A new survey shows that staff shadowing preceding automation integration is disruptive to employees and has negative impacts on revenue cycle productivity.

More than half of health systems found staff shadowing to be disruptive and to have negative effects on revenue cycle productivity, according to a national survey.

The survey, commissioned by AKASA and conducted through the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA) Pulse Survey program, included answers from over 350 chief financial officers and revenue cycle leaders at health systems across the country.

Of the health systems surveyed, 68 percent had experienced staff shadowing. Revenue cycle staff shadowing typically happens ahead of implementing automation or other technology tools in order for consultants to document workflows and processes, according to the press release.

About one-fourth (23.6 percent) of health systems responded that shadowing only captured a limited number of workflows and the documentation was often flawed or incorrect. Almost half (44.4 percent) of health systems reported that the process was an accurate and comprehensive way to document and map their revenue cycle operations.

However, 67.5 percent of systems who experienced shadowing reported that the process was somewhat disruptive and impacted their revenue cycle productivity.  Almost ten percent of the health systems reported that staff shadowing was a problem, highly disruptive, and negatively impacted their productivity.

The survey reported that 22.9 percent of health systems found working with the outside shadowing consultants easy and it did not disrupt their work, nor did it impact their productivity.

“The shift to remote work for many teams due to the pandemic made staff shadowing particularly challenging,” said Varun Ganapathi, PhD, co-founder and chief technology officer of AKASA. “The ability to deploy technology solutions entirely remotely, without the need to ever step foot on premises is no longer a novel approach but a best practice.”

Following the pandemic, remote automation models have been introduced that would eliminate staff shadowing, but it is still a potential factor that health systems must consider when integrating automation in revenue cycle operations.

In a previous survey commissioned by AKASA and conducted HFMA’s Pulse Survey program, it was reported that over half (66.8 percent) of the 587 health systems and hospitals surveyed were currently using automation or were in the process of implementing automation for their revenue cycle operations.

Of the health systems that were not currently using automation, 37.6 percent reported that they were not planning to implement the technology in the future.  

A separate survey conducted by KLAS and the Center for Connected Medicine reported that health system leaders saw a great need for innovation such as artificial intelligence (AI) use in the revenue cycle management area.

The most-needed technologies to improve revenue cycle management were AI, predictive analytics, chatbots, and automation, according to the survey.

With the growing desire to use automation in revenue cycle operations, hospitals and health systems may start turning to automation that can be deployed remotely in order to avoid the disruption and negative effects on revenue cycle productivity that can result from staff shadowing.