Spotlight on: Leslie Cox, BS, MHA, CPMSM, CPCS

Spotlight on: Leslie Cox, BS, MHA, CPMSM, CPCS

Feb 25, 2019
  • Author:
    Vicki Searcy
    Former VP, Consulting
    Vicki has managed several credentialing and privileging practices, led a national healthcare accreditation and compliance consulting practice, was a surveyor for the NCQA, and a former president of NAMSS.
Leslie Cox

In 2018, we began a recurring series on individuals who are “super star” MSPs (Medical Services Professionals) or Enrollment Professionals. I am happy to share Leslie Cox’s career story with you in this issue. I hope that you will be inspired by Leslie’s enthusiasm for the Medical Services Profession.

Current Position: Senior Director, CVO; Banner Health

Leslie, can you provide some information about your career and your current position?

Leslie: I would never have predicted this career for myself. As a young college student I didn’t know this line of work existed. I had no idea doctors were credentialed and had never heard the term “credentialing” before. I majored in accounting at ASU in Tempe, AZ and soon realized I didn’t want to spend my life looking at numbers, so I graduated with a business degree in administrative services. During my senior year, my brother encouraged me to apply for a Clerk III position in the planning/marketing department at a large hospital in Phoenix. That was the start of a 14-year stint there which ultimately led to the role of manager of medical staff services. During my first six months of being hired for the manager position, I was required to become NAMSS certified, experienced my first Joint Commission survey, and was asked to restructure the department, eliminating an FTE. Talk about trial by fire! (Not to mention I had a 7-year old and a baby at home.) During my time in that role, I worked closely with medical staff leaders to restructure the medical staff organization from 18 clinical departments to six.

Looking back, I am thankful for that experience and as a result I tend to work well under pressure. From that first position, I went on to become manager of medical staff services at a children’s hospital for the next nine years. It was a rocky start because the doctors there didn’t know me, and it was there that I learned to be patient, knowing I’d have to prove myself and earn their confidence. This has been true of every new position I’ve taken as a medical staff professional…earning the trust of the medical staff. I was hard on myself in the beginning. Now I understand WHY this is necessary, and I expect to work hard to earn their respect, trust and confidence.

I have been with Banner Health now for the past 13+ years. My role as Medical Staff Services Director at Banner Estrella Medical Center was a wonderful challenge as the hospital was brand new and was the first of Banner’s many hospitals to open with an entirely electronic medical record in 2005. That facility was often the one to pilot new processes for the system and has been successful largely due to the leadership and an innovative, open-minded, medical staff.

Almost four years ago, I sort of “fell into” my current role as Sr. Director, Centralized Verification Office (CVO), for Banner Health. It began as an interim role, filling in until a new leader was in place. As time went on, I became so absorbed in the staffing, budget, technology, processes, etc., that it turned into a permanent assignment. I continue to learn something new every day about the operations of a large health system CVO. My team and I constantly look for opportunities to improve efficiency and provide excellent service to both internal and external customers.

It is obvious that you have enjoyed your career, Leslie. What do you like most about your current position?

I enjoy collaborating with various departments and leading performance improvement teams. One thing I learned earlier in my career is that there is so much to learn from others in the health care field. When I was at Estrella, I was asked to lead a couple of teams that had very little to do with medical staff services or credentialing. Those opportunities provided the experience I needed to be successful at leading multi-disciplinary teams, including clinical professionals, even though I didn’t have expertise in those areas. I realized that leadership is not being the expert at everything; it’s about having access to those who are skilled and experienced in the relevant areas and then facilitating communication and follow-through to get the work done.

Why do you think that you have been successful in this profession?

I believe my success is the result of saying “yes” to opportunities to leave my comfort zone and take on greater responsibility. Many of those scenarios did not involve a promotion or a raise, but they provided excellent experience that would later result in my transition to a higher position.

What is your greatest achievement in your present position?

The greatest achievement in my current role as CVO Sr. Director has recently come to fruition after leading a two-year project involving many individuals in different areas of the health system. The CVO implemented the MSOW Practitioner Portal using a single, standardized application for all purposes involving medical staff and health plan credentialing. We integrated data import and primary source verification for delegated health plans into the CVO, and we incorporated onboarding of employed/contracted providers into the CVO. The anticipated results of these consolidation efforts include: enhanced automation, reduced turnaround times, and an improved customer experience.

Would your administration say that you are successful? Why?

I would like for my administration to believe I’m successful. Our data does show we have improved turnaround times, financial performance, staff engagement, and customer satisfaction.

What is your biggest challenge?

The greatest challenge for me has been trying to get certain stakeholders on board when it comes to change. When key individuals are not eager to collaborate or participate in changes, it can really slow the process and delay progress. This is frustrating for those who work hard to achieve success.

What advice would you have for others in this profession?

My advice is to give serious thought to saying “yes” when given an opportunity to learn and grow. Get out of your comfort zone. Take an aerial view of your organization, see where you fit in, and where you can make a difference. Be bold. Be inclusive. Take some chances. Be curious and ask questions. Attempt to change things for the better, and if the change doesn’t work, start over and try again.

What’s next for you?

In my current role, my next goal is to achieve NCQA Certification status for the CVO. I’m also working closely with system leaders including recruiters, practice administrators, risk managers, and others to improve the pre-employment process for employed providers. It is unbelievable how many different departments are involved in the process of onboarding an employed provider. We plan to minimize the burden on providers and internal departments by eliminating duplication and working together to improve the overall experience.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed writing articles and a book for HCPro, and I enjoy participating in the Credentialing Resource Center News, Analysis, and Education Board. I appreciate Banner’s partnership with VerityStream and the opportunity to participate in the VerityStream Customer Advisory Group. I want to continue these types of educational activities and share my experiences with others.