“Why I’m Betting on PHS:” a Q & A with the President/CEO

Following a successful 42-year career as a healthcare administrator/top leader who served such prestigious institutions as Community Health Systems, Ascension Health and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Wes Littrell could have retired, knowing he had made a positive difference in those organizations and for their employees, physicians, patients and communities.

Instead, in 2018 he joined the board of a startup company named Paramount Health Solutions (PHS), and six months later he accepted the role as its President/CEO.

Since then, Mr. Littrell has been consumed with managing and growing the new company, even as health systems around the world battle the pandemic. The following Q&A reveals the reasons why he’s putting his time, energy and considerable skills into PHS.

Q: The obvious question is, why did you accept the role of President/CEO with Paramount?

Wes Littrell: The PHS business model is innovative and fills a need in the marketplace. One of the reasons the company was attractive to me is that the physician owners are highly experienced and credentialled MDs in the field of CDI and DRGV. To my knowledge, no one else in the industry is using physicians full-time to do this work. Some firms use the term “physician-led,” but they don’t have physicians reviewing the charts or fully engaged with the business like PHS.

When our physicians review charts, their deep clinical knowledge makes them adept in perceiving how the clinical documentation relates to the patient stay, and if the patient had additional disorders that would impact the severity level of the codes.

The other difference – our executive team has agreed that our success is only going to be achieved by helping our clients succeed. We see ourselves as a partner rather than a vendor. We’re interested in developing trust, with all parties getting to a win, versus one side or the other.

Q: Describe other ways PHS is different from other consulting firms.

Wes Littrell: We work with a different mixed pricing model approach than our competitors. We share risks with our clients and there are benefits for both parties as well.

In addition, we take an extra step and put some guarantees in place, so our clients never have a situation where they’re paying us more money than we’re finding for them.

We feel confident in making a pricing guarantee. We can uncover revenue opportunities that average between $2,500 to $4,500 per reviewed chart that has an opportunity. That translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars– potentially millions of dollars – in revenue lifts for many of our clients.

Q: Please share something you’re seeing in the healthcare industry that potential clients should know about.

Wes Littrell: I’m seeing three big issues right now.

First, a lot of hospitals and systems are struggling on the revenue cycle side because of all the continued changes going on in the healthcare sector. They have challenges finding credentialled staff to do the coding, as well as ensuring that those staff members are educated on all the changes.

Credentialed staff are expensive and depending on the location of the hospital and the competitive environment, they can be difficult to recruit. Just getting the staff who can do the coding properly is a challenge. On the other hand, hospitals have reduced some of their staffing, including in the coding area, as a response to the pandemic. So, they don’t have as many coders and their likelihood of having coding mistakes rises.

Another issue is with the clinical documentation side. Many health systems do not have clinical documentation improvement (CDI) teams who are digging into the charts to figure out if the documentation is accurate, based on the patient’s condition. If they do have a CDI specialist, it’s usually someone who doesn’t have the level of clinical knowledge that a physician has. They probably won’t pick up on things that a physician reviewer will.

Third, most hospitals and systems hire hospitalists to provide inpatient care. But hospitalists need education on CDI and coding since it’s not part of their medical training. They generally learn it on the job. At the same time, there’s high turnover among the hospitalists. So, organizations are trying to have enough hospitalists to provide coverage, are training them about CDI and coding, and then losing them after a short while and starting over again with hew hires. This creates inconsistent, error-prone CDI and coding.

Q: How can Paramount Health Solutions solve the problems you just talked about?

Wes Littrell: Our team has earned multiple credentials in the CDI and Coding areas, and they keep up with all the new guidelines and standards. So, we can serve as a second level of review, and a support system for the hospital’s staff.

As trained CDI specialists and peers, our physicians provide ongoing targeted education to hospital staff and physicians to help them improve in their roles. As I mentioned earlier, we see ourselves as a partner with the hospitals, and education is an important aspect of our services.

We supplement the hospitals’ staff. We don’t replace anybody. That’s not what we do. We supplement their current staff with our physicians and expert coding auditors who have deep clinical knowledge as well as coding expertise.

Q: If a hospital already has a CDI/DRGV team in place, why should they consider partnering with Paramount?

Wes Littrell: Our motto is: “Helping Hospitals Thrive.” That’s exactly what we do. The hospitals we’ve been engaged with this whole time – we’ve been able to help them in demonstrable ways.

Most hospitals don’t have physicians with the experience and credentials to oversee chart reviews. We’ve been working with our clients to keep their processes above board and watching denials. We haven’t seen an increase in denials at our partner hospitals. And, most importantly, we’ve seen improved revenues for these clients.

PHS has recently developed a Decision Guide to help hospitals rate CDI/DRG Validation consulting firms and compare features and pricing. If you’d like a copy of the Decision Guide, you can download it here. To connect with Wes Littrell, you can call him at (615) 347-4867 or send him an email at [email protected].