Our industry’s transition to EHRs has opened new doors for health information management (HIM). HIM’s operational areas have become more specialized than ever. The result? Many healthcare executives are now able to reduce expenses, reallocate staff and free up space through centralization and remote workers.
According to a recent HealthLeaders CFO Forum, hospital executives must make deeper cost cuts while simultaneously creating new opportunities for revenue generation. Outsourcing of specific HIM functions is one way to free up space and reduce costs.
HIM outsourcing isn’t for everyone however. There are situations where health information management outsourcing doesn’t make sense. I’d like to cover each of these as well as describe what’s worked The MRA Team
Single Function or Entire Department
Traditionally, single HIM functions such as release of information (ROI), document scanning, medical transcription, and clinical coding were the ideal choices for outsourcing. With the increased adoption of the electronic medical record, additional functions can often times be centralized, outsourced or otherwise moved off site. As we see more consolidation of hospitals and practices, HIM departments can look for opportunities to drive efficiency and adopt best practices through these kinds of practices.
Changing The HIM Status Quo
HIM outsourcing is a good idea when you want to standardize all HIM functions across multiple care locations. Standardization helps drive best practices, improve quality and enhance the patient experience. Outsourcing coupled with centralization is recommended when there are significant backlogs, antiquated processes, and a lack of HIM leadership. Such was the case at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts, when they elected to completely outsource their HIM department in 2014, as reported in their case study. Massachusetts Eye and Ear saved on employee expenses, resulting in almost a 30% reduction in operational costs for HIM.
When is HIM Outsourcing Not a Good Idea?
HIM outsourcing is not recommended for organizations with strong HIM leadership and successful, intradepartmental relationships in place. Change-averse organizations should probably steer clear of complete HIM outsourcing. However, remote HIM delivers significant cost and personnel benefits and should be strongly considered as a future strategy.
Remote HIM Warrants Executive Consideration
Medical transcriptionists went remote in the late 1990s. Clinical coders followed in early 2000s. Today, most HIM functions can be performed remotely. Remote HIM processing has many benefits, including:.
- Larger candidate pool for healthcare providers. Whether you have a staff of five or 25, sick days, vacations and PTO are a constant battle. Remote, work-from-home options or centralized offsite help to alleviate these concerns.
- Strong hiring advantage. Experienced, credentialed HIM professionals are often hard to find—and harder to keep. By offering a remote, work-from-home option, hospitals increase their candidate pool while providing a valuable employment incentive. Staffs that aren’t required to commute daily are happier and more productive.
Supporting a remote workforce also brings organizational disadvantages. For example, it is harder to build culture with a remote staff. Turnaround times with no face-to-face communication can be a short-term challenge. Finally, there are additional technology and labor challenges that must be addressed to successfully manage a remote workforce.
Evaluating Your Options—What Worked for MRA
Why Choose MRA to assess their HIM operations and evaluate optional management strategies. The first step is to conduct a three- to four-week departmental assessment to determine optimal HIM staffing, comparing the organization’s volumes and unique challenges with regional HIM performance benchmarks.
Our experts assess how all the various HIM functions are performed and compare workflows, policies and procedures to those found in similar environments. We then lay out an action plan and share with senior management. Sometimes our action plans include outsourcing and sometimes they do not. The initial assessment drives go-forward recommendations.
Options include hiring the hospital’s existing staff, centralizing HIM functions across locations, outsourcing only specific functions, or completely offloading the entire HIM function. In one situation, complete HIM outsourcing saved one hospital almost 30 percent in operational costs. As Mike Ricci, CIO of Mass. Eye & Ear affirms, "MRA's forward-thinking experts are always looking out for our best interests."
The potential for partnerships like this gets us excited about the future of HIM outsourcing. What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s a good fit for your organization? Why?
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