Innovation is 'in our DNA' at Xtend Healthcare, says company President Mike Morris — 3 questions

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Mike Morris, president of Xtend Healthcare, a medical billing service based in Tennessee.

Mr. Morris will speak on a panel during the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference titled "Transforming Revenue Cycle Culture with Analytics, Automation and Training Working Together," at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: What do you see as the most vulnerable part of a hospital's business? 

Mike Morris: Unfortunately, hospitals and health systems constantly face a host of challenges on an ongoing and routine basis. Changes in technology, external and internal pressure to operate more efficiently — driven by reimbursement changes from government and non-government payer sources — and uncertain future legislation come to mind when I think about the challenges and vulnerabilities facing us today. Unfortunately, as you know, influence over these challenges can be limited for any individual facility, and it's unlikely any of them will go away soon. So, it's essential to foster a culture that prepares for vulnerabilities, routinely scrutinizes processes and reduces red tape whenever possible. Lastly, creating a culture of innovation allows forward-thinking organizations to reduce exposure and risk to these vulnerabilities that are here to stay.

Q: What's the biggest misconception about health IT? 

MM: One common misconception is that high-quality, cost-efficient operations can be achieved through technology alone. While I agree that technology is one of the predominant ways that organizations are improving quality and reducing costs, technology solutions and IT departments alone struggle to move the needle toward a cost-efficient, high-quality care model. IT professionals are often not healthcare experts, [but,] lowering costs and improving care are problems for everyone to solve. We have the best chance of success when we view challenges as an organization-wide problem and create cross-functional teams to tackle them. Additionally, embracing concepts such as Agile and DevOps provides greater transparency to all parts of the organization — executive, clinical and technical. This increased transparency is where important conversations and decisions can be made that ultimately lead to a more cost-effective, high-quality and data-driven healthcare environment.

Q: How do you promote innovation within your organization? 

MM: Innovation is the pillar of successful companies in the healthcare space. Fostering creativity is challenging. If organizations aren't careful, bureaucracy and firefighting become mainstays. Innovation is one of our corporate values, so it's in our DNA. Here are just some of the ways we promote innovation at Xtend Healthcare:

  • Truly embracing our open-door policy: Our executives routinely meet with and take input from frontline staff. This accomplishes two things: [First,] it keeps us connected with our teams, and [second,] it offers us new ways of thinking about challenges and solutions. In return, our frontline employees benefit from discussing our broader mission and vision with members of senior management. Based on what we hear during these sessions, we find ways to share the themes with others in the organization to increase the benefits of this two-way dialog.
  • Employee empowerment: It's nearly impossible to be creative while you are simultaneously being micromanaged. By allowing employees to pursue projects and creative solutions themselves, we often enjoy better outcomes than we would have if we micromanaged.
  • Reduce red tape: Being nimble is a core competency at Xtend Healthcare and something we work hard to maintain. It's essential in our industry to maintain processes that reduce risk and encourage smart decisions. But we're careful not to turn everyday processes into red tape, which would kill innovation and productivity.
  • Recognize the good we do: We fuel our employees' passions by helping them understand the difference they are making on the world, not just on the organization's bottom line. Passion is a key ingredient for an innovative workforce. We routinely link broad business and healthcare outcomes to the job performance of our employees. When people have a purpose they believe in, we all benefit.

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