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AP Automation provides pain management for healthcare finance teams

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Article

Medical professionals use advanced technology to deliver optimal patient care on the frontline, but data shows that many business offices in the healthcare industry are hesitant to do the same.

digital brain | © Elnur - stock.adobe.com

© Elnur - stock.adobe.com

Hospitals, healthcare facilities and physicians’ offices across the U.S. are grappling with inflation, rising labor costs, severe staffing shortages, and critically low margins resulting in closures nationwide. Additional challenges include disagreements between payers and providers, patient engagement and retention, and cybersecurity.

Medical professionals use advanced technology to deliver optimal patient care on the frontline, but data shows that many business offices in the healthcare industry are hesitant to do the same. PYMNTS reported in 2022 that up to 85% of payments in the healthcare industry are still made by check or other paper-based methods.

Pain points for healthcare finance teams

And that brings us to the topic of pain, as in the Pain Points experienced on a daily basis by finance teams at healthcare-related businesses:

  • Paper-based documentation:
    • Paper invoices and documents can easily get lost or misplaced, leading to delays in processing payments and difficulties retrieving information.
    • Physical storage of paper documents requires space and can be prone to damage, such as fire or water damage, which could result in the loss of important financial records.
  • Inefficient invoice processing:
    • Manual data entry of invoice details is time-consuming and increases the likelihood of errors, such as incorrect payment amounts or vendor information.
    • Matching invoices with purchase orders and manually receiving documents can be tedious and error-prone, leading to payment discrepancies and disputes.
  • Lack of visibility and control:
    • Tracking the status of invoices and payments becomes challenging without a centralized system, leading to delays and difficulties in managing cash flow.
    • Without real-time visibility, it is harder to identify bottlenecks in the AP process and address them promptly. This can lead to missed payment deadlines and strained relationships with vendors.
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements:
    • The healthcare industry has specific regulations and reporting requirements related to resident billing, Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, and other financial aspects.
    • Manual processes increase the risk of non-compliance, making it more challenging to accurately track and document the necessary information, increasing the likelihood of errors and audit failures.
  • Limited scalability:
    • As hospitals, healthcare facilities and physicians’ offices expand their portfolio of vendors and services, manual AP processes become increasingly complex to manage effectively. Hiring additional staff to handle the increasing workload can be costly, and the risk of errors and delays also rises.
  • Manual approval workflows:
    • Routing physical documents for approvals can introduce significant delays, especially if approvals must go through multiple individuals or departments.
    • Lack of automated approval workflows can result in lost or misplaced documents, confusion regarding approval status, and difficulties in enforcing consistent approval policies.
  • Audit and reporting difficulties:
    • Generating accurate and detailed audit reports becomes time-consuming and error-prone when relying on manual processes.
    • Retrieving data from various sources and consolidating information manually increases the risk of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in financial reporting.

Fortunately, 2023 is in the digital age and tactical solutions exist to provide pain management and streamline operations for finance offices. Many routine Accounts Payable (AP) processes can now be automated such as handling patient intake, transferring electronic health records, offering virtual facility tours and more. The effectiveness of these tools has resulted in healthcare finance professionals being able to use both human and financial capital to focus more on patient care rather than on time-consuming, paper-pushing tasks.

By moving to an automated payment and invoice platform, staff members at hospitals, healthcare facilities and physicians’ offices can save hundreds of hours a year that were spent tracking invoices as well as printing, stuffing and mailing checks. Finance automation creates opportunities to develop and execute strategic initiatives such as increasing revenue, investing more time in employees, and emphasizing employee benefits.

Benefits of AP automation

To increase efficiency and achieve resiliency, especially during times of economic downturns or uncertainties, AP automation delivers the control and adaptability that healthcare finance teams need in a number of ways:

Shorter procure-to-pay (P2P) cycle

Manual processing is costly and drastically slows down the invoice-to-pay cycle. Cloud-based AP Automation solutions make it easy for healthcare entities of any size to go digital and achieve increased efficiency and profitability. Best-in-class finance automation software saves countless hours on invoice and payment processing, while also significantly lowering both the invoice costs and the payment processing costs.

Early payment discounts

It’s nearly impossible to take advantage of perks like early payment discounts if a hospital, healthcare facility or physicians’ office is already struggling to get invoices approved and processed on time due to manual workflows. With AP Automation, healthcare entities can take advantage of incentives like this and save money to grow the organization’s bottom line.

Increased compliance

Payment Automation solutions securely manage costly and time-intensive audit processes such as:

  • ACH Rules Compliance Audit
    • This audit, required by the Nacha Operating Rules, states that all participating depository financial institutions, Third-Party Service Providers, and Third-Party Senders conduct a risk-based ACH Rules Compliance Audit each year.
  • SOC 2
    • Developed by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), this audit is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud.
  • The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
    • Launched in 2006, this a set of requirements intended to ensure that all companies that process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.
  • OFAC
    • Top solutions have built-in compliance-enhancing functions, such as centralized record-keeping for audit purposes, critical to demonstrating The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) compliance.

Additionally, invoice automation solutions help with audits by providing finance teams with a fail-safe electronic paper trail. Once implemented, all invoices have a track of approvals, changes, and additional notes so auditors can easily view the process from start to finish.

Enhanced visibility into cash flow

Often, manual processes result in a need for more visibility into cash flow, which is critical during times of economic uncertainty. Real-time visibility into cash flow and corporate spending enables healthcare businesses to understand their short-term and long-term working capital needs, identify potential gaps and adjust as needed.

Better supplier relationships

Delayed payments can cause strained relationships with vendors. In 2022, an article in PYMNTS reported that 59% of suppliers that had been paid late reduced or halted discounts, and 62% withheld goods or services that were ordered until invoices were paid. Faster invoice processing means healthcare facilities can pay vendors quicker and remain in good standing.

Improved quality of care for patients

Premier invoice automation technology is HIPAA-compliant and has features in place to secure and protect patient information. With greater efficiency and enhanced security, health systems have more time to provide exceptional care for their communities' patients.

In conclusion

The healthcare industry is a critical part of the U.S. economy. Modernizing and transforming Accounts Payable departments at hospitals, healthcare organizations and physicians’ offices will make them more efficient, secure and resilient – not to mention pain-free – so this essential industry can thrive.

John Zaudtke is Vice President of Sales at Paymerang, a Richmond, Va.-based firm specializing in finance automation solutions. Paymerang provides a streamlined invoice and payment automation platform that brings Accounts Payable (AP) departments into the modern age. To learn more, visit paymerang.com.

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