Corner Office: Caravan Health Founder, CEO Lynn Barr on problem-solving for rural hospitals

In 2013, Lynn Barr was working as CIO of Tahoe Forest Health System, a critical access hospital in Truckee, Calif., when she realized there were too many barriers for rural health providers looking to establish value-based care programs. 

As a result of her epiphany that year, Ms. Barr organized the National Rural Accountable Care Consortium to help rural health providers participate in innovative payment models under healthcare reform. 

In 2014, Ms. Barr founded Caravan Health to help more hospitals and health systems nationwide create and sustain ACOs. She now serves as CEO of the organization, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., with offices around the country.

Under Ms. Barr's leadership, Caravan Health has grown to support more than 14,000 primary care providers and 250 community hospitals making the transformation to value-based payments. So far, the ACO organization has saved Medicare more than $80 million. 

Here, Ms. Barr answers Becker's seven "Corner Office" questions.

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

Question: What is one thing that piqued your interest in healthcare?

Lynn Barr: Healthcare is complex, which makes it a very satisfying line of work for people that like to solve problems. We are usually going from one fire to the next. I've always been a problem solver, so I was intrigued at a young age. Additionally, my mom is a medical secretary. She would spend the weekends trying to catch up on her work at the hospital, and I would go with her. When I was 7 years old, I was reading the medical journals in the waiting room, thinking "Wow, this is incredible." So I've always wanted to be part of it.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Nevada?

LB: I live on Lake Tahoe in Reno, Nev. It's beautiful and a place where I can spend a lot of time outside, skiing, bike riding and boating. Additionally, the people in Nevada are just some of the nicest and warmest I've ever met. We've only been living here for about a year and a half, but I know all my neighbors. It's a very connected community, and I love that.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be?

LB: You hear a lot of talk about establishing a single payer system. But what I want is a single claims system. At the critical access hospital where I worked, there were only 25 beds but 50 billers and coders. Part of the reason we had so many billers and coders was because we were in a tourist area, and we had to work with 600 different insurance companies. So, I would like to see the ability to submit my claim, all my claims, to one clearing house for the country. I think it would help solve a lot of problems if we had one set of rules and one location for submitting claims. We could reduce our administrative costs by at least 10 percent, which is a large amount of savings in healthcare.

Q: What is your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

LB: I love to cook. The best thing ever is to come home to a refrigerator full of high-quality meat, fresh fruits and vegetables and cook something up. I cook every night that I am home. My family loves the roast chicken I make, which is a once-a-week staple. Recently, I've been playing around with sous-vide. I think my sous-vide pork roast is my family's favorite right now.

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?

LB: Cooking every night, often with a very nice martini on the side. It takes me to a very different place from my day job. On weekends, while it's often hard to get away from work given how fast everything's moving in healthcare, I do really enjoy riding my bike and walking my dogs.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you remember most clearly?

LB: When somebody does something that you feel like they shouldn't have done … they either don't know or don't care. It's always one or the other. They either don't know they're doing something that is upsetting you. Or, they don't care and they're going to do it anyway. The piece of advice I got from one of my board members: It's important to figure out which is which upfront and act accordingly.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Caravan Health so far?

LB: Five years ago, there really was no value-based care movement in rural healthcare. Today, about 20 percent of rural health systems are in our program. We have watched our quality scores go from 70 percent to the mid-90s in recent years and have saved Medicare about $80 million so far. The fact that we spread the movement into rural healthcare is really satisfying.

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