RCO Summit: Collaboration in Action (in Person)

On one end, we had practice executives who are highly strategic; at the other end of the spectrum, we had some accounts receivable and billing staff who manage the day-to-day complexities. Valuable insight was shared on ways to reduce costs, retain employees, manage vendors, and maneuver regulatory changes.

Sharon Fremer
VP, Revenue Cycle Optimization
November 20, 2019

Thirty-four Strategic Radiology revenue cycle employees gathered in Atlanta in early November for three days of education, collaboration, and revenue cycle optimization. Eighteen of SR’s 27 practices were represented, including many first-time attendees of SR events. It was an experiment that will likely become an annual ritual.

“We had speakers with different experience and skillsets coming at revenue cycle optimization from multiple perspectives,” reports Sharon Fremer, vice president, revenue cycle optimization. “Technology advancements, operations management, metrics, compliance, workflow, regulatory topics and more were covered.  This is what made it unique and exciting.”

Likewise, the attendees represented all aspects of practice revenue cycle management, from the executive suite to the hands-on managers and data analysts. “On one end, we had practice executives who are highly strategic; at the other end of the spectrum, we had some accounts receivable and billing staff who manage the day-to-day complexities. Valuable insight was shared on ways to reduce costs, retain employees, manage vendors, and maneuver regulatory changes. Attendees were engaged, openly sharing, and asking excellent questions.” 

One attendee, Jim Knauf, COO, Huron Valley Radiology, agreed that the diversity in attendance enriched the interchange of ideas. “The intellectual capacity of the group was amazing,” Knauf notes. “The process is common, but everyone had their specific perspectives.” In addition to diversity in actual job functions, the attendees included groups with in-house, outsourced, and hybrid billing operations.

A Diverse Program

Knauf gave Fremer high marks for program design: “Sharon is just a wealth of knowledge, and she and Randy put together a great agenda.” The speaker line-up began with Dave Jakielo, CHBME, a revenue cycle management expert with four decades of experience advising health care organizations of all sizes. Jakielo provided an industry update that covered trends in medical billing and the regulatory and payor worlds, with special caveats about the impact of high deductibles and our litigious society. Over the course of two days, Jakielo also shared insights on what patients want in a provider, cost management, best practice recommendations on hiring, firing, and retaining staff, and the importance of metrics and continuous improvement.  

SR COO Randal Roat provided a global overview of revenue cycle, covering 15 points of impact in the revenue cycle process, beginning with scheduling. “Randy stressed the importance of practice ownership and oversight of the entire revenue cycle process and outcomes whether it outsources billing or bills in-house,” Fremer reports.

In addition to an insightful Outlook for Coding, Melody Mulaik, CRA, CPC, RCC, FAHRA, provided members with details on how to prepare for 2020 and the Educational and Testing Period for Appropriate Use Criteria in Diagnostic Imaging. In a different presentation, Mulaik emphasized the importance of quality of data and measuring the time from scheduling to dropping a clean claim.

Dave Polmanteer, SR director of business intelligence, shared that 15 practices are now participating in the accounts receivable database with another half dozen awaiting entry, providing a richer benchmarking environment for all SR practices.

Cleve Shultz, president of Data Media Associates, addressed changes in technology and applications that ease patient billing and collections and the importance keeping options flexible yet simple.  Count on this—you are unlikely to receive a paper check from a millennial, or anyone born after that generation.  Data Media graciously sponsored the cocktail hour on day one for attendees to mingle before ending the day.

John Outlaw, CHC, CHBME, SR vice president of compliance, spoke on the intersection of compliance throughout the entire revenue cycle.  He shared how the seven pillars of compliance are interoperable with each step in the revenue cycle process from scheduling through billing and collection practices.


A wide range of topics were covered, sometimes delving deep into specific experiences within a practice or revenue cycle function. Fremer shared the following takeaways from the various presenters: 

Keep learning to stay relevant. You are likely to outlast your current job description.

Keep patients first. Never forget what is important to your patients and be sure to provide feedback mechanisms.

The quality of your data drives the amount and timeliness of payment.  Work with hospitals, office registration staff, and others to get it right the first time.

Be strategic. Tackling too many changes at once is risky; target easy changes that make big impacts.SR resources and your SR peers are here for you, use them.

While SR practice executives, quality operatives, and marketing directors have gathered in the past, the Atlanta meeting marks the first time that revenue cycle employees of SR practices have experienced the value of collaborating freely with their peers. “Everyone liked that they were among family, so to speak, and could share their good, bad, and ugly in order to learn from other’s successes and mistakes,” Fremer reports.

“Because we all had common SR experience, we felt safe to be able to share not only what did work but what did not,” explains Huron Valley’s Knauf. “At other meetings I’ve attended, you don’t know who is in the room and what their personal agendas are, so it doesn’t feel as safe. There was none of that in Atlanta.”

“Every journey begins with a first step and this was an important and productive first step to enhancing revenue for all SR practices," said Roat.

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