5 Minutes with... Patricia A. Trites, MPA, CPC, CEMC, CHCC, CHCO, CHP, CMP(H), CHAP

BC Advantage (BC): Tell us about yourself and how you got started in the industry.
Patricia A. Trites, MPA, CPC, CEMC, CHCC, CHCO, CHP, CMP(H), CHAP (PT):
I am a single mother of 6 children (3 are 10 and under and living at home). I started in the coding and compliance world as a healthcare accountant. I saw the coming "frontier" of compliance in 1998 and wrote my first book on compliance at the end of 1998. This book was targeted to physicians but has since grown to be for all healthcare organizations. The current title of the book is, Healthcare Organization and Medical Office Compliance Program Guide.

BC: In 1999 you started Healthcare Compliance Resources and established the Certified Healthcare Compliance Consultant and Certified Healthcare Compliance Officer programs. What was your driving force?
After writing my first book, Medical Office Compliance Program Guide, I was inundated with requests to help organizations develop their compliance programs. Because I could not be everywhere at once, I decided to train consultants to help their clients with this process and to make sure they understood the processes, wrote and administered the Certified Healthcare Compliance Consultant (CHCC) program and exam. Within months of establishing the CHCC program I started receiving requests from facilities for a similar program for compliance officers. I then created the Certified Healthcare Compliance Officer (CHCO) program.

BC: You have achieved many professional credentials throughout your career. How do you manage them all and do you have any plans to add more?
I never intended to create an "alphabet soup" after my name but in this industry it is important to provide credible evidence of one's abilities and proficiencies. Because compliance encompasses coding, HIPAA, personnel management, OSHA and other areas, it was necessary to accumulate the certifications. I don't have any plans to add more credentials, but that doesn't mean I won't feel compelled to do so by the changing industry.

BC: You have received dual CHCC and CHCO certification (the first woman in the country to do so, congrats!) and amongst other things you're now working on a PhD in Business Management. How do you do it all?
I have been working on my PhD for some time. I thought I would be finished with it long before now, but my schedule and my family obligations make it very difficult to find the time to finish my dissertation. I plan on working on the dissertation next week while on "vacation" so I can finally put that project to rest.

BC: Your list of speaking engagements and television appearances is impressive and extensive. How do you find these opportunities or do they find you?
Almost all of my "appearances" have found me. I occasionally answer a "call for speakers" when there is a subject I want to emphasize to the industry or sometimes when the venue is in a location I really want to visit. Being an author of books and articles is a good way to "make it" on the speaker lists.

BC: How do you prepare for the speaking engagements/TV appearances etc?  
When I began speaking in public I was so nervous I stood behind the lectern because my legs shook so much. I finally became "comfortable" with my speaking abilities and as long as I know the subject matter I feel confident (and hate being behind a lectern). I always review the information before my engagements just to make sure I can provide the appropriate information in a professional manner.

BC: Where do you think will be the big issues for our industry in 2011?
There are four (4) big issues that will keep us jumping in 2011.
· The first is preparation for ICD-10.
· The second is RAC audits.
· The third is we should hear when mandatory compliance programs will be effective (from the Patient's Affordable Care Act). Also states are beginning to mandate formal compliance programs.
· The fourth is the misuse of templates and other short-cuts in the electronic health record (or electronic medical record) that drops cloned documentation into the record. This has become an area of concern for payers, especially Medicare and it has become an item of interest in the OIG's Work Plan.

BC: What would you consider to be the crowning achievement so far in your career?
I believe my crowning achievement (so far) has been to provide not only tools and information about compliance to the healthcare industry, but that I have provided education to so many people about these subjects. Many of my students have gone on to become compliance officers in large organization, some have told me they would not have gotten the positions they did if they had not had the education and the certification my organization and I have provided. I feel as if I am able to "pay it forward" when others have the ability and opportunity to succeed in their chosen fields.

BC: What advice would you give to someone who wants more from his or her career but just doesn't know where to start?
Education is always the first step. Learn everything you can about your field. It is surprising how much we don't know no matter how much we read and attend conferences. Next is to get your feet wet anyway you can. Sometimes this means providing volunteer services or taking a job that is not exactly what you were looking for, but is within your field of interest. Lastly, never say I can't. If you don't know how to do something, find someone who will help you. Ask questions, read, research, then ask more questions. No one ever knows everything so never be afraid to say, "I don't know, but I will do everything I can to find out."

BC: Anything to add?
To keep up with my obligations and to harness the power(s) of technology, I partnered with John Jackson, the founder of Intelicode, last year. This partnership has allowed me to concentrate on my strengths and also work on the development of two new projects. I (we) introduced the Certified Healthcare Audit Professional program and exam in 2009. The second project, about to be launched, is the Virtual Compliance Program. This Internet based program will allow healthcare organizations develop, maintain and provide record keeping of their Compliance Plan activities in an intuitive and safe environment. The HIPAA module will be released by the end of the year with the Billing and Reimbursement/Fraud and Abuse, OSHA and Personnel Management modules following in 2011.