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Numbers don't lie... UNHS financial status gets solid, clean bill of health - Medically Speaking, Volume One, Number Eight, 2/13/14

When Michael Jensen assumed the reigns as Chief Executive Officer for Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., he inherited one of the most financially viable healthcare enterprises to be found anywhere in the region.

Since it began operations with a single clinic in Montezuma Creek fifteen years ago, UNHS has flourished and grown under the leadership of CEO Donna Singer, who stepped down last month. UNHS has consistently proven to be a financially successful entity, and that success has slowly but steadily improved over the past fifteen years. As the organization's former Chief Operating Officer, Jensen helped oversee the continued growth of UNHS as it expanded to include Community Health Centers in Blanding, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain. Jensen gives much of the credit for the most recent financial success and growth of UNHS to the hard work of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Johnson, and the professional staff members with whom he works.

Johnson assumed the CFO duties last year, after working in the financial and operational departments at UNHS since 2004. Johnson said he has enjoyed his work at UNHS and is honored to be the CFO. But he, too, is quick to give most of the credit for the increasing financial stability and growth of the organization to those who do the day-to-day work.

"We have an amazing staff," Johnson said recently. "From our front desk workers, who make sure we have the proper financial information and identifications on file and coordinate benefits properly; to our eligibility workers who assist patients in applying for alternate resources; to our coding staff that inputs the proper codes for electronic billing to ensure correct billing the first time around; and to the accounting staff who ensure compliance and accurately record financials for necessary data driven analysis. It's a team effort to make sure the entire revenue cycle is done properly. It's critical to the success of any healthcare setting," Johnson added.

Johnson said Garrett Holly and Kim Anderson have done a great job with their departments. Holly works with what Johnson calls the 'back end' of the process, getting the billing and coding process right. Anderson oversees the 'front end' of the process, where patient registration staff makes sure patients' insurance information is captured appropriately and services are prior authorized. The hard work of this small army of financial workers has really paid off. UNHS has seen a dramatic decrease in 'accounts receivable' (AR) days from 91 days in 2009 to just 32 days last year. Johnson explained that, simply put, AR days represent the time from when the patient is first seen at UNHS to the time the bill for those services is collected.

"Our staff is great. They really put their noses to the grind stone to ensure UNHS collects outstanding balances due to us by making sure bills are correct, placing necessary phone calls, getting proper documentation to those who need it, following up on claims and assisting patients in navigating the difficult health care billing environment so that UNHS can collect on unpaid bills," Johnson said. "Even though they work in an office, it takes a blue collar effort to get your hands dirty and see why claims are not paid, especially with commercial payers."

The decline in AR days is even more impressive when you consider the number of patient encounters (doctor visits, dentist visits, getting a prescription filled at the pharmacy, seeing a behavioral health specialist, etc.) have increased significantly in the past few years, and billable services have risen by more than $6 million in the last few years. Both Johnson and Jensen say they feel very positive about the direction UNHS has taken over the past fifteen years and they are convinced that positive growth trend will continue into the future, and UNHS will continue operating in the black for many years to come. For UNHS patients, this means they can expect the same quality healthcare they've come to expect over the past decade, and in this day and age of health care, that is certainly saying something.

CFO is all smiles...UNHS CFO, Jimmy Johnson, is feeling pretty good about the financial stability of the organization. He said UNHS is poised to be in the 'black' for years to come. Staff photo

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