Nearly 2,300 Intermountain Healthcare workers who handle patient claims and payments will have a new employer as of April 8.

Intermountain is transferring those employees to R1 RCM, a company it has collaborated with for a half dozen years to improve its “revenue cycle management.” That’s the industry term for the process, using medical-billing software, of tracking patient care from registration through final payments.

Intermountain officials believe the transfer will save their company $70 million over the next three years.

Robert Allen, Intermountain’s chief operating officer, promised impacted employees that their pay would remain the same, as would their health-insurance benefits through SelectHealth, Intermountain’s provider. “They will maintain their Intermountain tenure as well,” he said.

“These savings are not coming on the backs of the employees,” Allen insisted. “They come from gaining efficiencies because of economies of scale and a proprietary software … that really focuses on improving the flow. This software tracks more carefully the payments that insurance companies make to make sure they pay enough.”

Both Intermountain and R1 said the employees’ new retirement benefits will be comparable and competitive.

The switch also could end up creating a couple of hundred new jobs in Utah.

Noting that R1 does similar work for about 300 hospitals around the country, Allen said the Chicago-based company is looking to open a Western hub for its operations. That hub is likely to grow up around a West Valley City facility near 4600 W. 2700 South where many of these billing-oriented employees already work.

Joseph Flanagan, R1’s president and CEO, said many of those new jobs would be part of a product development and technology solution center seeking to develop better ways to meet an evolving medical environment.

“For a healthcare provider to be paid accurately and in a timely manner for all services provided is incredibly complex,” he said. In addition, “there are new needs such as patients expecting to see a pre-service cost estimate of what they will need to pay for a test or procedure. … We’re excited to be reinventing the revenue cycle to deliver a great patient experience with modern software design and web-enabled mobile technology.”

Allen relayed the news earlier this week to about 250 managers of the effected Intermountain workers.

“Their main question was ‘Do I still have a job?’ I’m grateful we could answer that positively,” he said. “We ended the meeting with what I felt was a fair amount of optimism. They could see the growth potential for themselves, but the process of change is still hard to go through. We have 2.5 months to help people prepare and understand what it means.”

Intermountain has been going through a rigorous internal examination of its operations, which involve 39,000 employees at 22 hospitals and 180 clinics, mostly in Utah.

Besides changing the revenue cycle management system, Intermountain also has been implementing a new, integrated electronic medical records program called iCentra. Its presence has triggered apprehension among some employees that Intermountain is preparing to turn over its information technology operations to another third-party contractor, much like it did with R1.

“There’s been no decisions made in the IT arena,” Allen said. He added that Intermountain is looking at numerous options to “assure people are getting the best care they can get — and that care is affordable. We’re under that obligation to deliver that.”