Is A/R a misunderstood metric?

Accounts receivable is perhaps the metric ASC administrators, owners and operators turn to for confirmation their center is collecting on its bills on time. But does accounts receivable actually mean anything the way most centers use it?

"A/R is perhaps the most overused, yet underutilized, analytic anyone sees," said Doug Oakley manager of client sources-revenue cycle solutions for SourceMedical, at the SourceMedical National Client Meeting in Oak Brook, Ill., on July 24. "However, A/R does have use and value. It's one of the most useful tools you have, but it should be used within your ASC's four walls."

According to Mr. Oakley, A/R can be a valuable metric when it's calculated efficiently and effectively. But, defining A/R is tricky: the same set of numbers can be used to calculate A/R values that differ as much as 100 percent. According to Mr. Oakley, the methodology used to calculate the metric is immaterial, so long as it's internally consistent within an ASC.

One of the major problems with relying on A/R is that it gives an overall trend of collections but does not pinpoint the problem. Here are three ways to take control of A/R and make it useful.

1. Measure the days of A/R for each payer group each month to pinpoint the source of delays in the overall A/R metric.

2. Keep track of how many accounts roll over from one payment threshold to the next. Mr. Oakley recommended tracking accounts not resolved after more than 60 days. If the number of accounts left to be resolved isn't halving every 30 days, it may be worth investigating, he advised.

3. Be smart about overall A/R. Take slow-moving payer groups into consideration, and use only relevant data in order to get a true look at active A/R.

4. When comparing A/R to other centers, control for as many circumstances as possible (region, center size, etc.). Do not attempt to compare A/Rs produced by different methods of calculation.

5. "Trust, but verify," the efforts of your coders and billers, and emphasize the importance of timely coding and billing. Coding audits should be performed on a routine basis. Any findings from data and audits should be training opportunities, rather than opportunities for punitive action.

More articles on coding and billing:
Taking value-based care one step at a time
CMS announces further plans for ICD-10 acknowledgement testing
5 articles on ASC revenue cycle management best practices


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