The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic caused hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country “resource angst” as they scrambled to set colleagues up to work from home, furloughed colleagues in areas where services were halted and tried to find extra hands to help expedite medical billing processes and collections.
Here we recap the webinar, “Leveraging education as a key strategy of a solid business plan,” where nThrive Education Vice President Beth Ottinger addressed strategies to build an education plan, what the plans encompass, and how to use them for colleague cross-training and as a community hire plan.
Ottinger shared that when elective surgeries were recently shut down, many hospitals shifted outpatient medical coders to inpatient medical coding roles to manage the volume shift. That quick pivot was the result of proactive cross-training plans that had been implemented before the COVID-19 outbreak. Still more healthcare organizations cross-trained patient access colleagues to work in the back end in medical billing to help preserve cash and a number of organizations trained select colleagues to be SMEs on COVID-19 billing and coding, funneling all those claims to the new SMEs for quick expedition out the door.
How to begin?
Ottinger recommends a six-step plan:
1. Obtain buy-in/support from your health organization leaders
2. Form a team across the revenue cycle
3. Assess colleagues’ current level of knowledge
4. Remediate for colleague knowledge gaps in the role
5. Lay out a logical education path for cross-training/career path broadening
6. Final assessment to determine role readiness
Building education maps
For roles in which you plan to cross-train or enhance current roles within your hospital or healthcare organization, building maps to act as guides is a crucial step. Hold onto them – these maps will prove useful as resources for training in the future and as you expand education programs, recommends Ottinger. Be sure to include a pre-assessment, followed by course topics presented in a logical sequence. For example, if training outpatient coders to become inpatient coders, start with course topic “Diagnostic Inpatient Coding Foundations.” Under that header, add the content necessary for colleague mastery of that topic. After identifying all topics and content, add in practice tools, a sandbox where colleagues can run through exercises and simulations to build proficiency. The last step of the education map should include a final assessment or test to assess knowledge, skills and readiness for the new role at your hospital or healthcare organization.
Strategies for a strong education plan
Onboarding – most organizations provide varying degrees of new hire training. Providing role training as part of onboarding ensures consistency in output, particularly in roles such as Patient Access and Patient Financial Solutions that are filled by recent high school graduates or new hires with no healthcare experience. If you have a colleague who does the training, be sure to assess their knowledge level, too! The healthcare industry changes constantly and you don’t want your trainers passing on incorrect information to new colleagues.
Assessments – Ottinger noted that assessments really are an effective method for determining where the colleague training should begin.
Continuing Education – Don’t make the mistake of training only new colleagues. Supplying colleagues with continuing education opportunities, no matter their level, is critical. For those with certifications, offering education solutions that provide CEU’s can be extremely productive for employee growth and the revenue cycle success of your healthcare organization. Additionally, providing the opportunity for educational advancement and certification opportunities is a strong advantage to job seekers.
Cross-training – being able to nimbly shift colleagues from slow areas to areas where there are resource gaps is faster than onboarding new hires and can spare furloughs. Here’s a real example touting the value of cross-training: It’s been found that 90 percent of claim denials are preventable. About 24 percent of denials are due to errors from the front end, such as registration and eligibility. Educating front end colleagues about denials management can mitigate issues on the back end. Educating physicians about documentation can improve coding and ultimately improve denials management at your hospital or healthcare organization.
Generational learning – everyone learns differently
Did you know that for the first time there are five generations in the workplace? The traditionalists – pre 1945, Baby Boomers – 1946 to 1964, Generation X – 1965 to 1980, Generation Y (millennials) – 1981 to 2000 and Generation Z – 2001 to present. Generations X and Y account for the majority of the workforce and for them, traditional learning methods, such as PowerPoint and image-based online learning are not as effective. Gen X and Y-ers are technology competent, have short attention spans and want quick, to the point, real world education that is engaging. They’re highly visual learners who like using social media (think YouTube) to learn. They also like to play video games. So how does all this translate to an education program? Deliver a blend of traditional teaching methods with gaming, animation, videos and self-paced webinars.
Deliver education with an eye on cost
Producing quality education courses in-house can be time consuming, calling for computer technology expertise and requiring constant updates to content. Revenue cycle education can deliver impactful curriculums for your healthcare organization economically while providing regularly updated content that keeps your staff evolving.
Education – key to greatness
In her closing, Ottinger quoted Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X in which they advocated for education. Earlier in her presentation, she quoted Stephen Covey, which makes a fitting end to this recap. “To quote Dr. Stephen Covey, ‘We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.’ In healthcare, we want to be great. How do we sharpen the saws in this arena? We continually educate.” Invest in education to sharpen the skills of your greatest assets – your colleagues.