Jenny Johnson – Vice President of Revenue
Cycle, Scottish Rite for Children
Jenny has been a pioneer in establishing innovative revenue cycle practices. Certified in health care compliance as well as revenue cycle, she served in various compliance and revenue cycle roles over the years.
In this interview, Jenny talks to me about her passion for quality childcare, the changes she has witnessed over the years, and her vision for the future of the industry.
Starting A Career In Revenue Cycle Management
Growing up, Jenny had a passion for the healthcare industry and preferred to be on the non-clinical side of healthcare. While she was studying for her undergraduate degree at UTA, the University introduced a master’s program in healthcare administration that caught her attention.
Jenny had also accepted a position as an analyst in the business office of a hospital at the time. She enrolled in the healthcare administration master’s program and did her internship in hospital administration and the revenue cycle.
‘I was intrigued by the various roles that made up the revenue cycle, starting with scheduling to payment collection. That is when I decided to pursue a career in the revenue cycle.’
One aspect that still engages Jenny in this domain through the years is that the revenue cycle is a special niche where all the different facets of the department are interconnected. She states that she enjoys the various processes and the analytics involved in managing the revenue cycle. It is a department where people can experience the direct results of their efforts.
‘The possibilities are endless as you can continuously improve processes and obtain great outcomes.’
Standout Moments As A Business Leader In The Domain Of RCM
Jenny recounts that she has received numerous opportunities at various prominent health systems in the DFW area. Early in her career, she inherited a revenue cycle department that needed a lot of restructuring and development of procedures. During that time, she faced a lot of challenges and learned the most valuable lessons in people management.
Another moment Jenny mentions was the opportunity to train as a billing compliance professional under Julian De La Rosa who was the former inspector general of the US Department of Labor and a prominent figure within the FBI.
Along with all the formal compliance education Jenny obtained from the MHA Program, the on-the-job training under Julian was invaluable. She states that her experience was instrumental in learning the importance of setting up internal controls, checks, and balances in areas such as documentation, coding, charging, billing, etc. to potentially prevent inappropriate practices, recoupments, and penalties in the future. Although one cannot fully avoid these scenarios, it is possible to minimize risks by setting up appropriate controls.
‘Implementing revenue cycle at Scottish Rite for Children, a hospital that had not billed for services since its inception for 92 years was the greatest standout moment in my life.’
Jenny states that it was an honor to have been entrusted with such a great responsibility and the success of the implementation depended on many factors. She credits the support of the board of trustees, administration, physician leaders, department heads and all other staff members – their willingness to learn, work hard, collaborate, adapt to change and ask profound questions, all of which helped the team prepare for such a huge undertaking and succeed in this mission.
Regarding the prominent achievements of her company, Jenny says that Scottish Rite’s Mission statement is giving children back their childhood and if people are affiliated with the hospital in some form or fashion, they will experience this mission first hand. By implementing the revenue cycle, they were able to add another revenue stream for the hospital to help more children and their families receive the amazing medical care they need. Scottish Rite treats some of the most complex orthopedic conditions in the world.
Overcoming Challenges In Her Career
When Jenny arrived at Scottish Rite, one of the most important tasks was to educate the team on charging and billing regulations. It was a balanced approach of implementing billing, yet at the same time preserving the amazing 92-year culture of providing services to families regardless of their ability to pay.
She developed a revenue integrity program to perform back-end audits to assist the revenue-producing departments with appropriate charging of services.
Top Philosophies And Core Values In Business
‘I believe that integrity, ethics, and accountability are the three most important values you need to manage an effective revenue cycle.’
Developing a revenue integrity program with checks, balances, and strong internal controls is essential in mitigating risks as the revenue cycle is an area of high risk. Staying abreast of coding and billing compliance, routine internal and external auditing and monitoring of clinical documentation, ongoing education to clinical and non-clinical staff are all important in maintaining a robust revenue cycle department.
Talking about her passion for specializing in Pediatrics, Jenny mentions that 3 years into her career in healthcare, she started working at Children’s Health where she got to learn and experience the pediatric world.
Prior to that, she had worked for two for-profit adult health systems. Children’s Health gave her exposure to the not-for-profit side of healthcare. Ever since then, she has wanted to be in the pediatric world.
‘I love kids a lot and the fact that we were making a difference in the lives of children really fascinated me. It is very rewarding to know that I play a part in transforming the lives of many children.’
Advice For Newcomers Looking To Start A Career In RCM
Jenny believes in the importance of gaining experience in various facets of the revenue cycle to fully understand the big picture of effectively managing the revenue cycle. Having the understanding that each team within the revenue cycle plays a critical role in the overall success of the department is very important.
The information captured by the patient access staff, the role of HIM and coding, and the back-end functions are all crucial and ongoing training and process improvement should be key focus areas. Also, training and/or experience on the compliance and revenue integrity side will help tremendously when one has to face revenue and payer audits.
Vision For Future Of The RCM Industry
An increasing number of candidates are expecting employers to offer flexibility so that they can have a good work-life balance. This will result in an increase in work-from-home opportunities. The rising cost of living, influx of people moving in from other states thus increasing traffic on roads and highways, increased tolls, cost of gas, etc., are making it harder for families to make ends meet.
When presented with multiple job offers, candidates almost always pick the one with a work-from-home option. In order to recruit qualified and talented candidates, it is essential to offer complete or partial work from home options.
Secondly – automation. Through Covid, the industry has learned many valuable lessons. There are many solutions available that can be utilized to automate certain functions. Identifying those areas of efficiency and automating those functions would enable Revenue Cycle departments to have less of an impact when faced with staffing challenges.
For professionals looking to remain successful in this domain, Jenny advises staying updated with all the latest trends. In the ever-changing world of healthcare, it is extremely important to stay abreast of any nuances. With Price Transparency, the CURES Act, the No Surprise Act, and other regulations, it is important for all revenue cycle leaders to be fully engaged in understanding the regulatory requirements.
Understanding current trends in the healthcare environment are vital to make important decisions at the right time. Hospital expenses are increasing, and health plans are transferring more responsibility to patients thus affecting cash flow. Freestanding centers that can perform various services that were previously performed at hospitals are growing rapidly and offering the same services at a lower cost.
To stay competitive in the market, periodic evaluation of charges for services and benchmarking with peers will become more and more prevalent. Developing and maintaining good relationships with the payers is crucial as it will help with negotiating sustainable contract rates for the facility or practice.
‘I highly encourage all leaders to keep up with current trends and implement necessary changes timely to stay ahead.’
Leadership Lessons Learned Throughout Life
‘Leading by example is extremely important.’
The staff pays attention to how managers and leaders interact with others and how we carry out our day-to-day responsibilities. In order to gain the trust of the staff, it is important for leaders to show their commitment to the team and the organization.
She also states that as leaders it is important to genuinely care about each of the team members. Their loyalty towards the management largely depends on how appreciated and valued they feel.
‘We all want to feel valued. When staff realize that we genuinely care about them as a person and appreciate all the good work that they are doing, they will remain committed to us and go above and beyond.’