“Favorable conditions never come.” This quote from author C.S. Lewis resonates with Chris Spady, vice president of revenue cycle at Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Erlanger Health System. It is one a mentor often shared with him. It speaks to problem solving in times that may be quite unfavorable—like, say, a pandemic. “Early in my career there were times I would overthink things and wait for that perfect time [to address a problem],” he says.
Another quote the VP tends to share with his team members is, “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.” This refers to the necessity to move past the blame game and come together to help solve an issue.
Growing up, Spady knew he wanted to work in a job helping people. A fact largely inspired by his parents, who lost two children—one of living only eight hours. “My parents began their early years of marriage with a lot of medical debt from being underinsured,” Spady says. “They had to work themselves through it.”
After his father had a bad year of farming, he was forced to change jobs when Spady was a toddler. He always put family first, the VP recalls. “He went to work on an assembly line that made boat engines,” he says. “He worked there more than twenty-five years, and ended up managing the warehouse he started in. He worked very hard for my brother and I, but mostly so my mother would have the opportunity to stay at home with us. He made it work, and that was inspiring to me.”
In his role at Erlanger Health System, Spady is focused on fulfilling the organization’s mission of providing compassionate care for its patients. “We take the business side of the patient experience,” which includes patient access, revenue integrity, health information management, clinical documentation integrity, utilization management, central billing office, and other functions. “Healthcare can be frustratingly confusing. Our job is to make sure patients understand [each step in the process].”
In June 2022, an online dispute resolution developed by a Tennessee court debuted. It is available to people with medical debts owed to Erlanger Health System. This program, currently in a pilot phase, will allow Erlanger to work directly with patients regarding their billing issues so they can be resolved without involving collection agencies, credit reporting, lawsuits, or additional stress, according to a RevCycleIntelligence.com report on the initiative.
Another aspect of reasonable collections on which Spady is working involves expanding the health system’s charity program. “By handling patients with compassion,” he says, “we have actually increased collections. We are providing patients with a lot more options.”
In the height of the pandemic, Spady and his team moved quickly to keep Erlanger Health System’s mission running. “We had some of the infrastructure in place,” he says. “Preservice collections have to be simple and effective. We put a lot of our time and resources into that. I was really proud of the team.”
After twenty years in healthcare, team building is integral to Spady’s management style, which he describes as calm—“hopefully,” he jokes—and thoughtful. “If there is any sort of decision of significance, I will want to sleep on it even though I’m 99.9 percent sure I know which way I would like our team to go,” he says. “My process is to build support. I want the opinions of others. It’s important to make sure your team knows that their input is taken into account.”
He also believes in the importance of letting leaders be leaders. “It’s their department,” he explains. “We’ve got really good people, and they are set up to lead their departments. I try to keep them in as few meetings as possible. But I am also passionate; it is important to me and to the team that we are winning in comparison to other health systems. So, I come at things calmly, but I like to win.”
Recently, Spady praised an Erlanger employee for her stellar appearance on a panel in a LinkedIn post, saying she “makes Erlanger better every day.” He notes, “It’s important to build up careers. So many people have invested in my life without whom I would not be where I am.
“I have several leaders who are ready for a promotion now,” Chris Spady continues. “If we had it, they’d get it, but I want them to know that I will support them 100 percent if they are ready for it before an opportunity opens here. It’s not just about their work here, it’s investing in their lives as people. It creates a much better team.”
CarePayment is the leading patient financial engagement company designed to accelerate the transition of healthcare providers to the new digital, consumer-driven healthcare market. Powered by an integrated platform and analytics, our innovative and always 0.00% APR patient financing solutions improve patient satisfaction and loyalty while delivering superior financial results.