The Covid-19 public health crisis made a complex, often socially-taboo topic front-and-center in 2020: how best to care for the dying. Heart to Heart Hospice, a large, privately-held provider who operates primarily in Texas, Indiana and Michigan, quickly determined that they’d need to deliver a high volume of care via telehealth, particularly to their patients residing in skilled nursing and long term care facilities, because Covid forced lock-downs that restricted their care teams from access. Pivoting from a hands-on to a digital practice was just the beginning of the challenges Heart to Heart and no doubt thousands of post-acute providers had to navigate while juggling declining revenues and unanticipated operational expenses this year. We recently featured Patrick McPherson and Shane Vrana, both of Heart to Heart, in a webinar not just to learn more from their experiences, but to dive into how this hospice organization was able to greatly expand their operations in spite of the Covid-induced obstacles. Beth Prince, vice president of revenue management services at Corridor, joined our panel too, bringing her expertise and practical advice on how hospices can make their revenue cycle management pandemic-proof.
The right technology and responsive tech support
In short order, Heart to Heart’s remotely-supported workforce burgeoned in early 2020 from five to 170, impacting everything from IDG meetings to IT network capacity. When it came to protecting revenues, Shane and Patrick both indicated that the Forcura suite of cloud-based tools played a significant role in keeping their referrals and documentation processes operational and efficient and their care teams connected. Critical information like DNRs could be sent digitally for patients residing at skilled nursing facilities. Teams evaluating home-based patients could instantly transmit referral paperwork and attach to their integrated EHR in minutes, greatly accelerating new patient onboarding and saving teams countless trips to the office. Shane added that porting their fax lines directly into Forcura’s system decreased an often hour-long process for each faxed referral - to practically instantaneous. The time-savings benefit to patients and their loved ones is obvious, as is the impact to Heart to Heart’s bottom line.
Beyond the technology itself, Shane validated that the response time from Forcura’s client support team was and remains superlative - “your team usually gets me a response within the hour” - not just for fixing issues, but for configuring the dashboard to reflect Heart to Heart’s existing processes. Functionality that is currently in development has resulted in part from Forcura collaborating with clients like Heart to Heart Hospice.
With the right technology and tech support in place, Heart to Heart was able to equip their expanded remote workforce with the tools they needed to care for patients during the crisis. More significantly, they were able to move fast in opening new hospice locations throughout the year, confident that their incoming staff and patients would be managed efficiently by the standardized Forcura workflow.
Act now to fortify your revenue cycle management
Beth Prince of Corridor reminded our webinar audience that accurate, timely and thorough documentation is one of the most practical but essential strategies hospices can implement not just during the pandemic, but to prepare for these market dynamics that will impact the hospice sector moving into 2021.
- Medicare Advantage Carve-in: Beth suggests that the number of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans offering the new hospice benefit will be small on January 1, 2021, yet urges hospice providers to prepare for the administrative changes and different contracted rates now. All signs point towards the massive expansion of MA plans and it’s likely more will consider the hospice carve-in. Further, she predicts that MA members will engage hospice services far earlier than the typical two weeks before the end of life.
- Palliative care will also introduce more referring providers, patients and their caregivers to hospice providers’ expertise and services. While palliative care reimbursement is less than hospice benefits, Beth says the real value is the relationships and behavioral changes that could result with up-stream providers and this patient population. Hospices should benefit from referral patterns that ultimately yields increased hospice patient volumes.
- Finally, Beth indicates that patient behavior that arose during the grip of the pandemic, where existing hospice patients opted for hospice care over a hospital emergency visit or admission, will very likely persist. As Patrick shared, this is a welcome change and corrects a pattern that hospice providers have attempted to educate their way through for years, but failed.
Patrick told our audience that Heart to Heart is further diversifying their revenue streams with programs like We Honor Veterans program, entering into the Seriously Ill Patient pilot and are focusing on building out their accountable care organization platform in the coming year. Not only will these three strategies fortify Heart to Heart’s current revenues, the enhanced business processes and quality reporting they’ll implement will certainly provide a degree of pandemic-proof protection for their core services in the years to come.
Our webinar recording is available now on-demand, and I encourage you to catch all 37 minutes for the insights our panel provided! Managing revenue cycles during a pandemic - and beyond - cannot be done without the right people, processes and technology. Forcura is ready to partner with you to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today and learn exactly how Forcura can help you!
As Forcura's Director of Communications and Brand Strategy, Kate brings a robust background and knowledge of the healthcare and post-acute industry to Forcura. She also represents Forcura as a social media ambassador at events around the country, is an on-camera reporter and interviewer, and host of our Innovate Jax podcast.