Dec 13th 2018

Faces of eviCore: Jim Burkard

​The Importance of Being Human

Almost 5 years ago, Jim Burkard joined the eviCore family after a long career in hospital business management. With him, he brought 15 years of healthcare business knowledge and leadership experience from the Saint Thomas Health System and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He had spent much of his time focused on the patient experience and exploring how to make sure that customer service was given as much consideration as bedside manner and the quality of clinical care. At Vanderbilt, he also coached through a program focused on the patient experience, trying to answer the question, "How can we improve the experience so patients aren't confused, they get their questions answered and they're treated the way they should be?" During his tenure at Vanderbilt, he was laser-focused on communication and customer experience, and on bringing a positive human element to the healthcare process.

At eviCore, Jim has stressed the importance of establishing a positive and productive atmosphere in the prior authorization review process. Among other things, he worked to create a training guide on customer service for eviCore medical directors, because clear communication and personal touches are necessary elements of a successful peer-to-peer call. The guide—titled "The Anatomy of an Ideal Peer-to-Peer Call"—aims to explain why using a human touch is so important to securing a productive peer-to-peer interaction and generating mutual trust and respect between colleagues.

With this one-page guide, as well as several supporting articles and documents, Jim worked to build a 9-point process for a successful peer-to-peer exchange. Each of the steps is a building block in a process to assist the following:

  • Greet and establish a good rapport
  • Introduction to the program
  • Assurance of quality and safety
  • Add a personal touch
  • Ensure a respectful tone
  • Respectfully provide a case determination
  • Provide some education
  • Open the door for positive future interactions
  • Show appreciation during a proper closing

So far, this approach has been effective. Some physicians have called Jim to relate "pearls of wisdom" that have helped them. "It's great to hear them say, 'Hey, this works!'"

But, as with any training, there's a learning curve. "Everyone's 100% is going to be different," he says, "but as long as you do your best you can only learn, grow, and do better each time."

Sometimes providers don't like the outcome of their call. But the training guide has led to favorable feedback about shortened calls, a positive customer service experience, and gains in efficiency. As Jim puts it, "Even when you have to say 'no', you can still have a good exchange."

Looking to the future, he plans to continue his focus on establishing a collaborative environment where "any question is good" and there is no sense of judgment in the process.  Jim has established what is known as the Physician RoundTable, representing a cross-section of the physician team, to create this open and collaborative environment.  The experience has begun on a really positive note.

"The system can't be punitive," says Jim. He will continue to deliver his training internally in a non-threatening way, where each person feels valued, heard, and appreciated.  The workplace should provide a positive experience and we strive toward that goal each and every day.