Pathology practices and laboratories across the country have begun to feel the financial impact of COVID-19. With most states placing a moratorium on elective surgeries until late April, or strongly recommending it, diagnostics providers are seeing anywhere from a 30-60% drop in their outreach volumes (see our Lab Volume Index for a more detailed breakdown). With the deterioration of margins in the path/lab space, we’re all under pressure to assess every opportunity to generate revenue in the midst of one of the most significant and rapid economic declines in history.
As healthcare providers, we often find ourselves in a relatively stable environment. Whether it’s economics or world politics, healthcare is generally isolated from recession-related events. So when most practices anticipated restrictions on elective procedures, proactive discussions should have taken place to discuss the need to align business needs around the potential volume impact, and RCM should have been among the top three on the list for review.
RCM teams are the kingpins of revenue generation. When volume takes a hit, it is the team’s responsibility to seek out every opportunity to clean up queues and outstanding AR, and build systematic logic to more effectively streamline processes. One day the healthcare engine will turn back on, and when it does, your RCM provider better be prepared.
We have to keep in mind that pathology isn’t the only segment struggling right now. Every surgeon, anesthesiologist, radiologist, gastroenterologist, etc., that performs elective surgeries shares our pain. Once restrictions are lifted, every segment of this industry will go into hyperdrive, and pathology and molecular testing providers should brace for a spike in volume once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.
So while practices plan how they will manage the weeks ahead, let us not overlook the importance of how RCM can provide the most significant vulnerability to revenue stabilization. If a bolus of volume is received and billing companies aren’t prepared or don’t have the workforce to support the spike in volume, horrendous backlogs will plague them. In that case, it’s inevitable they won’t get collections in the door nearly fast enough for their clients to feel any relief. While these potential challenges won’t necessarily be evident now, in a matter of weeks or months, their performance will be put to the test.
During this time, it would be advantageous to ask your billing provider how it has responded to this pandemic, how its social distancing protocols work, and what the game plan is when business returns to normal and volumes begin to recover (rapidly). Below are several key areas you should take into consideration: