RCM Platforms: The Rising Superstars of Healthcare Finance

Selecting the best fit in a landscape of diverse offerings

Revenue cycle management (RCM) platforms are proving to be crucial in healthcare finance. By harnessing the ‘platform effect,’ they effectively reduce inefficiencies and data barriers while weaving in intelligence from the start. Cheryl Alden, chief marketing officer at FinThrive, points out that these platforms are tailored to navigate today’s revenue cycle complexities, offering data-driven insights for proactive decision-making.

In a recent conversation, Alden outlines the transformative role of RCM platforms in addressing both present and looming challenges within the revenue cycle. “In a climate where every dollar is scrutinized, the expansiveness and flexibility of our systems are crucial. Revenue cycle leaders and their IT partners must develop a reliable infrastructure that not only solves critical challenges today but also prepares the organization to capitalize on upcoming opportunities and innovation.”

Alden examines the factors driving the need for a new category of RCM platforms shaped by the aftermath of the pandemic. She discusses key elements providers should consider when choosing a platform and suggests careful evaluation due to the varied effectiveness of available options.

Q: What compelled the healthcare industry to carve out a new category for revenue cycle management platforms? How does this evolution reflect the changing needs in healthcare finance?

Alden: New categories often arise when an industry faces new challenges. After COVID-19, healthcare was forced to quickly adapt to new care delivery methods, workforce changes and patient expectations, all under tighter economic constraints. Organizations are now re-prioritizing investments in financial operations alongside clinical care, recognizing that strong revenue is fundamental to enhancing patient care and quality outcomes. Recent data shows RCM technologies are a top investment for health systems going forward. It’s in this context that the so-called “end-to-end” platforms have become increasingly relevant, offering advanced insights that connect all the dots.

Q: Can you discuss why not all end-to-end revenue cycle management platforms are created equal? What should providers look for when choosing a platform?

Alden: Absolutely. For starters, the definition of “end-to-end” is not standard and is something to pay attention to. RCM platform vendors have typically grown through a combination of building and buying, leading to a mix of capabilities across the category. At FinThrive, we believe a platform partner should not force their customers to choose between breadth and depth. Having to trade off best-in-breed point solutions for a single vendor system that is just “good enough” is thankfully becoming a thing of the past. Let’s face it, implementing new technology is disruptive. With this in mind, it becomes imperative for providers to select an RCM partner that has the breadth of technology options for both today and tomorrow while not sacrificing quality and capability. As my mother would say, do it once and do it well.

One of the key differentiators to look for is the potential to achieve the ‘platform effect’— the “1+1=3” benefits that are associated with consolidating vendors to leverage more technology from a single source. The ability to aggregate data for enhanced analysis and decision-making is becoming a “must-have” capability for platforms. Analytics are crucial; they transform a platform from a mere set of tools into one that delivers actionable insights, especially in critical areas such as denial prevention. To pull data from multiple solutions into a single enterprise view offers a unique vantage point for RCM leaders, helping them understand both gaps and opportunities in their revenue operations.

Finally, partnership is key. Revenue cycle teams want systems built by revenue cycle professionals. A partner should have a deep understanding of the revenue cycle and a commitment to a long-term relationship. Many providers want to avoid the complexities and limitations of excessive customization. They’re turning to those who offer a consultative approach to advise them on a standardized solution that allows data to flow more easily. An experienced partner provides guidance in this area, helping customers navigate common pitfalls and deploy best practices for successful outcomes.

Q: Do RCM platforms require providers to take an “all or nothing” approach, or is there flexibility in how they can get there? If so, how?

Alden: RCM platforms are commonly referred to as “end to end” or “E2E,” which can be misleading for providers thinking they have to buy the entire portfolio all at once. In reality, the path to RCM platform adoption is not one-size-fits-all. Few providers are in a position to wipe out their existing RCM technology stack and deploy a full replacement despite some of the advantages. Given that dynamic, it’s important vendors offer flexibility to meet the specific needs of each customer. While the benefits of a platform are becoming more widely acknowledged, the pathway to actually ‘getting there’ is less clear for providers currently working with numerous vendors.

To aid in this transition, FinThrive and HFMA created the industry’s first company-agnostic Revenue Cycle Management Technology Adoption Model (RCMTAM) inspired by the HIMSS EHR adoption model. It’s a complimentary, five-stage assessment model that offers benchmarking insights drawn from healthcare finance leaders. Encapsulating over 30,000 data points, the model helps providers determine their current maturity stage, identify what’s mission-critical to address now and begin to plan for the future. Presently, almost half of providers are at stage one of RCM maturity, partly due to vendor limitations.

Our benchmarking data guides providers on improving financial performance and increasing efficiencies by linking specific technologies to business processes at each stage in a personalized analysis. It identifies under-optimized areas, helping to drive focus toward their technology investments and adopt best practices more effectively.

Q: How do you envision a revenue cycle management platform influencing revenue optimization strategies in the future? What potential transformations could these platforms trigger in the industry?

Alden: One of the big promises of RCM platforms is empowering people with better information to make informed decisions so they can focus on things that truly require human intervention. At FinThrive, we’ve shifted the narrative of this concept to ‘Revenue Management,’ moving away from the idea of a ‘cycle’ that suggests constant reworking and information chasing. The future lies in efficiently processing and compensating accurate claims, placing the focus and attention on revenue optimization and improving the patient experience, not managing elements of the revenue cycle that can and should be automated.

The right RCM platform has the potential to break the cycle of inefficiency, going beyond just facilitating payments. It can dismantle data silos across organizations, empower comprehensive analytics and help providers better understand trends impacting their business and patients. Instead of retrospectively considering what could have been done better, this strategic approach positions organizations to preemptively avoid mistakes by leveraging the intelligence that modernized technology can deliver.

Alden urges the industry to keep the spotlight on empowering the financial side of healthcare through technology innovation. “Revenue is the lifeblood of our industry. Without it, investment in better patient experiences, improvement of patient outcomes and the modernization of tools to achieve greater efficiencies can’t happen. For healthcare to reach its true potential, we must continue to push the industry to advance and mature its approach to RCM.”


For more information on the industry’s first Revenue Cycle Management Technology Adoption Model, visit finthrive.com/RCMTAM.


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