Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Success for Virtual Work Teams

I believe that virtual work teams/flexible work arrangements, as I've written about previously, are even more essential in a challenging economy with increasing pressures to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

My friend, Jessica Lipnack, recently did a webcast for the American Management Association about "Leading Virtual Teams."

Over 1000 people attended, demonstrating the overwhelming interest in this topic.

Here's my most recent evidence about the success of working virtually. Starting in July of 2008 we began scanning all inpatient paper charts and making them available online to all our clinicians and coding teams.

Clinicians have been extremely satisfied with an approach that makes all consultant notes, nursing notes, vital signs and outside paper records (from non-BIDMC referring sites) available to care teams electronically.

The most immediate impact has been on the Health Information Management (HIM) department which applies ICD-9 diagnosis codes to hospital stays for billing purposes. Medical record coders are hard to hire and retain. With scanned charts available online, we can create virtual teams of coders located anywhere in the country.

The graphic above illustrates the impact on accounts receivable since we created virtual teams of coders. The measurable results are

Faster coding of recent discharges (48-72 hours)
Coder recruitment and availability – no vacancies
Coders more likely to work extra hours when needed
Reduced days in accounts receivable

As Jessica suggests, virtual teams work. Yes, management needs to adjust to new ways of ensuring accountability and a bit of infrastructure is required to enable collaboration, but virtual teams have significantly improved HIM business processes in just a few months.

I've committed to all of my organizations (BIDMC, HMS, NEHEN, MA-Share, and HITSP) that we'll use virtual workteams and online collaboration tools whenever possible in 2009. Who needs those frequent flier miles anyway?


jrose said...


I'm confused by the graphic. The numbers represent dollars spent on accounts receivable salaries?

Jill Rose, editor-in-chief, Inside Healthcare

John Halamka said...

The graph represents the balance of charges for discharged patients that are awaiting coding completion before we can send out a claim.

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