As part of an interview series with healthcare leaders across the country, the Olive team had the chance to interview Patrick McDermott about the biggest challenges facing healthcare today. Previous to his current role as Interim Vice President at ProMedica, he several leadership roles in Revenue Cycle and received an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Q: To begin, tell us about your experience in healthcare. I understand you just took a new role as VP of Revenue Cycle at ProMedica Health, how is that going?

My healthcare experience has been a combination of 11 years of consulting and 16 years as a VP of Revenue Cycle. Starting my career in consulting with KPMG and Stockamp & Associates gave me the opportunity to see healthcare organizations in multiple states and markets with a variety of healthcare challenges to solve. 

At ProMedica Health, I’m in my third month as Interim VP of Revenue Cycle. My current focus in this role is to survey the landscape for opportunities in net revenue improvement, cost reduction, and the patient experience. I’ve also been asked to look at the culture of partnerships with other teams across ProMedica.  I’ve been focused on fostering positive partnerships between revenue cycle and information technology, human resources, compliance, internal audit, and patient experience. No revenue cycle can achieve best practice without having a strategy for leveraging all the benefits and expertise of these partnerships across the organization. 

Q: With over 15 years of leadership experience in healthcare, what advice do you have for someone moving into a leadership role in healthcare?

Always have a patient-first mentality. Our customers are very different than an airline or cable company, so we need to bring a different set of skills to the table. In healthcare our customer may be dealing with disease and the associated anxiety and fears that come with diagnosis.  Which is why team building has always been at the heart of everything I do. For individuals moving into a leadership role, two of those skills I focus on are empathy and compassion. Without having empathy and compassion as a healthcare leader, your heart isn’t going to be in it.  

Healthcare leaders also have to be equipped with the right skill set to change processes, technology, culture, and team formations. For example, I believe positive reinforcement is one of the most important habits to practice. Just like we practice yoga, running, or golf, we have to come to work with a certain mindset and ability to exercise certain habits. We’re never going to be perfect and we’ll mess up from time to time, but just practicing positive reinforcement will get you the best results from your team. Negative reinforcement can lower someone’s self esteem and diminish the confidence they need to take initiative to do their job.

Reflecting on the advice I would give someone moving into a leadership experience, I’ve thought back on the proudest moments in my career.  They always link back to the people that I’ve been able to mentor or promote into leadership positions. I have five or six former direct reports who are now VPs of Revenue Cycle across the country at places like Children’s, UC San Diego, and TriHealth. While many of them are no longer in the same organizations we started out at, I enjoy keeping tabs on their careers and seeing them continue to grow their skill sets and be promoted to the next level.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry’s challenges overnight, which one would it be?

Imagine an application, easily downloadable from Apple, where we could give accurate payment estimates, on the spot, in the moment,  to each of our patients no matter what the procedure – this would be game-changing.  

Think of Uber as an example, the application allows you to schedule, get an estimate, and cashier all in one step. Healthcare needs to be moving in that direction because currently we have a  multi-step process that impacts the patient negatively. We need to “Uberize” healthcare. 

Q: From the outside looking in, it’s evident that healthcare is technologically behind in the front and back office space. How do you see artificial intelligence and automation relieving the administrative burden in healthcare?

Starting with the front office, take a health system that has 10 hospitals that sees a million patients a year. It’s no secret that they are going to have to register all million patients. We have to figure out a way to reduce the burden on staff registrators at every single space in the hospital. We need to use technology, instead, to register patients in a semi-automatic or fully automatic way – the multiplier effect. If we could build simple technologies to apply to a common set of transactions, then we would see cost reduction and be able to allocate those dollars to clinical care and preventive care, for example. 

In regards to the back office space, AI and Automation need to ramp up around automating the exchange of information between the hospital’s central business office and the insurance company’s central business office. Both companies have an excess amount of staff and manual tasks to complete, and if we can create a mutually beneficial goal to reduce the manual rework and exchange of information, then both parties would become more efficient. For example, when you learn how to parachute for the first time you always jump out with an experienced parachuter. Imagine the hospital and the payer as parachute “buddies” — fulfilling a mutually beneficial interdependence. I’m willing to “jump out of a plane” with Blue Cross to start seeing the results that will really create meaningful impact for the industry.

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