What can we learn from baseball scoreboards to improve the revenue cycle?

July 8, 2020 / By Steve Austin

As a long-time product design and development professional, I am super excited to join the Inside Angle blogging team to explore topics around new  technology and automation in revenue cycle integrity operations. My goal is to provide a behind-the-scenes view of the agile product development methods we use that would be especially interesting to health care revenue cycle professionals.

For my first blog post, I want to explore the concept of an “information radiator” and how important and potentially transformational such a device can be to your organization’s operations. In this context, a “radiator” is a device that broadcasts the current status of something important to anyone who is interested. It also offers information that is very likely to change frequently over time. It’s easy to think of everyday information radiators we take for granted—the current temperature outside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the current date and time. When you fly, you expect information radiators at the airport to give you real-time flight information when you need it, on demand. If you look around, radiators are everywhere, like signposts guiding us through the day.

In thinking about an information radiator for the revenue cycle, my favorite analogy is the scoreboard at a baseball game. Once you learn what the numbers and their placement mean, the baseball scoreboard gives you a ton of important data to help you make sense of the activity on the field. At a glance, you know what the score is, how much of the game has been played and how much is left. You can determine who is pitching, who is batting and the current balls/strikes count. The scoreboard sets the context for the next action on the field.

There are several other crucial aspects of the baseball scoreboard that are worth highlighting:

  • First, the scoreboard is available to anyone who needs to see it. All stakeholders of the game, such as fans, players, announcers, coaches, etc., have access to the information.
  • Second, the scoreboard is automated for the stakeholders (even if it is hand-operated, as at Boston’s Fenway Park). Stakeholders know the scoreboard will get updated as events unfold. No one has to run a report or ask someone else to run a report to find out the score.
  • Third, the scoreboard presents data that is directly relevant to the game, including the most important metrics that followers of the game understand quickly and easily.
  • Fourth, and most important, the scoreboard is actionable. Players and coaches alike make decisions on their next actions based on information provided by the scoreboard. Fans and announcers cheer them on. It’s a common experience for all; in fact, the scoreboard is an indispensable part of the game.

So what does this mean for revenue cycle operations? The scoreboard analogy gives us four key properties of an effective revenue cycle information radiator:

  • Easily accessed and understood
  • Automated
  • Key metrics, updated in real-time
  • Actionable

Effective information radiators also create transparency. Transparency builds trust, and trust is rocket fuel for high-performing teams. When it comes to revenue cycle operations – coding, CDI, etc. – everyone should have easy access to the key metrics, whenever they need them with minimal effort. Examples of key metrics include how many records are ready to be coded by visit type, how many queries are pending physician responses and how many high priority records still need review by CDI specialists.

An operational revenue cycle scoreboard promises a new level of operational efficiency for coding and CDI teams. A cloud-based scoreboard, for example, can operate across the enterprise and be deployed as broadly as desired. As records are reviewed or coded, the dashboards and worklists can be updated in near-real time, providing an automated view of how much work is out there, how much has been done, and where the bottlenecks are. A tool like this would give directors, managers, and end users the features they need to respond to changing conditions efficiently and quickly, redirecting efforts and resources where they are most needed.

If you have a favorite scoreboard/information radiator you’d like to share, please leave a comment on this post or reach out to me using the “Ask the Expert” question form on my blogger profile page.

Steve Austin is innovation manager for the 3M 360 Encompass System.

Looking for ways to streamline the revenue cycle, automate coding and reduce burdens on clinical staff?