Jennifer Ryon – Chief Operating
Officer, Prime Health Services, Inc.
As the Chief Operating Officer at Prime Health Services, Jennifer is focused on innovative delivery solutions, efficiencies, marketing integration, and customer service to address customer requirements and drive business growth.
Her core responsibility includes securing the functionality of the company to drive sustainable growth, building employee alignment with company goals, and meeting the key targets of the organization. In this interview, Jennifer talks to me about her experience of growing in a company and her visions for the future of the healthcare industry.
Getting into the Workers’ Compensation and Healthcare Domain
Like a lot of people, Jennifer’s foray into the workers’ compensation and healthcare industry was evolved through a series of incidents. She enrolled for her degree in business administration with a specialization in marketing but soon realized this isn’t where her heart is.
At the time, she was in between jobs and found herself at a car dealership for Nissan. The dealership needed a woman car salesman and Jennifer negotiated a salary for three months at the moment and began working with them.
During her work there, she sold a car to the founder of Prime Health Services. A conversation followed where he asked her to send her resume to the company. Three months after graduating college, she started working at the company and has grown there for the past 15 years.
‘I started in account management and I have had the opportunity to be mentored under the President CEO who is the founder and a lot of good executive leadership people, and now I am the COO.’
Even though Jennifer didn’t start with an ambition to work in workers’ compensation, she found her passion there. One of the major attractions of the field for her is the complexity of the market. At a high level, it is relatively easy to understand what medical or workers’ compensation is, but when one dives down into it, it’s a complex space and turns individuals into experts the longer they stay.
‘What I love is to be able to make an impact in a market that I’ve been able to really grow and learn in. Here you’re always learning, it’s always dynamic and changing.’
Recalling signing up her first account, Jennifer credits networking and showing the clients’ value. She joined the company in 2006, which was its first year of having a national PPO (preferred provider organization) network presence. She started in the account management team and began fostering relationships, learning, gaining trust, and adding value that was suitable to a national PPO network and a competitor.
Jennifer adopted a consulting approach of listening to the client’s needs. She paid attention to aspects that the clients liked as well as what they found were missing. Using this understanding, she would look to create processes or formulate a service offering that fits their goal.
‘Listen to what the client’s needs are and come up with a suitable solution. That is what I did from the very beginning and throughout my career. It’s what I try and strive to do.’
A unique aspect of Jennifer’s career has been growing in the same company rather than changing jobs, which is the industry norm. She started in an entry level account management at position, focused on understanding the core competencies and the different divisions of the company. She then moved from Account Manager to Director of Account Management, Vice President of Account Management, Vice President of Sales and Account Management, Chief Revenue Officer, and recently was appointed as the COO in April of 2021.
Current Business Structure and Organization
Currently, Prime Health Services works with large third-party administrators, insurance carriers, self-insured administrators, and government entities. Along with being focused on the workers’ compensation side, the company also does auto liability, commercial group health, Medicare Advantage, inmate healthcare, and personal injury line. The company is a broad-based PPO with numerous clients.
The company is headquartered in Nashville. Prime Health Services currently serves thousands of clients. They have direct clients and work with insurance carriers and TPAs who have their own employers and groups.
In the workers’ compensation space, the company has over 800,000 providers nationwide in all 50 states which cover hospitals, facilities, physicians, and all specialties. Insurance carriers or employers, TPAs do not own a network.
On the group health side, Blue Cross Blue Shield, AETNA, United, Cigna, and Humana own their network, that’s a risk-bearing PPO. Prime Health Services is a non-risk-bearing PPO and so they work and lease their PPO network to the workers’ compensation space.
Their clients are the carriers and the TPAs who have access to the network. This way when an employee gets injured on the job, they have to go see a doctor or go to the hospital or urgent care. Those doctors are in the network where the company negotiates discounts for the employers.
Jennifer is also a board member of the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation. This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to affect positive change in the workers’ compensation space through networking, support, mentoring, and collaboration. They have webinars on an ongoing basis. They also have collaboration sections along with networking in person.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a lot of the in-person events were canceled. However, the National Work Comp conference in October and the WCI conference in December will be the in-person events this year.
The theme for this year is ‘Through the Lens’ which encourages a deep dive into important topics each month. These include specific workers’ compensation topics as well as professional and personal growth topics.
Standout Moments Along the Journey
For Jennifer, her career trajectory and ability to grow at a younger age is a standout moment. Additionally, she recalls being impressed by the women on the board of the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation for a long time. Now, as a board member herself, being a colleague and a decision-maker and being able to affect change means a lot.
Her passion for uplifting the market and bringing people in, networking, collaborating and being inclusive is a huge part of her making her integration with the board a special moment from a personal standpoint.
From the impact of workers’ compensation, the company is identifying the shifts in the marketplace, acknowledging the changes in the marketplace over the years, thinking outside the box and looking at creative ways to expand their services from a technology standpoint as well as a thought leader.
‘I think where my passion lies is to continue to look at strategy and expand upon it.’
Overcoming Challenges in the Workers’ Compensation Domain
Broad-based PPO’s have undergone huge changes in the past 15-20 years. Earlier the concept was of single doctor locations and now the landscape of a network has changed as large health systems continue to consolidate. Factors such as the approach, the value addition brought in as a PPO, as the biller e-platforms are important.
Additionally, technology has changed. Adapting to technology and making sure there are no legacy issues is a challenge. Also, considering the entrance of newer companies emerging with innovative approaches to workers’ compensation in a mature market and allowing them to come in and to affect change is a big challenge.
From a personal standpoint, overcoming a challenge is to humanize oneself. As a leader, the typical approach is to be a stoic individual that has all of the answers which don’t have to be true.
Jennifer states that being a leader means being open and allowing those around you to know that you are a person, you make mistakes and you learn and you grow from it. You are more collaborative than just being a hard core executive person and are open to hearing what others have to say.
‘I think being able to be self-aware in that matter is the biggest thing that you have to overcome. Also, have confidence because confidence does resonate and that’s probably what I try to focus on all day long.’
Business Plans for the Future
Prime Health Services is on a trajectory of growth. The company is continuing to improve and grow its PPO network and the service offerings around that. That is their core competency.
They are not just in the workers’ compensation space but also do work in the group health, auto liability, Medicare Advantage inmate healthcare and personal injury line. Those other revenue streams are expected to continue to grow.
The company also has new products that will be launched. One of them was launched at the beginning of this year and the service line will continue to expand. At the core, Prime Health Services will continue to improve the product base of the PPO as well as look at synergies that complement that ecosystem and provide the clients additional value.
Regarding the marketing methods that have worked, Jennifer states being a B2B, a large focus is on conferences and networking. They do a lot of industry shows and industry magazines but a lot of it has been brand recognition through the sales and client services team, the website, and social media.
This year, the company will be exhibiting at the National Work Comp conference as well as WCI.
Top Philosophies and Core Values as an Expert in Workers’ Compensation
Jennifer’s top philosophy and core values are authenticity and ingenuity. She believes it is important to be collaborative and adaptable to market changes. The moment someone thinks they are the smartest in the room or that their model is the only one that works, is where you find cracks or failures.
‘I think always learning to change and to be okay with that change is important.’
Advice for Newcomers Entering the Workers’ Compensation Field
Jennifer states that there is a breadth of opportunity in the workers’ compensation space. There are so many different avenues for newcomers to explore. They don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse or have a master’s degree.
People can start at an entry level position, stay focused, ask questions, network and then align with their goals. It takes a while, but it is important to hang in there.
‘We were all young at one point and didn’t know where we want to go with our career. What’s great about workers’ compensation is there are many different avenues and you try them out. You see what fits with you and what doesn’t and you ask around.’
There are a lot of people that have grown up in the field and have been successful, creating a lot of mentors in this space. Newcomers should find a mentor and surround themselves with individuals that have worked the aspects of their interest before and succeeded. There’s a breadth of opportunity all over the board on what someone excels in.
2 Key Learnings Over the Years
- Ask questions
Be vulnerable and ask questions. Be open to saying that you don’t have all the answers. Once people began to realize it is alright to ask for help, it expands upon the connections and helps humanize oneself.
- Continue to learn
There are many different ways that people can learn, not just by going to different webinars and different conferences. Find individuals within the organization and ask questions. A lot of people want to talk about what they have done, so ask questions and be a part of something by actively participating within the organization.
Key Benefits of Services at Prime Health Services
A major benefit is that the PPO network is a network of 800,000 providers. The company achieves a discount for all their clients. So when a medical bill comes through, it starts at the original bill charge of the provider, then the bill is reduced to that state fee schedule allowed amount and Prime applies the PPO negotiated rates below that state fee schedule and the value for the providers is that we have a patient base that is referred into those provider locations from all of our product lines, not just workers’ compensation and then on the client’s side which is the insurance carrier TPA, that is where it’s a discount, so we’re achieving a discount for those medical bills.
Vision for Future of the Industry
Jennifer believes the vision is to continue to adapt to the market to understand the aging workforce not only at an employer level but also looking at the overall talent within the workers’ compensation space. It is important to look at the pool of workers in the nation, and ask how to ensure that the claims that go from the date of injury to MMI continues to shrink and incorporate technology to drive that as well.
‘I think technology is a huge play that can advance the workflow and the transparency of the workers’ compensation industry. We have a lot of great thought leaders. A lot of people have great ideas and continue to implement new workflows to affect change in the workers’ compensation space.’
Another thing Jennifer advises is to be open to change. Organizations cannot stay stagnant. It is vital to hear the customer, be the voice of the customer and be okay with saying things worked in the past but it is important to get to that next step and to elevate and evolve into where the future is going. People need to be okay with changing and pivoting to where the market is going.
An emerging trend from a PPO focus will be specialty networks taking broad-based network and paring them down, building more EPOs, and customizing to the client. A lot of clients want true customization.
‘My organization is focused on being able to pare down our network in ways that fit the goals and aligns with our client base.’
Leadership Lessons Learned Over the Years
The biggest lesson learned is that not everybody is going to raise their hands and push their opinion. Sometimes as a leader, it needs to be pulled out of people as those quiet individuals in the room can come up with the greatest ideas.
It is important to sit and listen and be mindful of those that can collaborate and bring new information. Everyone in the organization makes an impact. Acknowledging that and fostering that to build up individuals to where they feel confident to give their opinion matters.
‘I truly believe that everyone matters, every person in a company is making that company successful.’
A huge lesson learned is to make sure that every individual understands the why so that they can take ownership of it and naturally excel throughout their current role as well as expand upon their career.