Mission Control

Jennifer Rakolta is helping to steer Advomas into the future while keeping its original vision intact

More than thirty years ago, Bruce Knight formulated a vision having observed the complexities surrounding the healthcare system in Michigan. With an unbridled entrepreneurial spirit, he founded Advomas, a mission-valued company focused on securing the highest payer source for hospitals and health plans in pursuit of healthier communities.

From its founding decades ago to its success to this day, little has changed from a mission perspective for the company. And, it’s Jennifer Rakolta, president of Advomas and Knight’s daughter, who is ensuring it stays that way. Today, Advomas is considered the region’s most respected healthcare compensation firms, a mix of healthcare policy experts and humanitarians. Part of the company’s mission today, as it was when founded, is to help its clients meet the needs of an ever-changing industry. Results are essential in this business, and Advomas is reimbursed only once the patient has secured coverage and the hospital has been paid by insurance.

Jennifer Rakolta, Advomas

But to understand the values that Rakolta and her family have brought to Advomas, you must travel back to before the future president of the company was considering a career path. By the time she was eleven, Rakolta was already spending summers and vacations working at her father’s business from the file room to reception to field operations, as well as data entry, marketing, and finance.

“I really grew up with Advomas, and the company was an extension of our family,” Rakolta recalls.

After graduating from the University of Michigan, Rakolta made her way back to Advomas where in about six years she climbed the ladder from director of sales and marketing to COO and now president. “Fate, opportunity, and timing led me back to Advomas,” she says. “For the last nine years, I’ve focused exclusively on building our brand, expanding our services, and leading our company.”

Rakolta says that, as president, everything is essentially her responsibility. Her overall goal is to ensure that the leadership team is successfully executing the company’s mission, which she describes as securing the highest payer source for hospitals and promoting patient health. Having gone from an eleven-year-old helping out around the office to serving as Advomas’ president, Rakolta says that executing that same mission over time has required intense innovation and evaluation of internal processes to keep up with changes in the industry.

“I am constantly looking at new technology solutions, developing strategic partnerships, and recruiting diverse team members that challenge us to become a better company,” Rakolta says. “It’s my belief that a president cannot become one dimensional—focusing on only one area of the business. If that happens, I will know it’s time for me to move on. And if I’m doing my job correctly, I will have already developed future leaders capable of taking my place.”

A key component of continuing the company’s success and ability to serve its clients is partnerships, Rakolta explains. Many entities touch the life of an uninsured patient, and Advomas needs to collaborate with as many of them as possible if it is to be the most successful eligibility organization, she says.

One example of a key partnership is the one the company has with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The two have partnered to rewrite state legislation to improve outcomes for uninsured patients.

“Our relationships have been cultivated over decades, and we are fortunate to have always had a fee model that rewards us based solely on results,” she says. “Our partnerships have also been nurtured through launching meaningful projects that have helped patients avoid bankruptcy, influenced preventative care steps, and enabled hospitals to increase net income.”

One partnership in particular stands out for Rakolta, and that is with McLaren Health Care. “Developing enduring, trusting relationships is crucial to achieving the goals of our mission,” she says. “To that end, people like Harry Crane at McLaren Health Care are pivotal. Quite simply, he is the most progressive man in healthcare—a true visionary. Like us, he understands that the relationship between a patient advocate and a healthcare provider is just that—a relationship, not just a series of transactions. And healthy, mutually beneficial relationships require trust. Harry’s trust inspires us just as it inspires his team.” Rakolta adds that over the past five years or so, technological partnerships have also become increasingly critical to leveraging expensive EMR systems, improving results, and fostering greater trust in the company’s working relationships.

It’s also the culture at Advomas that helps define its mission, which is one of compassion and diversity, Rakolta says. The team at Advomas embodies the company’s values of compassion, innovation, and effectiveness.

To create this team, the company focused intensely on the employee-selection process. Soft screening questions help identify if a candidate will be a good match with the Advomas culture.

At the next stage, they work diligently to make the recruiting process personal and create trust between the candidate and the company. Candidates are asked to speak about their passions, their goals, and their motivations, so that when they walk away they’ll know that they were listened to.

Many of the company’s employees also work off-site at the client’s facility with the revenue cycle staff. That helps ensure a patient doesn’t slip through the cracks because of inefficient or slow communication. Rakolta says that from an HR perspective, off-site employees work because the client benefits, the employee benefits, and technology supports it.

“If we can offer flexibility, provide the tracking mechanisms, and communicate and manage the expectations of the employee working outside of our HQ, then why not create a more comfortable work environment with reduced travel time and expenses? When you have a culture of trust, you can prosper by being different,” Rakolta says.

And in the end, it all comes back to the mission. Rakolta’s philosophy is to first focus on the mission, and then figure out the money.

“This priority is fundamental to the way we at Advomas conduct business,” she says. “Our mission is to help patients get the coverage they need, which in turn helps hospitals maximize their revenue because revenue equals resources. And the more resources a hospital has, the better they can carry out their mission to deliver the best services to every patient that walks through their doors.”