Hospital employees in clinical areas have long recognized the value of networking with others in their field. Now more than ever, the same is true for their revenue cycle colleagues.

“It’s important to stay attuned to what is happening in the industry, gain recommendations for technology, and share the great work our teams are doing with others,” says Becky Peters, executive director of patient access at Banner Health in Mesa, AZ.

Gaining exposure to the wider healthcare industry can jumpstart individual employees’ careers, and also their departments overall. “Providing these opportunities has taken our leadership team to a new level,” Peters reports.

Over the past year, Banner Health’s patient access leadership has strongly encouraged conference attendance. “This is an excellent way to network, learn best practices, and share feedback on new technology,” Peters says. Here, she shares specifics on relevant recommended conferences:

  • For patient access leaders: State and national Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) conferences (http://bit.ly/2NzhFx8);
  • For billing and financial leaders: State and national Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) conferences (http://bit.ly/2oGzVMU);
  • For any revenue cycle leader: Health IT and other vendor conferences such as those offered by Epic (information on the upcoming Epic Users Group Meetings available at: http://bit.ly/2WwGAWm), Experian (information on their upcoming May 2020 Vision Conference available at: http://bit.ly/3378VVN), and Becker’s Hospital Review (information on the upcoming 6th Annual Health IT & Revenue Cycle Conference available at: http://bit.ly/36jaqlP);
  • For team members who are on track for promotions: Webinars hosted by various vendors and healthcare organizations.

At Banner Health, senior directors attend at least one national conference per year. Directors, managers, and supervisors attend local conferences throughout the year. Up-and-coming leaders submit topics for speaking engagements. “This helps them develop their presentation skills and executive presence,” Peters says.

Becoming well-known in the field pays off. One senior director recently became vice president of the Arizona Association of Healthcare Access Management (AzHAM). Several directors have spoken at conferences for AzHAM and the Arizona chapter of HFMA.

The department pays conference fees and travel costs, with a big return on investment. Anyone who attends one is expected to share their newfound knowledge. “We require all leaders who attend a conference to present to the patient access service and revenue cycle teams,” Peters says.

Leaders are also asked to implement at least one newly learned best practice. “Our senior directors have also been building a professional network of peers,” Peters says. The department draws on the expertise of this group when implementing various revenue cycle projects.

Staying highly visible at conferences, whether as an attendee or as a speaker, engenders confidence in patient access leaders. “They are fully engaged in our improvement initiatives,” Peters says. “They have seen what is available in the market from a technology perspective as well as business models.”

Networking does not have to mean paying high registration fees. There are plenty of free options to find people in the field. At Banner Health, patient access leaders are encouraged to create LinkedIn profiles. “This allows them to connect with other healthcare professionals across organizations,” Peters says.

Carol Plato, vice president of revenue cycle at North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo, says, “There are many methods of getting in touch with peers.” She often attends conferences held by Medicaid and Medicare intermediaries. “These conferences are usually free and a good way to make contacts with peers,” Plato offers.

Plato also asks technology vendors for contacts at other organizations who are using the same software or systems. If staff cannot attend a vendor conference, Plato asks for the attendee list. “You can then reach out to peers to ask questions,” she explains.

Plato finds membership in research groups (such as Healthcare Business Insights) helpful for obtaining peer contact information. “They can be the intermediary and help you reach peers in the same type of cohort group,” Plato says.

Hospitals may belong to some groups already, both for-profit or non-profit, that offer revenue cycle connections. Plato has found Vizient, a not-for-profit healthcare performance improvement company, a particularly good resource for this. “They can provide cohort contacts,” she reports.