By Hutchinson Clinic, Mike Heck and Dashun Monk
Amid the sights and sounds of the annual Kansas State Fair, the buzz of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center and the fanfare surrounding Hutchinson Community College basketball games, you’ll find the 40,000 locals who call Hutchinson home. “Hutch” as it’s affectionately known, is the largest city and county seat in Reno County, Kansas.
Mike Heck, Hutch native and CEO of Hutchinson Clinic, has always known this place was special. “We have things that draw people here from the rural communities,” Heck said. “You can come here without going into the big city,” noting nearby Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita.
Heck, a graduate of the big city school of Wichita State University, found himself back “home” at Hutchinson Clinic after 16 years at Baptist Health in Little Rock, AR. “This spring will mark 13 years for me at Hutch,” Heck said. “This clinic itself is a testament to the five physicians who came together and drew upon the uniqueness of the culture.”
“It’s a community here,” said Dashun Monk, CFO at Hutchinson. Monk, who started his professional journey as a computer programmer for 10 years in his native Los Angeles, climbed the proverbial job ladder which landed him at the clinic in 2019.
In this article, Heck and Monk speak about their journey as leaders at the largest multispecialty clinic in Kansas, and the three lessons they learned in enlisting a third-party to help with Revenue Cycle Management (RCM).
Lesson 1: The Need for RCM Expertise
Hutchinson’s Clinic is home to 535 employees, 63 physicians, 95+ total providers, and over 30 outpatient specialties. These include specialty ancillary services such as Ambulatory Surgery Center, Physical Therapy, Audiology, Lab, Radiology/Diagnostic imaging, Endoscopy Center, Cosmetic and Dietician services. Despite expanding upon a culture developed in 1959 that prides itself on convenience, affordability and patient satisfaction, there remained one lingering problem: an experienced RCM team that could ensure basic responsibilities were being met efficiently and correctly.
In 2018, after a year of research and extensive Q&As with third party vendors, Heck and the Board of Directors brought on CareCloud (parent company of Meridian Medical Management) to help with a variety of deliverables, including:
- Coding of all claims
- Physician education
- Denial feedback on coding
- Charge entry
- Patient posting
- Accounts Receivable (AR) follow-up
- Executive level feedback during monthly steering committee meetings
“To me, it came down to leadership,” Heck said. “We needed the right level and technical ability of leaders in the RCM arena. We couldn’t establish any consistency before CareCloud came on board.”
As the implementation unfolded, CareCloud established a local office in the Hutchinson area. Heck and his team quickly realized that having an experienced group of professionals working behind-the-scenes to handle all of the complexities of RCM was the missing piece that Hutchinson Clinic needed.
“Aside from the fact that we have drastically improved the financial stability of AR, I think the biggest benefit that I didn’t foresee has been the ability to apply a larger trained workforce to certain projects,” Heck said. “We simply didn’t have that capability before CareCloud came on.”
In addition to the experienced and robust staff, CareCloud uses PrecisionBI (PBI), a leading healthcare analytics and business intelligence platform. The technology is used to manage data across the organization which in turn closes care gaps, increases revenue and improves overall workflow within the organization.
“The processes in place before bringing in CareCloud weren’t moving us in the right direction,” said Monk. “Today, we’re meeting industry standards in terms of reducing AR days, ensuring doctor’s compensation and the efficient re-working of denied claims.”
Lesson 2: The Ability to Flex
While having an experienced partner was one piece of the puzzle, equally important to the Hutchinson Clinic team was the ability to be flexible and find which methods work the best. The clinic has a team of roughly 60 RCM employees who needed onboarding and training from CareCloud before the processes could be improved. All the while, it was imperative that this process didn’t disrupt continuity of care for the patients stretched across Hutchinson’s large geographic footprint.
“The beauty of working with a partner like CareCloud is that they’re handing all of the heavy lifting behind the scenes, enabling us to focus on patient engagement, provider recruitment and retention,” Heck said. “We’ve recently seen a very positive response from the community as a result.”
Being that Hutchinson Clinic is the primary source of care for those in Reno County, it’s imperative that patient engagement is at the forefront. “We see quality care and patient satisfaction as our number one responsibility,” Heck said. “Having a stable partner like CareCloud ensures that bills are getting out the door and payments are being made, which frees our team up to focus on other areas.”
Echoed Monk, “I have peace of mind knowing that our revenue cycle, specifically the coding, AR and posting components, are happening correctly and in an efficient manner.”
Lesson 3: Knowing Your Audience
The third and perhaps most valuable lesson Hutchinson Clinic has gained through their partnership with CareCloud is the importance of knowing their audience. In the case of their current partnership, the audience is twofold: the staff themselves, and the patients in the community.
“We didn’t want to sacrifice what was important to us and our community,” Heck said. “When we’re talking to our physicians about their pain points, such as coding or compensation, it’s important for them to know we’re listening. Same goes for the patients—we need to be making their lives easier, not harder.”
Over the past five years of the partnership, CareCloud has immersed themselves into the culture of Hutchinson Clinic and become an extension of the team that Heck and Monk work with every day.
“We really want the incentives to be good for both organizations, and I believe that to be true with our partnership; the better Hutchinson Clinic performs, the better CareCloud does,” Heck said.
While bringing in a third-party vendor isn’t viable for every organization, Heck and Monk believe there are takeaways that can be applied from their experience to help other health system executives accomplish their goals. These include:
- Identify the gaps. Every organization has areas they want to improve (i.e., reducing number of AR days, increasing cash flow, etc.)
- Ask for help. “Find a SME who does this for a living and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions,” Monk said.
- Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. “It took us a year to identify a solution for outsourcing our RCM needs. It also takes time for a new partner to learn your language. Don’t rush the process,” Heck said.
About The Authors
Mike Heck is Chief Executive Officer at Hutchinson Clinic. Since joining the administrative team in 2009, Heck has successfully managed a diversity of issues and staff in order to maintain excellent quality of care for the patients that walk through Hutchinson’s door.
Dashun Monk is an experienced Chief Financial Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the medical practice industry. As the CFO of Hutchinson Clinic, Dashun is in charge of business processes, budgeting, analytical, payroll, and data analysis. Dashun received his MBA, with a focus in Corporate Finance, from Penn State University.