Julie Sheppard, a busy mother of three boys, with degrees in nursing (Clemson University 1993) and law (Widener University School of Law 2006) has taken on a new challenge. Sheppard, who is married to a Wilmington ear, nose, and throat physician, recognized a need for resources to support doctors. The Affordable Care Act and increased risks to physician practices inspired her to obtain her certification in healthcare compliance (CHC). In late 2012, she launched First Healthcare Compliance, online, all-inclusive solution for physicians. Her company recently partnered with the Medical Society of Delaware and includes a physician, a certified professional coder, a paralegal and an accountant.
Town Square Delaware: What inspired you to start a brand new business?
Julie Sheppard: My education as a nurse and an attorney, along with my perspective as a physician’s spouse, brought the lack of compliance resources for physician practices to my attention. I noticed a growing gap between government expectations and the reality of compliance in physician practices. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of practical options for physicians. Physicians have busy, high-stress careers, and their focus should be patient care, instead of keeping up with multiple rules and regulations.
TSD: What is the business and regulatory climate today for physicians?
JS: The climate is challenging for today’s physicians for many reasons.
There is increasing pressure on government and private payers to reduce medical costs, so audits are increasingly common. The audits are used to identify overpayments and place demand on physicians to repay. Now physicians and staff must find time to train and prepare for reviews and audits. Additionally, rules keep changing. In fact, announcements were made just last week regarding changes in HIPAA and the Sunshine Act. A few other large administrative hurdles on the horizon include electronic medical records and meaningful use, ICD-10 (a whole new coding system), requirements for employers under healthcare reform, and mandatory compliance programs.
TSD: How does First Healthcare Compliance help physicians?
JS: First Healthcare Compliance helps physician practices by easing the burden of compliance. Our system provides continuity and can be implemented by existing staff. There isn’t a need to go to multiple vendors for staff training, hotline access, sample documents and software. We are happy to answer questions on a day-to-day basis. Our objective is to streamline the entire process, so doctors can focus on patient care. I feel fortunate to be working with such a diverse and highly qualified team that helped me realize this new business model.
TSD: We know you accomplish a lot in a day! How do you stay organized, focused and fit?
JS: I think I do many of the same things as other busy moms to stay organized, focused and fit. My iCal keeps my life pretty organized. Although it may sound counterproductive, staying focused requires me to schedule plenty of time with family and friends. Otherwise, I end up feeling overworked and much less efficient. And just like everyone else trying to stay fit, I know that waking up early is the best way to stay consistent.