Spotlight on: Barbara J. Ortolf, MHA, CPA, CPMSM, CPCS

Spotlight on: Barbara J. Ortolf, MHA, CPA, CPMSM, CPCS

Jun 11, 2019
  • Author:
    Renee Dengler, RN, MS, CPMSM, CPCS, FMSP
    Before she joined VerityStream Client Success and Consulting Services, Renee was director of medical and professional affairs for Advocate Health Care. In previous positions, Renee was responsible for medical staff office management, risk management, quality management, continuing medical education, graduate medical education and utilization review. Recently, Renee was one of the first sixteen people to receive the NAMSS Fellow designation which is the pinnacle of achievement and acknowledgment for the Medical Services Professional (MSP).

Barbara OrtolfBarbara J. Ortolf, MHA, CPA, CPMSM, CPCS
Current Position: Corporate Director, Office of Medical Affairs University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine)

Starting out with a degree in accounting is not how most of us started our career. But that degree launched Barb Ortolf on a path crossing the country as she took advantage of her transferrable skills while making wise, considered choices of some interesting career opportunities.

Armed with her degree in Accounting from the College of William and Mary, Barb began her career at Price Waterhouse as an auditor. It was during her work here that she says she acquired great investigative and analytic skills.

Along the way, Barb also became a Certified Public Accountant and earned a Master’s in Health Administration (MHA) from the Medical College of Virginia.

After Price Waterhouse, she worked as Controller with one of her health system clients in Virginia before moving with her husband, a Naval officer, to Washington State where she served first as Budget Director then Director of Managed Care Contracting. While there, Barb established a Physician Hospital Organization (PHO) with full-risk capitation contracts.

After a two-year detour in Italy, Barb returned to the east coast and became the Corporate Director of the Office of Medical Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) where she has been for over 18 years.

How has being a CPA helped or hindered your career?

“I found that the investigative and analytic skills I learned in the financial arena were in alignment with both credentialing and payer enrollment. Researching, investigating, auditing and analyzing the results are skills that have served me well throughout my career.”

What do you like best about your current position?

“I like the challenge and creativity of building operations and infrastructure. The rapid growth and maturation of Penn Medicine has ensured that we are never bored!”

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

“As I tell my kids, grit, determination or whatever you want to call it, will take you a long way.”

When did you first get certified as a CVO by NCQA and why did you want to be certified?

“Penn Medicine became an NCQA Certified CVO in 2004. We knew that it would strengthen our payer relationships for delegated credentialing, and it has served us well.”

What is your greatest achievement in your present position?

“I think becoming paperless. It was the culmination of the team’s automating every single step of a complex process. I would count that among our greatest achievements.”

What is your biggest challenge?

“As an internal health system CVO, we continue to struggle with what activities should be conducted within the CVO vs within each hospital’s Medical Staff Office or using another vehicle entirely. It is tempting to use the CVO as a tool for ensuring compliance with the many issues that need to be tracked for the health system or State of Pennsylvania. However, each activity adds to an already complex process and delays provider start dates. That in turn negatively impacts patient access and budgeted patient revenue. We continue to work to find the correct balance.”

What advice would you have for others in this profession?

“Never stop learning. Take advantage of VerityStream offerings such as Thrive and webinars. Organizations such as NAMSS offer a wealth of opportunities and challenges professionally. But I’ve also found great resources online to enhance my technical skills in areas such as advanced Excel or SQL that are valuable in our automated environment. Many organizations will provide funding for this kind of cost-effective learning.”

What’s next for you?

“If you mean the CVO, in FY20 (starting July 1) we are integrating the final Penn Medicine hospital into the CVO and then updating and expanding our specialty specific privileges (which are currently being used by the 3 downtown hospitals) to cover all 6 Penn Medicine hospitals.”

As many big cities do, Philadelphia has some local favorite foods. So, who has the “best” Philly cheesesteak – Pat’s or Geno’s (long-time rivals for “the original and the best”

“I don’t know, not being from here originally. I’ve never had a cheesesteak at Pat’s or Geno’s! The best cheesesteak I ever had came from a food truck outside of our old office building.”

What’s your favorite TastyKake? (A famous Philadelphia cake treat for lunch boxes.)

“That’s easy – The chocolate, peanut butter KandyKake (or TandyKake as it was known until 1974.)”

Who’s the smartest person you know – why?

“My college roommate. Chrissie graduated with honors in computer science in 1983, but it only took her 2 years to figure out real estate was her passion and she’s been a successful agent ever since. She’s smart and I think she made smart choices for herself.”

What book is on your nightstand?

“Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. I like history books in general and this one happens to be local history.”

NAMSS is having their annual Education Conference in Philadelphia this fall. What one thing would you tell everyone they must do or see?

“I like history, so I would tell everyone that it’s worth going to Independence Hall and Constitution Center. History is far more than facts and dates. It’s decisions and choices that people make and their effect on history that are fascinating. Some heroic, some misguided in retrospect. I think we can learn from the past. I would also take you to Race Street where my 5th great grandparents lived in 1790 (which I know from the Philadelphia Directory of that and subsequent years). Also, just for fun, I’d take you to the Italian Market or Reading Terminal Market. The latter is one of America’s largest and oldest public markets housed since 1893 in a National Historic Landmark building. Foodies especially love it!”

What’s your favorite way to spend a rainy afternoon?

“Genealogy – I enjoy investigating my family’s history. We’ve been in the Philadelphia area since the 1740’s. But I could also be enticed to watch a good tennis match, baseball game or just hang out with friends.”

If you could choose any job in the world, regardless of what it would pay, what would you be doing (other than medical staff services/health care)?

“Hugging horses! Can you get paid for that? Doesn’t matter – I’d do it for free. I spend a week every summer running a mission site for middle schoolers at a horse rescue. Most have never been around a horse before, but it’s amazing to see how almost every kid bonds with horses almost immediately.”