Meet the Team is our blog series introducing some of the amazing professionals at Ascendient – who they are and what makes them tick. This month, we talk to Managing Consultant Jon Rodgers.
Tell me about your interest in healthcare as a career. Didn’t you want to be a doctor at one point? Why did you decide to focus on healthcare administration?
My enthusiasm for healthcare originated from watching compassionate and dedicated healthcare professionals take care of my aunt during her battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a tough time, but I distinctly remember how grateful I was for the care they provided my aunt and how much I admired them for the careers they had chosen. This experience left such an imprint on me that I went on to complete a pre-medical path in college that qualified me for medical school. However, as I studied for the MCAT, worked as a medical assistant at a pediatrician’s office, and completed hospital rounds with the pediatrician, I came to realize that the practice of medicine was not for me.
As the son of a small business owner who worked many days (including weekends!) at the shop, I was innately drawn to the “behind the scenes” aspect of what it takes to operate and manage a physician practice and services within a hospital. This intrigue was so obvious that a fellow colleague at the office, who was in process of obtaining his Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree, pulled me aside and spoke to me about the alternate career path of healthcare administration and how it might better suit my specific skillset and desires. I decided to move down to Charleston (which was a really tough decision *insert sarcasm*) and attend the Medical University of South Carolina’s residential MHA program. After two productive years at MUSC, multiple internships, and almost 7 years in healthcare consulting, I have not looked back.
You had quite the academic career at MUSC, including helping to project manage the systemwide rollout of their EHR. What’s the biggest difference that you’ve seen in “real world” healthcare vs. the academic setting?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at MUSC and tried to take full advantage of all the opportunities I could. As a requirement, all students are responsible for securing a summer internship between Years 1 and 2 of the residential MHA program. For my internship, I was fortunate enough to be selected to work in the project management office at MUSC to help manage and facilitate the enterprise-wide rollout of the EHR, Epic. Through this experience, I was able to work with a number of stakeholders across the academic medical center, including nurses, IT directors and analysts, administration, professional and hospital billing personnel, and even one extremely intelligent and dedicated neurosurgeon. It was a unique experience and one that solidified my desire to choose a career path in healthcare administration.
The biggest difference I have noticed in “real world” healthcare vs. the academic setting is the wide variance in available resources. As most of us know, AMCs are typically large institutions in urban areas with a lot of available resources. As I have learned through the years, the landscape of healthcare across the US is filled with variation and disparities. Part of what I appreciate most about Ascendient is its dedication to assisting rural healthcare providers and its desire and capability to serve as a spokesperson for them when the need arises.
Healthcare is booming, and MHAs are in high demand. What was it that attracted you to Ascendient, rather than a hospital setting or another consulting firm?
What attracted me to Ascendient is its proven track record of producing robust, high-quality, and innovative work that is centered around the patient. Ascendient is a trusted partner for its clients, and we remain focused on serving them well in any capacity, which in turn allows our clients to keep their focus on patient care. Ascendient strives to be at the forefront of higher thinking for healthcare management and as I mentioned before, is an unwavering advocate of rural healthcare providers. I like being part of a firm that’s transforming the way healthcare leaders approach healthcare delivery and how they plan for long-term success.
What’s the most interesting/challenging/rewarding project that you’ve worked on during your tenure at Ascendient?
If I had to pick one, it would have to be a recent project to develop the first cardiac catheterization lab in a freestanding outpatient surgery center in North Carolina. NC regulators and insurers recently began allowing and reimbursing cardiac cath procedures performed in freestanding centers and we, along with our client, were the first to propose to develop a cardiac cath lab in an existing surgery center. It was a unique project and first of its kind in North Carolina. This is yet another example of how we, as a firm, try to leverage forward thinking opportunities for our clients that ultimately benefit the patients that they serve.
Who are you outside the office? What do you do to keep yourself centered … or just to blow off steam?
I am the same person outside of the office; however, I might have a hat and tennis shoes on instead of a button down and dress shoes. Many of my colleagues know that I am avid skate and snowboarder. Also, oddly enough as a southerner, I grew up playing hockey and have really enjoyed living near Raleigh and being able to go to Carolina Hurricanes games. In addition to spending quality time with friends and family, I enjoy being active and outside, playing with my dog, Oliver, and attending live music shows. I am a strong believer that the essence to a happy and healthy life involves being active and avoid being stagnant at all costs!
And finally, the exit question that we like to ask everyone: If you could solve one issue in the US healthcare system that would have the greatest impact, what would that be?
I believe there are several issues that would have a big impact on the US healthcare system, however, lack of transparency is one that seems to be top of mind. I always refer back to this analogy every time the topic of transparency is brought up in discussion relative to healthcare, which is that healthcare is the only industry where it is truly hard to discern the cost for a service. For example, when you go to the grocery store to buy milk, the price of the milk is clearly labeled, and you know what you will have to pay in order to purchase the milk.
The same cannot be said for a lot of healthcare services. There are price transparency tools on the market but there is a lot of work to be done in this space to equip patients with the knowledge of what it will truly cost when they access healthcare, no matter where the healthcare is accessed. Improving transparency in healthcare will enhance patients’ ability to make well-informed decisions about their healthcare and has the potential to reduce medical debt-related personal bankruptcies.