Written by Emily A. Cheslock

Employers across the U.S. are facing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses had a limited amount of time to put new protocols in place as stay-at-home orders loomed. Striking a balance of business continuity and virus mitigation isn’t easy—training an entire workforce on work from home processes isn’t something that’s typically done in a matter of days. While most hospital employees must be present to treat patients, some non-clinical departments can shift to working remotely. This includes revenue cycle and financial management staff.

A survey by Gartner showed that 48% of employees expect to remain partially or fully working remotely after the pandemic. Before the pandemic, about 30% of America’s workforce worked from home. A larger number, 74% of CFOs polled intend to move around 5% of their workforces to permanent remote work.

Large companies in the U.S. are already starting to make permanent workforce changes. Twitter has told its employees they can continue to work from home even after the pandemic. Other tech firms like Google and Facebook will operate at around 30% of office capacity, with most employees working from home through 2020.

Challenges and Opportunities

Maintaining business continuity while working from home is not an easy feat. Businesses in almost every industry are facing challenges adjusting to this new normal. From learning new technologies to finding new ways to keep in contact with co-workers, everyone is on a learning curve and working hard to adjust.

Andrew Fleck

“We were an in-person, boots on the ground force, switching to a remote workforce and training was challenging. Nothing has changed from the services that we offer. There is more of a need for automatic payments – which is something we specialize in,” said Andrew Fleck, vice president and regional sales manager at Commerce Bank.

Continuing services with the quality patients deserve while protecting staff from COVID-19 is a focus of hospitals. Managing a remote workforce is particularly tricky in the financial department. Many finance workflows remain labor-intensive, paper-centric and dependent on multiple financial systems with different remittance processes.

Lance Wright

“What every organization in America has experienced in the last four months, regardless of industry, is a recognized need for a more virtual type of payment solution,” said Lance Wright, national manager at Commerce Bank. “If you’re still cutting paper checks, how do you cut those checks if everyone is working from home?”

Shifting to a remote workforce has made some financial departments rethink the way they remit payments. The need to turn to digital payments was on the back burner for many hospitals and health care systems. The pandemic took updating payment systems from a low priority to a high priority.

The move to remote work has created an opportunity to change the way that hospitals operate. One of the most significant opportunities is switching to automated remittance processes. “One of the main services we provide for hospitals is an automated payment solution. This allows hospitals to pay their vendors with an electronic Visa,” said Wright.

Long-term, Revenue Cycle Management automation can generate meaningful cost savings. Other benefits are organizational resilience to help weather future disruptions and changes. With the uncertain duration of remote work and the likelihood that it stays post-pandemic, it is critical to shift to automation. Solutions exist that can provide immediate support to a remote workforce transition. These solutions maintain efficiency and lay the groundwork for beneficial long-term automation.

Solutions for Remote Financial Work

Commerce Bank has been providing hospitals with virtual payment options since 2004 “We help hospitals identify which of their vendors will accept electric Visa payments for their invoices,” said Wright.

Accounts payable is critical to the day-to-day operations of a hospital. CommerceHealthcare® works with hospitals to analyze current procedures and identify opportunities for automation. A virtual card, or AP Card, is often an effective payment solution for AP departments.

Electronic payment methods have been gaining popularity for years. A big reason is that checks are expensive. According to a 2014 Wall Street Journal article, depositing check payments costs U.S. businesses between $26 and $54 billion annually.

CommerceHealthcare®’s AP Card “enables hospitals to leverage automated, electronic payments.” The program works with a hospital’s existing accounting system. AP Cards also create a new revenue stream and reduce operating costs. By converting paper-based payments to AP Card payments, hospitals gain operational efficiencies, detailed reporting and decreasing expenses.

“It’s not the way a consumer would pay a bill online with a Visa or Mastercard. This process is less tedious. You don’t have to manually input account information. The AP Card doesn’t change the way a hospital is already approving and paying invoices. We allow hospitals to generate electronic Visa payments to their vendors. This allows for a better workflow; they also earn cash rebates back on payments,” said Wright.

Many transformations are happening in the hospital and health care industry. Hospitals providers are under immense financial pressure because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals are focusing on business continuity amongst rapid changes and new protocols.

“Many hospitals realize that there are positions that can work remotely and still be efficient and productive. In accounts payable and finance can be productive at home, you just have to have the right tools,” said Wright.

This sponsored section is underwritten by THA Member Solutions. Commerce Bank is endorsed by the Texas Hospital Association. For more information, visit healthcare.commercebank.com.