IU Health Makes the Patient Experience Personal

IU Health personalizes its patient experience with help from an unlikely position: revenue management

VP of Revenue Cycle David Burton, IU HealthPhoto by Kylee Stajkowski Photography

David Burton has gotten used to the same invitation: “How would you like this to be your problem?”

The vice president of revenue management at Indiana University Health (IU Health) has built a career with the organization partly because when helping find someone to tackle difficult challenges or increased responsibility at the organization, the person they were looking for, more often than not, wound up being Burton himself.

The VP’s aptitude for data integration and bridging the gap between revenue cycle operations and information technology has helped support transformational change at IU Health, which has created more personalized patient interactions by finding new and innovative ways to harness technology and use healthcare data to enhance the patient experience.

Burton’s grounding for what he says is an otherwise “shoot for the moon” style of goal setting came early in his career at his alma mater, the Ohio State University, while he was working his way through undergraduate and graduate degrees.

“I started in an entry-level clerical job,” Burton recalls. “We were still on paper charts, and my first task was a giant room full of inpatient financial charts that hadn’t been organized in at least a year or two,” the VP says with a laugh. “My job was basically alphabetizing multiple years of charts for a major health system’s inpatient records. It was a brutal job.” The combination of being willing to take on any challenge, matched with a strong tech and management focus, would ultimately sell IU Health (then Clarian Health Partners) on Burton.

Bridging the Gap

Since coming to Indianapolis in April of 2001, Burton has been influential in the evolution of both the revenue cycle operations and revenue cycle technology at IU Health. “When I came here, my experiences uniquely positioned me to really understand how to use data and get the most out of our systems, but I could also speak the language of the business we were managing,” Burton says. “I think and hope folks have felt that I’m someone who understands their world and their problems, regardless of where they’re coming from, and that I’ll help them to find creative solutions to whatever that problem that might be.”

“We have done highly personalized patient estimates since 2015, and we remain committed and focused on this personalized approach to medicine and service.”

One of the more complicated problems Burton has helped tackle was finding a way to marry two separate patient accounting systems into a single patient billing statement. “We were challenged by our system president at the time to find a way to create a single IU Health statement that looked like it was coming from one place, even though it wasn’t,” Burton explains. “In 2011, we built the very first consolidated patient statement in our market, providing a much different experience from what other healthcare providers were doing. It was transformational at the time, and even by today’s standards is still ahead of the curve.”

Burton also says that building instead of buying has been a consistent theme during his tenure. IU Health’s Automated Control Desk (ACD) has grown from merely a much needed reporting tool into a robotic process automation powerhouse, years before RPA was a hot topic in the industry. “We’ve built out a whole suite of billing and reporting tools with self-serve analytics as well as custom built a lot of our presentation layer. Over the years, it’s become the backbone for a lot of the things we have built out to help fill gaps to meet our business needs.”

After overhauling and improving revenue cycle outcomes for their hospitals in the early 2000s, IU Health turned its attention to improving billing operations and collaboration with its physician practices. “We built an electronic practice request system that is essentially a closed-circuit communication and encounter management workflow system,” Burton explains. “If we need anything from the practice or to log requests, we can get an answer and get it in front of our team much, much faster.”

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David Burton sits between VP for System Patient Access Christina Harney (left) and VP for Revenue Cycle Clinical Support Services Marijane Armbruster (right). Photo by Kylee Stajkowski Photography

Improving these operations also came with a help from IU Health’s proud partner, GeBBS Healthcare Solutions. GeBBS and IU Health have similar visions to drive overall effectiveness of the revenue cycle function through innovation, automation, and artificial intelligence. The two align their innovative and strategic objectives to continuously improve processes and systems so as to deliver cost-effective and better outcomes for patients and providers.

Make It Personal

More recently, Burton’s team continues to focus on the patient experience. “One of the areas where we have been a leader nationally is in patient estimates,” Burton says. “We have done highly personalized patient estimates since 2015, and we remain committed and focused on this personalized approach to medicine and service.” IU Health’s highly integrated revenue cycle operation is a real advantage for estimates and has made it possible for the organization to provide more than fifty thousand comprehensive patient estimates in the last year alone.

Burton says his team is now focused on improving mobile and self-service capabilities for patients who find it easier to interact with the system on their own time. “We’d love for patients to be able to swipe their phone when they arrive and have already completed 90 to 100 percent of the check-in and arrival process that accompanies a visit before they walk in,” Burton says. “We want to be leading class in the space, and we’re working very hard on it.”

While Burton acknowledges that there will always be some patients who will prefer the personal interaction they can have with front-office staff, it’s all about meeting each individual patient “where they are” with regard to their service experience and expectations.