While an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) can be independently owned, managed through a management company or managed by a hospital, it is usually best for revenue cycle management (RCM) to be handled internally by the ASC or an outsourced partner. Hospitals are oftentimes looking for ways to reduce costs of operating an ASC, which could include incorporating the ASC’s RCM with the hospital’s RCM operations. However, there are many reasons why a hospital is not equipped to successfully handle revenue cycle for their ASCs.
Here are the top 4 reasons hospitals should not handle RCM for their ASCs:
1. Management information system
The management information system (MIS) is the system used to bill and collect. However, a hospital’s MIS is not ASC-specific and therefore not configured to work well in an ASC environment. Since most MIS systems are incompatible, the hospital may need to spend additional time and resources on interfaces between the hospital system, the ASC system and peripheral applications in order to exchange vital information.
The hospital’s MIS may also not be set up to bill for a surgery center. Standard hospital systems are typically setup to bill on the UB-04 claim forms, while ASCs need to be able to bill on both the UB-04 and CMS-1500 claim forms. Additionally, hospitals may not be able to load ASC payer contracts into the system or report on ASC-specific key performance indicator (KPI) metrics that ASC leadership must monitor, such as revenue per case.
2. Billing Staff
A hospital’s billing and collections staff may not have the expertise and experience needed to understand the specifics of billing for an ASC. For example, centers often have to bill CPT codes with modifiers which help further describe a code without changing its definition. One prime example is multi-level pain injections, which CMS only pays on a primary code and bundles subsequent codes. It’s not only a mistake to bill out bundled codes separately, but against Medicare guidelines, so the center could be fined.
Hospitals typically have very large, complex billing departments. Along those lines, a hospital’s business office staff may only have general hospital experience and not ASC-specific knowledge and expertise needed to understand the various best practices of ASC revenue cycle. Due to their size, hospitals often see a higher turnover rate with the business office employees, which may not provide the continuity needed in the smaller, ASC environment.
4. Problematic AR days
Hospitals often have higher days outstanding than ASCs. While hospitals typically hover in the 40 to 50 day range, better performing ASCs achieve less than 30 days outstanding. When a hospital is billing for both itself and an ASC, it many not devote the necessary time and resources to both. Since the hospital charges and subsequent reimbursement is substantially higher than the ASC, the hospital may be more attentive on collecting the larger amounts as opposed to the smaller payments coming out of the ASC. The hospital may therefore go after the ASC “low-hanging fruit” , allowing AR days to increase and collection rate trends to decline, putting a major strain on the financial health of the ASC.
An optimized revenue cycle management strategy is imperative to the financial health of an ASC. Oftentimes, the ASC and its stakeholders can benefit greatly by handling billing and collections internally or transitioning to an outsourced RCM provider.