What Is The Difference Between Revenue Cycle Management and Medical Billing?

June 27, 2024
Reading Time:

The terms “revenue cycle management” (RCM) and “medical billing” are often used interchangeably in healthcare; however, they refer to distinct financial management processes within healthcare organizations.  

Revenue cycle management is a complex and strategic process that involves managing patient service revenue—from a patient’s scheduled appointment, to handling complex claims, to denials resolution on through to post-process revenue impact analysis. Medical billing, a subset of the RCM process, focuses on payer claim submissions and patient billing.  

Understanding the differences between these two concepts is necessary for optimizing financial profitability and ensuring the operational efficiency of healthcare organizations. 

What Is Revenue Cycle Management? 

Revenue cycle management is not a single process but a comprehensive workflow and financial journey. It starts with the initial appointment scheduling and ends with the final payment collection. More than just medical billing, RCM handles an enormous number of challenging and complicated claims for a hospital or health system, such as Motor Vehicle Accident, Workers’ Compensation, Veterans Affairs/TRICARE, and Out-of-State Medicaid, as well as addressing revenue integrity in the areas of Denials Management, Aged AR, and Underpayment Recovery. RCM is a series of interconnected processes that ensure healthcare providers are paid for their services efficiently and in full.  

This comprehensive approach involves multiple operational departments working together, making it less siloed than medical billing. It involves: 

  • Patient Registration and Scheduling: Capturing accurate patient demographic information to facilitate billing and insurance claims
  • Eligibility Verification and Authorization: Ensuring that a patient’s insurance information is accurate to inform service coverage and obtaining necessary pre-authorizations. This process establishes financial responsibility for payments.
  • Charge Capture: Recording the services provided to the patient using the correct procedure and services using medical coders. This results in creating a superbill—a report covering all the information established up to this point in the RCM process.
  • Claim Generation, Submission, & Management: Handling the creation and submission of insurance claims and monitoring their status
  • Denials Management: Addressing and resolving denied and rejected claims to maximize reimbursement
  • Payment Posting: Recording payments and reconciling accounts
  • Patient Billing and Collections: Managing the collection of a patient’s outstanding charges after insurance payments
  • Reporting and Analysis: Monitoring the revenue cycle’s financial performance and identifying improvement areas

A well-executed revenue cycle management strategy goes beyond simple billing tasks to include a comprehensive, cross-departmental approach that integrates technology, data analytics, and specialized expertise to optimize financial outcomes for healthcare providers. 

What Is Medical Billing? 

Medical billing is a subset of revenue cycle management focused primarily on the administrative tasks associated with creating, submitting, and following up on claims with payers. This transactional process, managed mainly by medical billing professionals, ensures that healthcare providers quickly receive payment for services rendered.  

Critical functions of medical billing include:

  • Claim Submission: Preparing and submitting claims to insurance companies for reimbursement through the billing process
  • Coding: Translating healthcare services rendered into standardized codes such as CPT and ICD-10 for billing purposes
  • Payment Posting: Recording payments received from insurance companies and patients
  • Follow-Up: Addressing denials and re-submitting claims when necessary
  • Patient Billing: Generating statements for out-of-pocket expenses for patient care

Medical billing is a crucial function that directly affects cash flow; however, it is only a part of the broader revenue cycle management process. 

The Role of Technology and Expertise 

Modern RCM solutionspowered by AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning (ML), large language models (LLMs), automation, and data analytics—are not just led by powerful technological tools, but also driven by talented and experienced partners to improve revenue cycle efficiency and accuracy, maximizing a health system’s profit margins. Medical billing technology solutions, on the other hand, focus only on timely, accurate claims processing and are often mediated through medical billing services.  

RCM services, with their multifaceted approach, streamline strategy and operations. Data is used to track denials trends, create scoring models, inform advanced analytics to automate workflows, reduce or prevent claims denials, and provide real-time, transparent reporting with the goal of enhancing overall financial performance​​ and security. 

The Power of Holistic Revenue Cycle Management and Strategic Partnerships 

While distinguishing between revenue cycle management and medical billing is important for healthcare providers to enhance their financial operations, a comprehensive approach to the entire revenue cycle is vital for hospitals and healthcare systems to significantly improve their bottom line. Understanding the nuances of both processes and their interconnectedness within the broader financial ecosystem enables providers to implement more effective strategies for optimizing revenue and streamlining operations. 

When addressing RCM challenges, providers typically consider three primary options: build, buy, or partner. Building an in-house technology platform offers more control but may strain resources, while buying a pre-built solution can be faster but expensive and potentially limiting. The third option, partnering with an experienced vendor like Aspirion, presents a compelling alternative by offering a balanced solution that integrates specialized expertise with innovative technology.  

The right partnership can ease the burden on healthcare leaders, addressing multiple challenges simultaneously. They eliminate the need to constantly keep pace with rapidly evolving AI technology and automation advancements. Additionally, they resolve the ongoing struggle of recruiting and retaining specialized talent. Perhaps most critically, they alleviate the financial strain on providers who are already operating within tight margins, offering a cost-effective solution to complex RCM challenges. 

Aspirion employs teams of data scientists, attorneys, and clinicians with state-of-the-art platforms powered by advanced artificial intelligence. Our approach strikes a balance between specialized expertise and innovative technology to effectively address complex RCM challenges. By partnering with the right company, healthcare leaders can alleviate the anxiety associated with keeping pace with the latest AI technology and automation advancements, as well as the struggles of recruiting and retaining top talent. A partnership model helps healthcare organizations focus on their core mission while leveraging external expertise and cutting-edge tools to optimize their revenue cycle. 

Want to reduce your administrative burden and elevate your profit margins with AI-powered RCM? Take the initial step! Contact us today. 

Aspirion

Aspirion

For over two decades, Aspirion has helped healthcare providers maximize their hospital revenue recovery by focusing on their most challenging reimbursements. Aspirion’s experienced team of healthcare, legal, and technical professionals combined with industry-leading technology platforms help ensure providers receive their most complex RCM revenue so that they can focus on patient care.

Contact Us

Find out how Aspirion’s Revenue Cycle Management services will optimize reimbursement for your most challenging claims.