You don’t have to be a business owner to drive change. Change will happen no matter what, says Charles Bearham, vice president of revenue cycle management (RCM) at MEDNAX Inc. You just have to be ready for it when it comes.
Bearham has always been ready for change, leaping at opportunities to innovate, rethink, and reshape company procedures. “I’ve always been pretty quick to say, ‘This process is horrible and doesn’t make sense,’” Bearham laughs. In fact, that tendency to point out process flaws is what secured Bearham his first-ever promotion.
In his early twenties, while working as a frontline clerk in a bank, the new owner of the local credit reporting agency walked in and asked a few people what the credit bureau could be doing better. Right away, Bearham jumped in and pointed out specific areas that could be improved. “The next day, the owner came back and said, ‘I’m letting go of the manager who’s running the business. I really liked all the things you said—what would it take for you to come over and run things?’ And two weeks later, I walked into the credit agency building and started looking at ways to innovate,” Bearham remembers.
Three months later, while attending a California conference on account collections, Bearham was approached by a hospital administrator from a small community-based hospital. The board of directors was looking for someone to head their collections operations, Bearham explains. “The next thing I knew, I was working at a hospital. I knew I wasn’t ever going to be a doctor,” he says. “But this gave me an opportunity to work with patients in my own way and talk them through the healthcare process.”
Today, Bearham holds a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration and is a certified revenue cycle executive with more than thirty years of experience in healthcare finance, quality management, and strategic healthcare planning. At MEDNAX Inc., a leading national health solutions provider with a network of more than four thousand affiliated physicians in all fifty states and Puerto Rico, Bearham is exposed to one-on-one patient relationships as well as the spirit of entrepreneurship for which he has always had such an affinity.
“MEDNAX has grown so much in the forty years since it was founded, and the company is focused on the future.”
“We look at things differently here,” Bearham notes. “We don’t just follow the status quo, but actually rethink the way we do things, and that’s the way we talk about innovation. MEDNAX has grown so much in the forty years since it was founded, and now the company is focused on the future.”
While the company may not know exactly what the next several decades will hold, Bearham already knows exactly what part he needs to play in its growth—building and strengthening the company’s supporting infrastructure.
“I don’t know any other business or industry out there that has to spend 5 to 10 percent of what they earn just to get paid,” Bearham remarks. “In RCM, we are so focused on collecting every single dollar that’s out there, that we sometimes end up spending one hundred dollars just to get back that one dollar.’”
This is at the heart of Bearham’s “touch less, perform more” approach to rethinking MEDNAX’s RCM infrastructure. When one knows the actual value of individual steps in the administrative processes, Bearham notes, he or she is much better able to determine whether each step is worth taking in the first place. “The more we can minimize the cost of our administrative efforts, the bigger margin we can provide for the organization to continue its mission,” Bearham stresses.
Increasingly, Bearham is looking toward automation such as robotic process automation to bring costs down for MEDNAX. In addition to adopting enhanced reporting and data tools to enable predictive analytics to drive his staff workflow, Bearham uses his department’s administrative cost analyses to identify the low-risk areas suitable for management by offshore resources.
“It’s about working smarter, and only touching what you absolutely have to,” Bearham asserts. “People who know me know that I have a vision—I’m not sure if I’ll ever achieve it—but I have this vision that someday I’ll be able to sit in the office and see only the accounts I have to look at because everything else is being processed automatically.”
Most people wouldn’t think that healthcare and classical music have anything in common, but Charles Bearham has seen at least one critical connection while volunteering with his daughters’ band association.
“Playing in a band or orchestra is about everybody doing their part,” Bearham says. “The conductor has a vision of how the music should be interpreted, but he or she can’t play every instrument. Neither can I, in healthcare. So, it’s about ensuring that we’re all on the same page, listening critically to each player, and keeping pace with each note.”
VisiQuate congratulates Charles Bearham on this well-deserved recognition as an American Healthcare Leader.
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