Brian Hall – President,
Physicians Resources Ltd.
Brian Hall has over 30 years of experience in the revenue cycle management (RCM) industry. Brian’s entire career has been shaped by helping medical practices, ASC’s and hospital organizations improve their financial health by improving cash flow and maximizing net revenue by optimizing revenue operations.
Physicians Resources LTD (PRL) prides itself in providing a unique approach to revenue management called the RevCycle Ecosystem. The RevCycle Ecosystem provides a unique experience for the healthcare practice by delivering exceptional financial results, and a personal experience for both the customer and their patients. In this interview, Brian talks to me about his experiences as an RCM leader and the innovative services that enable him to help numerous healthcare organizations thrive in a competitive landscape.
An Early Start to the RCM Journey
Brian began his career in the RCM industry soon after college. Growing up on a dairy farm gave Brain an understanding of the work required to run a family business. Considering his opportunities after graduation, he chose to work in the growing healthcare business sector and began selling medical software to help practices run their business better. Little did he know that 30 years later he would be running an RCM company, taking it to new heights of growth and community engagement.
For Brian, it was always more than just business though. He wanted to contribute by making a difference in people’s lives. PRL gave him the opportunity to help improve the business of healthcare, contribute to the community, and to provide security and a unique culture for the employees of PRL.
Recounting his early days, Brian recalls selling medical software to an Orthopedic practice in the 1980s. This was in the early days with MS-DOS software, and it became apparent that the practice lacked the skills and training to work with the new technology. So the practice turned to Brian and his team to help setup and run things in the billing department. This pivotal engagement and others that followed sparked the realization for Brian that there was an emerging opportunity to help healthcare practices improve their business functions by more accurate and efficient financial systems – or Revenue Cycle Management.
Today, it’s as much about the patient’s financial experience as it is about improving cash flow.
‘The majority of the patients have a great clinical experience, and we strive to make sure their financial experiences mirrors that. We understand that we can make a big difference for these healthcare providers but also for the patients at the same time and I think that becomes more and more important as we move forward.’
Current Business Structure and Organization
Today, Brian’s company PRL has evolved to include orthopedic, ophthalmology, and specialty and multi-specialty practices as well as hospitalist organizations and ambulatory surgical centers as their primary clients, ranging in size from 5-100 providers with a handful of clients exceeding 100 providers.
The company has 160 employees between contracted and internal staff, serving over 70 clients east of the Mississippi from Florida to New England. PRL clients represent 1400 providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants. As a remote organization, employees are located across 9 states with a significant number present in their home state of New Hampshire.
Enhancing Community Reach with Brian’s Weekly Video
Brian has always been a strong advocate of community involvement and encourages others to stay engaged by providing programs, incentives, and partnerships with community organizations.
In an attempt to better connect with the healthcare community, Brian also began his weekly videos. The focus here is to create content specific to the healthcare industry to help people understand more about the importance of the Revenue Cycle and other topics that are helpful to their healthcare business.
The videos talk about a range of topics from caring for employees, understanding the importance of having difficult conversations, as well as recognizing and addressing issues that arise such as work burnout.
‘The intent is to make sure we are making a lot of content for people that we are going to talk about as well as share knowledge that we have in RCM.’
Brian believes that in the past, the healthcare industry has been cautious in sharing proprietary or sensitive information, but he sees that changing as more organizations have begun sharing information in the last couple of years. The intention of Brian’s videos is to share knowledge and experiences with the world to help the community, employees and team members.
Navigating Through the COVID-19 Impact
When the pandemic hit, the highest priority was for the health and welfare of clients and staff. The biggest change came from the transition to remote work, but PRL was prepared and quickly transitioned to remote operations by providing each employee with the required technology, security and support needed.
This ensured that the services clients had come to rely on were not disrupted in any way. Without missing a beat, the PRL team prioritized client needs to ensure they had the support they needed to weather the coming COVID-19 storm.
At the same time, the account management team and professional services did everything to support their clients. This included helping them understand telemedicine, understanding all the potential government opportunities for clients and funding.
Brian states that the company shared critical information with their clients and became their biggest COVID resource.
‘We felt like that was our chance to support our clients and make sure they get everything they need from us. For us it was not a chance to charge them, so we went without as much as we could while being their go-to resource.’
Along with sharing information, a crucial aspect was to help clients collect as much money as was possible. The company kept up its performance while providing clients with numerous payment policies such as flexible payment terms, extending credit facilities, and offering discounted rates for the same level of work.
‘We used the opportunity during lockdown to get our staff trained, bring in new people, and keep everybody going. We also made an effort on our culture side to support the staff and expanded our human resources team. We talked a lot about mental health. We really took time to make sure everybody understood and had the support to get through the pandemic.
Standout Moments Along the Way
Some of the best moments for Brian have been witnessing his clients grow. Practices that started with three to six providers have grown to thirty to forty providers with the help of PRL. This has led to remarkable client relationships, proven by client retention. Clients have stayed with the company for over 10 years which is immensely satisfying.
‘In every business, you want to avoid turnover. We build personal relationships with the clients and thus they stay with us for years.’
Another aspect of pride is that it isn’t just the clients, but also the staff that stays with the company for a long time. Several members of the senior management team have been with the company for years.
Brian claims that the biggest thing nowadays in healthcare is that everybody is hoping to find talent, develop talent, and build culture. Healthcare, particularly, has really struggled to have greatly talented individuals in the business.
‘We have been immensely fortunate and make the PRL culture a priority, this has helped us retain and develop incredible talent. Over the years we have had employees leave and come back and result in creating a bigger impact on the business.’
Talking about moments of pride for the organization, Brian mentions longevity and remaining an independent business. The organization is focused on constantly evolving without getting comfortable. They are always on the lookout for new technology, new ways that bring in new processes or upskill the staff and teach them new roles. Next, the company is looking to get into AI and make an impact in machine learning in healthcare.
‘We are always looking to make sure that we keep the company on the cutting edge and I think that is important.’
Overcoming Challenges in the Healthcare Sector
Covid-19 was the most significant financial challenge that the healthcare industry had experienced in recent years. Fortunately, Brian was able to retain the staff at PRL, even though client revenue was significantly impacted throughout the pandemic.
Beyond having to adjust its business strategy during a pandemic, PRL has also faced the challenge of growing its business and bringing in the right leadership. However, over the past five years, it has nearly quadrupled in size. Brian believes that this kind of growth helps the company do more for the staff, invest in the business, and bring new technology to clients at a better price.
As more leadership, management, and individual contributors are brought in, PRL is staying focused on keeping its strong culture intact.
Business Plans for the Future
PRL wants its employees to love what they do. With Brian’s leadership style and dedication inspiring his team, the business is able to sustain continued growth. With growth targeted at 15-20% annually, a few goals need to be met. Time and effort are continually invested in the company, and community service is a priority as well. Additionally, there is always a need to improve performance and efficiencies with new technologies and processes for clients.
‘Our goal is to continue to grow and keep our culture intact. This is not always easy to do but the revenue cycle market is growing, and we will need to be better connected with physician practices and hospitals, to better serve our community.’
Brian and his team invest time developing meaningful content and understand the importance of creating awareness and value through social media. He believes that it is important to share information with thought leaders and to communicate via blogs and video. PRL also creates relevant content around healthcare industry trends, government regulations, and RCM best practices.
PRL believes that open sharing of information and strategic marketing brings more value. As traditional tactics such as cold calling or e-mail blasts become less effective, Brian and his team continually innovate to connect with industry leaders and decision-makers looking to improve their healthcare business processes.
‘We really focus on expanding our networks, myself included. Our clients and our trusted partners generate referrals, and to me that is the single most effective way to grow the business.’
Top Philosophies and Core Values in Business
Brian’s philosophy is to always be open and transparent with clients and employees. He believes that business in the healthcare industry requires a collaborative approach and that sharing information with employees is critical to PRL’s success.
‘If we make a mistake, we let our clients know “Hey, we made a mistake” and we have always had this approach. It is okay if it is not perfect, to ask for help and admit to when you did something wrong.’
RCM is complex because there are a lot of moving parts. People are often at the mercy of health plans, or at the data gathered for clients from health systems. Complete transparency is a big component of PRL’s internal philosophy. It is important to realize that relationships vary with time and the company’s success is mutually dependent of the client’s success.
‘Our approach has always been collaborative and hands-on. We believe in sharing information, sharing things that are working, things that are not working, helping our clients refine their business and in turn refining ours.’
Advice for Newcomers Entering the RCM Field
Brian has noted that it is important to recognize that things are continuously changing. Understanding which technologies can be leveraged to help improve the business is crucial. He believes that coding is going to continue to be a critical factor in RCM, and advises paying attention to voice recognition, AI and machine learning for those people who are just beginning their careers.
It is also very important to understand that there is a wealth of opportunities in RCM and the healthcare industry. People can come into the industry with no experience and still develop an excellent career path. It’s not like in the old days when the focus was mainly on data entry and insurance companies. In this business, there are various roles for analysts, IT professionals, compliance analysts, consultants, accounts receivable specialists, and more. There is a high level of opportunity with various careers in the industry.
When people think about the revenue cycle, they often picture the back office of a physician’s practice, but those days are actually long gone. These days, people need to be more aware of the different career options available.
‘Keep an open mind and look how you can leverage skills from other industries, technical and insurance businesses and understand that it is not the old revenue cycle from 10, 15, 20 years ago, it is a different market now.’
For companies looking to stay successful, Brian says that it is important to invest in people. He advises making sure they are trained, and that the hiring strategy is well-defined. Another important aspect is continuing to invest in the business, bring in new technology, and not to get too comfortable with the existing processes.
‘You have to be creative, there are always better ways to do things. You have got to be ready to take a little more risk and push the envelope when it comes to technology and processes.
Key Benefits of Services at Physicians Resources Ltd.
A major benefit for PRL is the company’s ability to leverage technology and bring unique reporting to the table for a lot of practices. Talent is also a substantial investment. It is hard for physician practices and hospitals to invest in, evolve, upskill, and train talent.
PRL prides itself on maintaining a great talent pool that is leveraged for multiple clients. This provides practices the benefit of plug-and-play experienced professionals that they likely could not afford or find at the appropriate skill level for their practice.
Technology is another big benefit for clients. PRL not only brings its own technology but also integrates with the client’s existing systems. Often, clients possess technology but only have knowledge of 20% of its capabilities. PRL provides the skill and expertise to get the most out of the EHR and workflows.
‘As an RCM partner, we help save money as well as generate more revenue. We are a professional service and compliance company that brings in the expertise and skill to help clients grow their business.’
Vision for Future of the RCM Industry
Opportunities in technology and digital transformation continue to be a growing focus for the RCM industry. It is important for companies to focus on innovative solutions that graduate machine learning and minimize mundane tasks at physician practices.
‘I think the robotic process is still quite frankly underutilized in healthcare. Internally we leverage it, and continuously work to take it to the next level.’
Companies will need to upskill their people and give them the ability to use technology to the maximum.
‘Patients want a better experience, and that is going to drive and force healthcare businesses to make investments, both financial, technical and a skilled staff, and look for partners. I think that is where we are going to continue to see the change.’
Leadership Lessons Learned Over the Course of Life
‘I believe one of the things that makes you a good leader is that you often fail more than everybody else, and that’s one of the things I have taken to heart.’
For Brian, being a good listener tops the list. In decision-making, the focus needs to be on making good decisions, even if they are not your own. At times, one has to make a hard decision and it helps to remain open and approachable. It is important to have conversations with the team and let them know as the leader, I am as accountable as they are.
‘A lot of times leaders get into trouble because they feel like they have to do things alone. They need to understand that they are human, make sure that their team understands it, and that as a leader you are listening to what they want and what they are saying.