How to Embrace 'Fiscal Stewardship' in the New Era of Healthcare

January 24, 2017 by Antonio Arias, MBA, CHBME

Topics: Meaningful Use Stage 2, Practice Management, Medical Billing Company

In the day-to-day management of a medical practice, the most important concern is (and always will be) patient care. But in the evolving landscape of U.S. healthcare and medical billing services, providing responsible care involves considering far more than the effectiveness of treatment plans, prescriptions, and preventive services.

Following decades of arguments and advocacy, the landscape of healthcare is shifting ever closer to a fully performance- and quality-based future. From the MIPS, MACRA, and Meaningful Use incentive programs to the embrace of ACOs, collaborative care models, and pay-for-performance and outcomes-based fee schedules, there’s an increased focus on the financial side of healthcare. This shift in focus has had a major impact on both patients and providers.

The Transition to Value-Based Care

With value-based care and administrative cost reduction initiatives on the rise, the keys to medical practice success are evolving rapidly. In 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that more hospitals will receive incentive payments than penalties under Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing Program in fiscal year 2020. The total amount of payments is expected to amount to $1.9 billion, which will be distributed to participating hospitals that improved the quality of patient care over time relative to their peers.

While there is still some dispute in the healthcare industry about whether value-based care truly does deliver improved health outcomes and cost savings, the concept continues to have strong bipartisan political support. Value-based care was central to many of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced five new primary care payment models in 2019 designed to encourage the transition to value-based care.

Fiscal Stewardship and Your Healthcare Practice

As a consequence, gone are the days when simply expanding your patient base and providing care to ever-more patients was the key to sustainable growth. The onus is now on everyone to assume an appropriate level of financial risk for the care and treatment provided to patients, making “fiscal stewardship” a huge key to success in the emerging value-first medical economy.

The concept of fiscal stewardship is essentially an inherent respect for the financial responsibility and well-being of another individual or a group. In healthcare, fiscal stewardship has become an increasingly important industry-wide expectation. The rise of value-based care brings with it an enhanced ethical obligation on the part of both providers and practice managers to be good stewards not only of their patients, but also of their patients’ financial resources.

With so many evolving programs and policies in play, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for a medical practice to become a beacon of fiscal stewardship. Rather, embracing the concept is about finding new ways to eliminate wasteful spending, respecting the relationship between the cost and value of care, and providing new efficiencies and benefits within your existing approach. 

3 Ways Fiscal Stewardship Can Improve Your Medical Billing 

Medical billing may not be the first aspect of your healthcare practice that comes to mind when you think of fiscal stewardship, but there are stronger connections between them than you might expect. Incorporating the principles of fiscal stewardship into your practice can improve your medical billing practices in several ways.

1. Embrace New Innovations.

Managing for quality and removing unnecessary costs from your day-to-day efforts requires a new level of data sharing and collaboration between payers, providers, and consumers. To engage in the information flows that enable better care coordination, smarter decision making, and streamlined program reporting, organizations should cast off their reliance on outmoded systems and embrace new technologies that can lower costs and increase care quality.

2. Collaborate Cross-Functionally.

No matter the size or structure of your practice, there should be strong interplay between the front office and back office. Even if you’re running a large practice with its own set of interdepartmental expectations, it’s important to periodically revisit how much time your clinical and administrative teams collaborate with more financially-focused functions. If your teams lack a strong sense of allegiance to one another or struggle to communicate across operations , it can be difficult to collaborate in support of outcomes-based care and patient-focused fiscal stewardship.

3. Think Beyond Your Office.

Starting small is important, but it’s also important to consider what kind of stewardship you can engage in to support your larger community. Ultimately, fiscal stewardship of healthcare resources can promote population health by increasing access to affordable care, reducing pressure on health care institutions to cut back on important services, and freeing up resources for other activities that improve health in a given geography. Consider teaming up with other practices in your area, outsourcing expensive elements of your back-office operations (such as medical billing services), or finding synergies between your specialty and any community-focused organizations in your region. In doing so, you can extend your commitment to financial stewardship well beyond your office walls.

Healthcare Practices at the Forefront of Change

The transition from fee-for-service to value-based care has been a difficult one for many organizations and healthcare providers, largely because generations of physicians have been trained to be stewards of their patients’ health and well-being without much focus on the financial impacts of that care. Today’s environment of rising medical costs has forced them to make a paradigm shift that takes their patients’ fiscal outcomes into account as well as their clinical outcomes.

Partnering with an experienced medical billing services provider can help your healthcare practice embrace the concept of fiscal stewardship and deliver superior value-based care. By optimizing your billing and coding to put your practice on the best possible footing, you can afford to spend more time delivering the care your patients need for improved (and affordable) health outcomes.  At NCG Medical, we’ve spent four decades practicing our own form of fiscal stewardship with a variety of healthcare practices, including radiation oncology, surgery centers, dermatology, and family medicine. Contact us today to find out how our experienced team can help you deliver better fiscal outcomes in addition to clinical outcomes.

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