next person who needs it.
  • The billing, admissions, or finance person keeps a copy at their desk, to refer to it the next time they need it.
  • Sticky notes remind the staff member of the next steps to be taken, perhaps the next day or in a week or two. Hopefully they’ll remember to look at them.

Isn’t it amazing that one of the most complex businesses in the country (healthcare) still depends on so many manual processes (and human memory) to work?

At ABILITY, we’re always trying to find out which of those processes that make healthcare work could be automated, streamlined, or simplified.

The workflow improvements we develop often come in increments: technology that eliminates the five minutes it takes to write out a note; the 15 minutes it takes to look up multiple payers for one patient; the 30 minutes it takes to call a payer and learn their requirements for submitting an eligibility request; and the time-consuming process to refer a patient to a post-acute provider and assure a smooth transition of care. Minutes saved, and actions streamlined, all add up.

Every service we’ve ever developed has been at the request of a provider with whom we’ve worked. Let’s keep the conversation going. In a world that moves as fast as ours, we will work together to improve healthcare five minutes at a time.

What manual steps in your healthcare practice could be simplified, automated, or streamlined?