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Six months before her father passed away from brain cancer, Stephanie Kennedy and her family navigated the hospice care system, an experience that continues to influence her work at Texas-based Touchstone Communities.
“My dad was indigent; he didn’t have money or a way to provide for his own care so taking that personal experience and understanding what other families are going through gave me a heart for helping people,” says Kennedy, who is now Touchstone’s vice president of revenue cycle management. “When someone is ill, when your mom had a stroke or your dad has dementia, the last thing you want to think about is money and how you’re going to pay for care.”
That personal experience informs her passion for helping those who have the greatest needs at Touchstone, which offers skilled nursing as well as long-term and short-term care to Medicare and Medicaid patients at its facilities. Kennedy’s work with the latter group has helped bring quality care access to patients who struggle financially and whose Medicaid applications haven’t been approved or denied yet. She and her team help guide those individuals through the application process and conduct weekly follow-ups with the nation’s public health insurance program to keep families updated.
“When we meet with people, they’re usually at the lowest point in their life and it’s our job as billers and leaders in the financial space to make that process as smooth as possible for them, and to let them know what to expect next,” she says. “These families are relying on us. Oftentimes, they don’t know how healthcare works, so we have to be the experts.”
Kennedy understands that in order to enhance the lives of Touchstone’s patients, team members’ lives need to improve too. That’s why she always has an eye toward nurturing her team’s career development, hosting frequent trainings, and offering opportunities for them to get outside their comfort zones with organizational presentations.
Another focus has been on ensuring the right people are in the right roles and that once they are, they are recognized and rewarded for great performance.
“You give people opportunities to have a voice and then when an opportunity comes up for them to be in a higher-level position, they’re already ready for it, so you’re always growing them to be at that next level,” Kennedy says. “Recognizing our successes is an important part of that and hard to do because leaders are so focused on opportunities to improve, that sometimes we forget to stop and say, ‘Hey, we did this really well.’”
Giving team members the tools they need to do well in their roles also lends itself to Kennedy’s patient-focused philosophy. The team relies on automation, reporting tools, and platforms like CoreCare and primeVIEW to drive results and efficiency. Kennedy, who spent the first half of her career in IT, says those efforts allow the team to be more proactive in addressing issues and shaping strategy.
Kennedy came to Touchstone after having an already well-rounded career that made her the perfect fit for her role. She started her career working at an insurance company and then worked in hospital environments. In her current role, she aims to marry the lessons she learned from both places.
“I got experience on the payer side and in hospitals, which are more fast paced and technologically driven,” she says. “That helped me in long-term care because historically, it hasn’t been focused on process improvement and efficiency. So, applying those principles today brings even more reward.”
One of the biggest challenges she faces in her role, like other healthcare leaders, is staffing. She believes they can tackle that issue by creating flexible and engaging work environments. Her team holds quarterly on-site meetings in addition to special events that aim to boost morale. Leaders who want to see the kind of success she’s seen should aspire to lead by example and be “a working leader,” she describes.
“You demonstrate the behavior you want to see, and you never ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself,” Kennedy says. “You’ve got to let people know that you’re here to strategize but, ‘Don’t think I won’t get down in the trenches with you when we need it.’ Part of what brings us together is knowing that your leaders are there to help you succeed.”
CoreCare is an integrated workflow solution built for long-term care. With the PHE ending and margins under pressure, CoreCare steps in where EHRs and Excel fall short. By combining resident data with the latest workflow technologies, CoreCare enables operators to streamline mission-critical work in a single location and achieve boosted cash flow, visibility and tracking.
CoreCare has worked closely with Touchstone Communities to streamline their process of establishing and maintaining Medicaid eligibility, adding improvements to Medicaid forms, applications, renewals and billing, leading to enhanced performance in those workflows and increased cash flow. Please email [email protected] to learn more.