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A bigger salary in this economy?
It just might be possible
Fair or not, patient access managers have historically had lower salaries than patient account managers. But this is something that just might be ripe for change even in today's down economy.
To command a higher salary, you need to show administration the true impact your department has on the bottom line. "I have no problem arguing that access management and staff should make more than patient accounts, if they do the sort of job they should be doing," says Peter Kraus, CHAM, CPAR, a business analyst with patient financial services at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
First, you must be able to show that patient access has as big an impact on collections as patient accounts does. "Also, you need to show that access is responsible for all the other non-revenue-generating functions that patient accounts doesn't have to concern itself with," says Kraus.
Here are other steps Kraus recommends patient access professionals take to increase salaries:
Obtain additional certifications.
In addition to obtaining the Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM) certification offered by the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM), you should seek certifications in patient accounts as well.
These include: Certified Patient Account Manager (CPAM) offered by the Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM), and Certified Patient Account Representative (CPAR) and Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP), both offered by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).
"I don't have any hard figures, but from my long-time association with NAHAM I know that many facilities either require or prefer access directors/managers to be CHAMs," he says. "If they expect their patient accounts managers and directors to be certified through HFMA or AAHAM, it isn't hard to intuit the enhanced capabilities of an access manager certified in both areas," says Kraus.
Kraus acknowledges, however, that no matter how many certifications you possess, there are no guarantees. "Very capable people sometimes lose their jobs in a depressed economy, and being credentialed doesn't automatically make you capable," he says. "Even so, it can't hurt. And it may help, even if only to find a new job."
Pursue an expanded revenue cycle role.
To do this effectively, you must first understand what new opportunities are out there. Kraus notes that NAHAM has focused on revenue cycle issues for many years, so joining that organization is an important first step, along with HFMA. To get up to speed on opportunities in access, Kraus recommends reading articles pertaining to up-front revenue cycle activity.
Work collaboratively with your patient accounts counterparts to promote recognition of common goals.
Kraus advises working with medical records, utilization review, social services, and vendors specializing in qualifying patients for medical assistance. Your goals: to target long-stay accounts with potential financial problems or simply to identify uncollectible accounts early in the cycle so they can be written off promptly and not adversely impact A/R.
"The them-against-us mentality is a ticket to nowhere," says Kraus. "Every facility is different in terms of gaining influence, but revenue matters weigh heavily on CFO and other administrators' minds. Gaining familiarity with and demonstrating willingness to participate in up-front initiatives is bound to get access noticed."