Scott McAdams Elevates Culture for Bigger Value

SVP Scott McAdams of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City on the importance of giving compliance a prominent voice in the organization

Photo by Chris Crum

“My family is tired of hearing about compliance, but I find it so exciting,” Scott McAdams laughs. “I could talk about it all day.”

McAdams isn’t joking. The sheer number of ongoing initiatives and in-progress projects the SVP and chief audit, compliance, and risk officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) has undertaken in just under two years is genuinely staggering, and McAdams doesn’t sound the least bit tired. In fact, he sounds energized just by talking about the success of restructuring his division, the improved and streamlined reporting procedures, and the unwavering support he’s received from President and CEO Erin Stucky, the Blue KC Board of Directors, and the compliance and audit committee.

Scott McAdams, BCBS of Kansas City Photo by Chris Crum

His list of accomplishments since joining the organization in 2018 is exhaustive, but according to the SVP, it’s just the beginning of earning compliance inclusion in all important decisions and proving the value of doing ethical business.

McAdams talks a lot about the concept of value. The value his team brings to the organization; the value that audit, compliance, and enterprise risk management provide to overall business strategy; and the importance of not only recognizing that value but also earning it.

McAdams had been at Blue KC for barely a year when his boss submitted his retirement.  “Immediately, my drive and focus on compliance kicked in and I put together a business plan, demonstrated what I had done at other organizations, and demonstrated the value I thought the new structure could bring to Blue KC,” McAdams recalls. “Leadership really bought in and could see the vision and I think the timing was just right.”

Buy-in from leadership, McAdams says, particularly from the new Blue KC president and CEO has been paramount to what he’s been able to accomplish in such a short time. “I will always advocate for the importance of giving compliance a seat at the leadership table,” McAdams says. “Erin Stucky’s commitment to compliance is demonstrated by her giving me a role as one of her six direct reports.”

The elevated role for McAdams has meant heightening Blue KC’s already strong compliance culture, particularly in developing the company’s enterprise risk management program. “When I started, Blue KC did not have a dedicated risk management program. Other areas were doing a great job with the day-to-day demands, but we all agreed the work was important enough to warrant its own department. I had the great fortune of getting to develop the program and hire staff to support it.”

McAdams was also able to dramatically recalibrate Blue KC’s reporting to the compliance committee and audit committee. “I believe you should be able to deliver most reports in less than one page. A handout and supporting documentation are tools meant to provide clarity. The rest of the story can come as a voice-over, if needed.” McAdams said the new format has added great value for the busy members of the committees.

“We’re a highly regulated industry, and you can think that you’re audit proof all you want, but that’s not how I judge success. I judge success by being prepared.”

The SVP’s approach to audits is also novel in that, while doing his best to avoid them, the idea of an audit is more an expectation than a fear. “We’re a highly regulated industry, and while it might be nice to imagine you’re audit-proof, we know that sooner or later, it’s going to happen. I judge success by being prepared when it does,” McAdams says. “It’s the closure of those audits with little-to-no findings that is my focus.” The compliance team got hit with a Medicare Advantage program audit within McAdams’s first two months of employment, but the fantastic scores just served to underline the SVP’s point.

Photo by Chris Crum

For new employees, McAdams has made sure that the ideas of compliance and enterprise risk has built into employee orientation. The compliance department connects with each new employee on the first day of onboarding to relay the importance of audit, compliance, and risk. “Ninety days after an employee’s first day, we reach out with a survey and ask if there are any areas where we can provide clarity,” McAdams says. To supplement the training, the SVP says a brand-new compliance and enterprise risk handbook has been created. “If anyone needs a refresher, it’s a reference tool to really drive those points home; I’m really excited about this handbook.”

There is a fundamental tell of McAdams’s approach that sets up Blue KC for continuing success on the compliance front. It’s the SVP’s continuing education about not only healthcare compliance but almost every other industry as well. “You have to make that commitment to be engaged in your industry,” McAdams urges. Whether it’s his ongoing involvement with industry associations, engagement with peers, or simply studying compliance matters in other industries that may be applicable to his, McAdams is sticking close to his own personal mantra. “I always want to make a contribution,” McAdams says. In other words, add value.

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