Renown Health's Kara Martinezmoles on her leadership journey, revenue cycle goals and inspirations

Kara Martinezmoles serves as vice president of revenue cycle at Reno, Nev.-based Renown Health, and her healthcare leadership journey to get to that role has been shaped by various learning experiences and mentors. 

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in health ecology from University of Nevada, Reno, in 2005, she took her first role with the health system as an imaging film room tech. About a year later, she sat down with the organization's recruitment team to discuss career opportunities that could put her in a leadership position and ended up getting a job as a lead patient access representative in the therapy center. 

From there, she was promoted to revenue cycle educator for all patient access, while she obtained a master's degree in public health from the University of Nevada, Reno. She also served as patient access operations manager, overseeing patient access in nearly every health system department at different times. 

Ms. Martinezmoles told Becker's she later decided she wanted to try something new and moved into an IT role to help Renown implement the Epic EMR across patient access and hospital billing and professional billing teams. But after a few years, she wanted to get back to a leadership role and applied for the director of patient access after a call from the then-vice president of revenue cycle, who she had worked with earlier in her career. She served in that director role and then became director of program development in July 2016.

In August 2018, she took on a role related to process improvement and took over contact center services at Renown. In March 2020, around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she became vice president of revenue cycle.

"I've had amazing leaders who have helped me to not only be a better leader but also to balance work and life with two young children," she said "I've been grateful to the leaders I've had who have helped guide me throughout my leadership journey."

Here, she shares her top priorities for 2021, discusses how she stays inspired on hard days and offers some advice for other hospital revenue cycle leaders.  

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity. 

Question: What is the biggest challenge you're facing as a revenue cycle leader?

Kara Martinezmoles: Changes that were thrown at us in revenue cycle happened so fast that it highlighted the importance of supporting one another. We went through a lot of change in a short amount of time. Everyone took on roles that were different from what they were previously doing, whether that was helping in the billing office or assisting with our COVID-19 registration workflows. Regardless of their title, everyone took on a little extra in different spaces. If we didn't have a foundation across our leadership team, meaning we trusted one another, we could be honest with one another, we could support one another, it would have been difficult to get through that time. 

Our biggest blessing is we really can do anything. I feel we've jumped over a lot of hurdles over the last year, but we've shown how by having a good culture across our leadership team, it's going to be OK because we're going to support each other regardless of what happens. 

Q: How do you stay inspired on hard days?

KM: When I get stressed out or worried, or I feel like I'm not doing as good of a job as I can, I read. It can be anything. It doesn't necessarily need to be a classic leadership book. I love college basketball, so I read a lot of related books or biographies. Also, even blogs. 

In previous times, when we had more people located on-site, I would just go take a walk, and I'd round on team members because it's always easy to find inspiration when you get to see the great work people are doing. These days half of my team is remote, and half is on-site, so sometimes it's making a phone call to see the good that's out there.

Q: What revenue cycle goals do you have for 2021?

KM: Especially with the reduction in revenue health systems are seeing, it is vital that we mitigate the losses due to errors we make in-house or within our workflows. Therefore, denials are a huge focus, but specifically medically necessary and prior authorization denials. Also, we're trying to look at how we can be smarter about the work we're doing. We are gifted with working with a lot of talented individuals. By moving more automation into our Epic system we can free up time for our team members to focus on the items that require human connection and critical thinking. 

Lastly, culture isn't something you set up and then it's good to go. It's something that must be continuously worked on. I want to continue to build on those strong relationships across our leadership group as well with our team members and as an organization. Many of us have been working remote, and those small conversations don't happen as often anymore, so for us to focus on developing those relationships, even though we may not be in-person all the time. 

Q: Health systems across the U.S. have experienced financial damage because of the public health crisis. What is your advice to other revenue cycle leaders to sustain revenue cycle operations as patient volume fluctuates? 

KM: I work with a lot of intelligent, creative and thoughtful individuals. Any advice or insight you can get from others is helpful. We've done a lot of evaluation of our partnerships with vendors. Our partnerships are an extension of the service we provide to our patients, so we looked at how valuable those partnerships are and what service they're delivering to our patients.

I also think it's important that revenue cycle leaders share knowledge with one another, continue to outreach to others to get advice and support, not just within your organization but across the healthcare system. The revenue cycle is getting more complex, so I think it's important we not only support our organization but other providers, too. 

 

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