BHBusiness: Learning networks active in 44 states

Submitted by: 07/03/2013 by Maureen Fitzgerald

Nearly 800 organizations from 44 states are participating in the first round of learning networks in BHBusiness: Mastering Essential Business Operations. Two learning networks launched in March: Strategic Business Planning and Third-party Billing and Compliance. Three additional networks, Negotiating Contracts with Third-party Payers, Eligibility and Enrollment, and Meaningful Use of HIT began in June.

Katy Lewis, Director of Standards and Certification and Shawnee Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, Ohio, is participating in the Third-party Billing and Compliance learning network, along with representatives from 20 other organizations in her region.  Katy describes her organization as being somewhere “in the middle” in working with third-party payers.  “We’ve been billing Medicaid for many years but we know we have to be fully prepared to work with other payers once the ACA is fully implemented.”

Katy’s organization serves 5000 clients annually, with four clinics serving three rural counties in southeast Ohio. One thing she and her team have learned through their learning network activities is how much intake and billing processes vary in each of the four clinics. “The walk-through exercise we did at each clinic was a real eye-opener,” says Katy, adding that the information gained from the walk-through helped identify steps to take to improve the insurance authorization process and reduce client frustration.

Kathryn Kirchmeier is Director of Administrative Services at Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services (ADDS) in Buffalo, New York. ADDS is participating in BH Business Strategic Planning learning network for Western New York, along with 20 other organizations. The BHBusiness announcement coincided with her organization’s decision to develop a new strategic plan, says Kathryn, so the timing was perfect.

“The learning network gives us an excellent framework for creating our strategic plan, and it’s very motivating to know that at the end of the course we’ll have a document in hand that we can use for reference.”

Katy and Kathryn are part of learning networks that consist of a diverse group of organizations within the same geographic area. Another Strategic Planning learning network consists entirely of affiliates of Volunteers of America, with about 80 people participating 28 affiliates from 24 states.

Volunteers of America is a national health and human services organization, founded in 1896. With offices across the country, VOA’s mission is to provide services to the most vulnerable: veterans, at-risk youth, the elderly, people returning from prison, homeless, people with disabilities, and people suffering from addictions. VOA has 35 affiliates across the country, with 16,000 staff and nearly 60,000 volunteers helping deliver services. 

Margaret Ratcliff, Executive Vice President of Affiliate Relations for Volunteers of America, was pleasantly surprised at her affiliates’ response to the invitation to participate in the BHBusinesss Strategic Planning learning collaborative. “We’re all learning together, and it’s also giving people from the various affiliates a chance to work together and get to know each other,” says Margaret. That kind of networking can be hard to accomplish for a large national organization.  And that interaction has raised awareness of how much states differ in the way services are funded, adds Margaret, giving her team members a chance to compare notes and problem solve.

Margaret applied for the Strategic Planning learning network because VOA has relied primarily on government funding, with some third-party contracts and flow through money to counties and cities.  “Our big driver for joining the network was knowing that we need to take a different approach to be fully prepared for the ACA,” she explains.

One of the greatest benefits Margaret has observed so far is that BHBusiness is providing a way to standardize training in essential business operations for the VOA affiliate organizations. “By learning the same material at about the same pace, our affiliates willl be able to come up with workable strategic plans more quickly than if each tried to do this on their own,” says Margaret. She’s already looking ahead to applying to participating in the Negotiating Contracts with Third-Party Payers learning network, which will be offered in the next round (Fall 2013).

The State Associations of Addiction Services (SAAS) leads the project in partnership with NIATx, the National Council, and Advocates for Human Potential (AHP). The four partners worked together to develop a curriculum for each topic that would be convenient, relevant, and engaging for the participants.

Kathryn Kirchmeier likes the fact that she can complete the readings and other assignments at her convenience. “The video trainings give me just the right amount of information, and having a coach (Mat Roosa) to keep us on track is great.”   

For the VOA learning network, participating in BHBusiness has encouraged team members to think about more ways to use technology for large group training. “It’s also allowed us as an organization to figure out where we can offer more support to different affiliates,” says Margaret. She also commends the coaches, Kim Johnson from NIATx and Angie Halvorson from AHP, for keeping her network motivated.

Katy Lewis likes the all the learning network modules are relevant to her organization’s goals. “We want to be able to serve people with health insurance correctly,” she says. “There’s absolutely no question that participating in BHBusiness will help us accommodate the anticipated increase in clients eligible for treatment.”

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