Sean Radcliffe – R1 RCM
- Written by: Jim Cavan
- Produced by: Julianna Roche
- Est. reading time: 5 mins
Imagine you just started working in the sales department of a fast-growing company. You’re about to embark on a week-long trip to San Francisco to meet with potential clients and one question in particular has been nagging you to no end: “What if they want to see our contract?”
At your last job, you’d need to track down someone in the legal department to weigh in. Not here. Using an online employee portal, you do a quick search for “client contract.” After 10 minutes of reviewing standard templates and other documents, you have an answer—and it was easier than booking a window seat.
It’s called “one to many,” and for R1 RCM’s Sean Radcliffe, the concept has proven a game-changer, both in and beyond his department.
“What we’re trying to do is create a scalable legal function,” says Radcliffe, general counsel for R1 RCM. “For example, when we capture our work in tools and artifacts that can be used over and over, it is a huge time-saver for my attorneys and much more efficient for our clients. It’s about bringing self-help tools directly to our internal business partners, so they get the benefit of a full-service legal department without having to wait for help on standardized, repeatable actions.”
If anything, Radcliffe’s idea is a microcosm of R1 RCM’s broader aim: to deploy best-in-class process and technology and be a game-changing presence in the world of health care management.
Out of the way
Since Radcliffe joined the Chicago-based company in 2017, R1 has undergone a period of unprecedented growth. It provides technology-enabled revenue cycle management (RCM) services that help hospitals and health care systems better manage their costs. R1 is widely considered best-in-class and the company’s customer base has grown accordingly.
That, in turn, has required creative tact in managing the company’s legal affairs. Whereas many legal departments will designate certain staff to handle specific tasks—contract experts writing contracts, regulatory specialists handling all compliance requests—Radcliffe’s goal is for the organization to see a service function where the entire team brings the right resources to bear, no matter the issue.
According to Radcliffe, “one to many” has provided the scale and leverage behind innovation in many industries—finance and online training, using examples that touch most companies—but until recently it has not been a factor in the legal profession.
Bringing scale to the in-house legal function represents one of the critical offshoots of this broader philosophy. In essence, it means investing in processes and output to accomplish one task—say, a contract for a pending customer—and deploying it to every deal that follows the same pattern, with self-help tools and “artifacts” that can then be used to drive scale and efficiency.
Only, it’s not just about standardization and leverage. For Radcliffe, the best legal departments are the ones that are seen as high-functioning strategic partners, with an understanding of how the company works—and where it needs to improve.
“If an ever-increasing number of employees can benefit from our internal legal analysis, while continuing to experience excellent customer service from our small team, that’s a huge win,” Radcliffe says. “Everything we automate frees up my attorneys to concentrate more on big-picture matters that only our experienced in-house team is capable of addressing.”
All for one
But Radcliffe’s efficiency measures go well beyond the merely procedural. In an effort to maximize R1 RCM’s use of outside counsel, the department recently introduced a new return-on-investment (ROI) analysis.
Now, instead of evaluating firms along binary lines of expertise and hourly rate, Radcliffe is encouraging those firms to invest in best-in-class technology platforms—knowledge-management systems, artificial intelligence and the like—as a way of setting themselves apart from the pack.
In addition, Radcliffe worked closely with the R1 IT department to lead the way in deploying an online system where workflows and other complicated processes can be partly automated, further maximizing the legal team’s ability to scale and serve the business.
The goal, he says, is to avoid linear growth—which would mean increasing the department’s expenditures in tandem with the company’s overall growth—and instead create a system where efficiency and “access to expertise” outstrip any marginal increase in cost.
“It’s about leveraging innovations within these firms to drive efficiency in-house,” Radcliffe says. “But you can only do that if you have strong relationships to begin with. That’s something we’ve always emphasized.”
But while he’s quick to praise his department’s bona fides—including its role in the recent $460 million acquisition of Intermedix Corporation, a health care management and revenue cycle company—Radcliffe takes the greatest pride in helping advance R1’s overarching mission: to be the one trusted partner to manage revenue so providers and patients can focus on what matters most.
Long before his career had taken off, before the mettle-testing moves from Tulsa to Denver and then north to the Windy City, Sean Radcliffe’s professional mantra was already set in stone: Always choose the path that opens more doors than it closes.
It worked when he opted for law school over a life in academia, and it’s still paying off today, as Radcliffe looks to tame the legal landscape in one of the country’s fastest-growing revenue cycle management companies.
“When you’ve experienced the growth we have, it puts a lot of pressure on the legal department to stay ahead of demand,” Radcliffe says. “I was lucky to come in on the shoulders of a lot of people who’d performed minor miracles as the company took off. I’m just trying to build on what they created and maintain that culture of collaboration.”
Now, as he helps helm R1 RCM through the highs and lows of growth, Radcliffe’s legal hands are busier—his door more wide open—than ever.
“It’s easy for a lot of people working in-house to lament that their jobs are mostly about moving money from one side of the ledger to another,” Radcliffe says. “I don’t feel that here. We really do have a mission that impacts the lives of patients. If we do our jobs, we play a part in that outcome.”
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