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Having spent more than two decades leaving her mark as a trusted and in-demand healthcare accountant, Jennifer Yowler, PharMerica’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, admits she’s surprised where her career path has led her.
“I never thought I would end up in healthcare finance,” she says. “But I like the fact that it’s challenging and complex, there are always different things going on, and the products and services that our company provides make a big difference and improve lives for customers and patients.”
After graduating from Ohio University in 1999 with a degree in accounting, Yowler went to work for PwC in its Cincinnati office and, at the time, Omnicare was its biggest client. She spent the majority of her five years at the company working on the account.
Looking for more work/life balance, Yowler’s career path took her to Omnicare, where she spent a decade-plus helping to solidify the healthcare company’s finances across leadership positions. A few more prominent jobs followed, and then in June 2019, she was offered the position of chief financial officer at PharMerica.
“I learned of the opportunity, and I have a lot of respect for the company and leadership there, including people such as Bob Dries, who was really involved in my development at Omnicare and teaching me the ropes of billing.”
Yowler was impressed with PharMerica’s story, now as a part of BrightSpring, and the plans to continue to innovate and change the combined company in the years ahead with unique service and care models. Additionally, she was interested in the company’s focus and increased investment in account management, the billing organization, and systems in order to drive the best customer experiences possible.
And coming off the BrightSpring combination in March, which created a $5 billion company, both entities were moving forward in many areas of collaboration in processes and integrated care. She didn’t hesitate to say “yes” to the offer.
As one of the top institutional and community-based pharmacy operators in the country, PharMerica provides comprehensive pharmacy services through the continuum of patient care, including medication management, compliance and education programs, cost containment, and the purchasing, packaging, and dispensing of drugs, which are accompanied by industry leading service levels. The company provides care for over 350,000 people a day across skilled nursing, assisted and independent living, home, behavioral, specialty, and infusion settings.
“It was exciting to get back to a larger company with the resources to put a lot of initiatives in place and do things the best way,” Yowler says. “They had the foundation, structure, and culture to continue to advance and make changes to build on what they have. Plus, they have and are bringing together a management team with great talent and experience in the industry. Everyone is working towards the same goal—to serve our customers the best we can and expand the reach of our services to positively impact as many people as we can.
At PharMerica, Yowler handles finance, budgeting, and forecasting, but the other big part of her job is managing the revenue cycle departments and collaborating with operations.
“Revenue cycle is an underappreciated area of most companies, and it’s challenging to make it work really well as it’s very complex,” she says. “It’s an important area of focus at any company, and now it’s about how we make the department work better and pursuing any opportunities to improve customer service.”
Yowler considers herself a “hands-on” person and likes to understand the processes in place. So, coming into the organization, she knew she couldn’t fully grasp the entirety of the organization until she knew the day-to-day. That’s why during her first couple of months on the job, she focused on getting out to the different locations, meeting with supervisors and managers, and being walked through the processes step-by-step.
There are a number of operations centers and hubs in different locations, and one of Yowler’s first tasks was finding the best ways to make them work together to provide the best billing experience to PharMerica customers.
“I never thought I would end up in healthcare finance. But I like the fact that it’s challenging and complex . . .”
“That’s where I spend a lot of time right now, optimizing the job roles,” she says. “Continuous improvement is the hallmark of good companies. As a leader in the long-term pharmacy industry, we focus on quality patient care and a big part of that is our team facilitating the timely processing of orders.”
In the past, Yowler noticed that success came by building relationships with a facility and a biller dedicated to work hand-in-hand with them, so they understand all of the information and have an intimate knowledge of the facility to ensure accurate billing.
Her “Peak-to-Peak” initiative was her first big organizational effort to restructure the department, giving each facility their own billing and census representative. It’s currently rolling out.
While that initiative took the majority of her first six months on the job, Yowler also made some organizational changes and has been assessing systems to enable efficiency between the company’s different service lines.
Additionally, while PharMerica had been more focused on skilled nursing facilities historically, it’s also now focused on growth and providing custom services in the senior living, intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and at-home end markets, where the individuals they serve live in assisted or supported living, intermediate care facilities, waiver homes or group homes, or in their own homes, respectively.
The company is also continuing to expand through its home infusion and specialty pharmacy businesses, which have leading service levels. So, resource and process investments and changes have been needed to support PharMerica’s offerings of today. As the demand for the company’s services grows, Yowler is further tasked with making sure her billing team is ready.
“Once again, with change being continuous in healthcare, you need to rethink how to provide billing services and who your customer is in order to help them control costs,” she says. “The customer has evolved from the facility to the patient. This requires changing workflow to ensure there is communication upfront with the patient, so I’m looking at their needs and how I can get the billing team set to handle those needs.
Then there are the IDD care facilities. BrightSpring had pharmacies across the US focused on serving individuals with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, as well as other behavioral challenges. As such, the company was providing a different service offering and operational process, tailored to the market and clients, than what PharMerica was used to. Once the billing groups merged, Yowler went to work to bring the best of both processes to help the segment grow.
The merger with BrightSpring was also additive to PharMerica’s overall culture and mission. It helped both companies learn more about each other’s areas of expertise and how the pharmacy side can be an attribute for home health and vice versa, closing the loop to offer the coordination of care in and across settings.
“BrightSpring has a really good executive team and everyone has the desire to grow the company by providing leading quality services and working as smart as we can,” Yowler says. “The energy is great, and everyone is open to change and collaboration, which has been helpful.”
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