Why you should prioritize a service area merge for your healthcare organization

If you’ve ever moved in with someone, you know that sharing a home raises a lot of little issues you didn’t expect. Who buys the detergent, for example? Which Netflix account should you discontinue? And how do you agree on the right way to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube?

Integrating health systems can bring up a litany of similar issues – and one of them is the need to integrate your Epic service area. When your hospitals are operating under different service areas, you face the challenge of operating multiple billing offices, bombarding patients with different statements, and struggling to meet regulatory requirements.

Rick Shepardson

Whether you’re going through a merger or acquisition, converting to a single billing office, or re-aligning tax IDs, a unified service area will save you many future headaches when it comes to patient engagement, workflow and reporting standardization, and provider efficiency.

Let’s talk about the many reasons for a service area merge – and why we recommend prioritizing this issue for your newly integrated system.

1. You want to realize true economies of scale from your merger.

If you recently merged with another healthcare organization, you likely did so for a reason: to achieve economies of scale and improve your market presence. Hospitals all over the country are facing this situation, with the number of mergers continuing to rise in 2017 and up 55 percent since 2010.

For newly integrated health systems, one of the fastest ways to realize economies of scale is around your revenue cycle processes. Without merging your service areas, you'll face double work in the form of two sets of guarantors, two sets of workqueues, and separate A/R reporting. 

2. You need to meet state or regulatory requirements.

Whether it’s an affiliated physician group becoming a part of the integrated health system, provider-based billing aspirations, or a joint venture aligning under a single Tax ID, a single Service Area supports the technical efficiencies needed to meet the regulatory requirements of two or more organizations aligning under a single health system or CMS designation.

For this type of merge requirement, a single Epic service area improves an organization’s ability to report combined revenue, proactively identify CMS re-admission compliance, and improve patient movement workflows across merged hospital locations.

3. You want the best possible experience for your patients.

Let’s face it: Nobody likes receiving hospital bills, and it’s even worse to receive more than one bill for the same issue. If your hospitals and clinics are in different service areas, they will have to print on different statements, meaning your patients will receive separate statements for a single experience with your system. This can lead to patient confusion, frustration, and even the feeling that they’re being billed incorrectly.

Merging service areas will allow you to bill patients with a single statement, where all charges (e.g., hospital stay, surgeon fee, rounding fee) are included in one document. Your patients will also enjoy a single point of contact for customer service, without the hassle of being transferred. And you can easily make the bill available for payment on your MyChart portal, improving the likelihood of quick payment and the patients' experience with your system.

A single billing office is quickly becoming industry standard: more than 50 percent of all Epic clients are live with Epic’s Single Billing Office (SBO) module. To take full advantage of all the benefits of SBO, more and more organizations are opting to merge and convert their service areas into a single service area for more efficient consolidated workflows and an improved patient experience.

Regardless of the reason for your service area merge, we'd love to chat about how we can assist. We can discuss the assessments, advisory, and execution necessary to ensure a successful service area merge and improve efficiency, reporting, and patient engagement for your organization.


Topics: revenue cycle

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