Kevin Plessner – CPSI
In any rural locale far removed from a metropolis, there’s probably a small community hospital or clinic dependent on federal reimbursement to fund much of its patient care.
But that entity still must comply with a multitude of regulations, such as the Obama-era HITECH Act mandating use of electronic health records that can be securely accessed nationwide by providers and regulators in different networks. Access to records is necessary when a patient who is treated for a serious condition in one remote part of the country suffers a relapse elsewhere.
HITECH and other more recently enacted legislation, however, have brought logistical and financial challenges. A community or rural healthcare provider’s resources are often stretched thin and its infotech expertise is often behind the curve. These providers usually outsource their electronic recordkeeping to vendors whose systems are not compatible with other vendor systems throughout the industry.
“It’s a big problem with electronic health records and this problem will be with us for a long time,” says Kevin Plessner. “Our mission is to find a way to bring those hospitals the necessary technology and at a price they can afford. CPSI makes healthcare accessible through data-driven insights that deliver workflow efficiencies and remove distractions.”
As the first general counsel of the healthcare solutions provider CPSI—as in the Alabama-headquartered Computer Programs & Systems Inc.—Plessner’s been adding to the company’s ability to serve its 4,000 healthcare clients. He says CPSI solutions allow healthcare providers to make better decisions and achieve better results, while keeping patients at the center of care.
Since moving into this role in 2019 after CPSI purchased Get Real Health, where he served as general counsel, he’s sealed the deal for two more acquisitions and helped integrate these companies and their technologies into CPSI. He has also assembled a robust independent compliance department and joined his colleagues in lobbying lawmakers about how their actions might affect the overall community healthcare landscape.
The stakes are high for the communities where these facilities are located.
“If these hospitals close, people may have to travel for hours for their care and that’s just untenable,” Plessner tells Vanguard in August from his Baltimore area home where he mostly works remotely. “We take seriously our mission to sustain them…for people, having a community hospital is literally the difference between life and death.”
True to form
According to Plessner, CPSI’s means to serve their customers have increased through the acquisitions of Healthcare Resources Group Inc., in 2022 and TruCode LLC one year earlier. Plessner and CPSI are always in growth mode. Plessner collaborates with M&A strategist on exploring possibilities and finalizing the fine print. They’re aided by a second lawyer, the newly hired , and around 20 contract staff and compliance personnel.
The HRG acquisition, Plessner explains, strengthens CPSI’s position in offering its clients what’s known as revenue cycle management. Based in Spokane, Washington, HRG had made its mark managing medical billing, coding and full revenue cycle management for around 80 healthcare customers, including academic medical centers, tribal organizations throughout the west and into Alaska, and independent hospitals. Its services complement those of TruBridge well, a revenue cycle management company that CPSI created in 2013.
TruBridge isn’t to be confused with TruCode, a Virginia-based provider of software solutions and long-time CPSI partner prior to Plessner finalizing its acquisition. TruCode’s cloud-based encoder technology, bundled with TruBridge’s tools, enables healthcare providers, insurers and the feds to code more accurately and predict reimbursement by being better informed of what services have been provided and reimbursement due.
As for what’s next on the acquisitions front, Plessner isn’t at liberty to say—CPSI being a publicly traded company—but acknowledges it has other targets on its radar. Any aspect of healthcare being very regulated, he’s also tending to the company’s regulatory and legal compliance.
“States are constantly coming up with their own regulations and we serve customers in 47 or 48 states at any given time,” he says. “When I joined, we had just a small compliance staff and since that time, I’ve more than doubled it. There are so many areas where compliance professionals are necessary: product compliance with the FDA, HIPAA, state and federal privacy regulation, meaningful use and promoting interoperability regulation and the means to audit everything.”
And that’s just domestic compliance. CPSI also provides products and services in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Canada and Australia. Plessner is constantly brushing up on foreign rules and regulations.
Lifeline to lifesavers
While mindful of all of the various governments’ role in supervising healthcare providers and their partners, Plessner accentuates the challenges faced by community hospitals and rural healthcare in general. These hospitals and clinics can literally be lifesavers in the middle of nowhere and need to avoid being overburdened by regulations.
He’s partnered with Chicago-based consulting heavyweight McDermottPlus in lobbying governments on the need to consider community healthcare in lawmaking. It’s all part of being legal boss for a company intent on supplying the high-tech tools that can put a rural hospital on par with its big-city counterpart.
Plessner had been doing something on this front long before joining CPSI, logging the preceding six years as general counsel at Get Real Health, which continues to develop patient-engagement technology as a company division. He even has quite the emotional stake here—one of Plessner’s classmates and buddies at Temple University-James E. Beasley School of Law died young from cancer and his widow and Plessner were employed at Get Real Health.
So, Plessner says, life provides frequent reminders of the importance of CPSI’s vision to create thriving communities everywhere it goes, and how fulfilling he finds his role as a health-tech lawyer. It’s a role he moved into after spending his career engaging in private law, the last several as head of his own firm. Back then he mostly litigated for private individuals, but with CPSI “…we have a much greater mission in providing vulnerable communities with what they need to thrive.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall II 2023 Edition here.
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