You never know who you’re going to meet and how they will change your life. You just can’t plan for that.
Earlier this year, we attended the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference in New Orleans, LA. At a pre-conference event inspiring women’s leadership in the workplace, luck had it that we would sit at the same table as Michele Hibbert, the VP of Information Management and Support at Mitchell International. The event required that we take turns answering tough questions, like “How do you help your company make money?” and “What value add do you have to your organization?” As we practiced preaching our own roles, Michele caught our eye. She was kind, attentive, and most importantly, listened.
In an environment where it’s easy to have conversational ADD, she focused on each and every person’s answer and listened as if it was the most important thing in the world. It was a trait we were not used to seeing and it resonated with us. In a world where people are on the go and looking to the next best thing, Michele was right here with us, as present as ever.
We had the fortunate opportunity to chat with her about what she’s learned along her incredible journey and what legacy she hopes to leave behind. You’ll love what this true thought leader had to say.
Career-wise, how did you end up where you are today? Was there an a-ha moment where you knew that this is where you belonged?
I started out wanting to be in healthcare once I grew out of the “finding myself” mode of a young college student who changed majors multiple times. I started working night shifts in hospitals and went to college during the day as I centered on nursing as my career. Once I completed school, I decided I liked the business side of nursing and management versus actual patient care. I soon found myself working in the Health Information Management Departments in several large acute care facilities focusing on risk management, utilization review and quality assurance.
My biggest ah-ha moment was when I took a job at the National Academy of Sciences, Medical Follow-Up Agency to review veteran claims for various Congressional studies. I used my knowledge of quality and medical coding to participate in and manage abstracting and coding of medical records of veterans potentially exposed to harmful agents such as Agent Orange in order to facilitate benefits for these veterans, it was gratifying. This was my favorite job but did not allow me to create my own ideas, I was in a box and wanted to be creative.
I left the Academy and started my own company with two others from college – GRG and Associates. GRG employed people at home and assisted providers and payers on appropriate reimbursement. We basically created “super bills” for specific provider specialties that we sold to providers for implementation in practice management systems. I soon realized that the worst bills processed were injury cases for workers’ compensation and auto. The office coding was terrible and less informed than the other specialties like OB/GYN. I was soon recruited to help a bill review company in Maryland which evolved into a software company called Medical Decision Systems (MDS). MDS was acquired by Mitchell in 1994, and the rest is history!
You’re at a top level position for a nationally recognized company, Mitchell. What’s the biggest lesson you learned on your journey to achieving this role?
On my journey, I never stopped learning either formally or informally and most importantly – I never stop listening to customers. They make me better at what I do. Once you understand the issues by being a subject matter expert, no matter how difficult, attack directly without fear of making mistakes. Looking back, it has been thoughtful strategy and risk taking that have made me grow through my career. Even today I think the same way and would not change. Believe me, I have made my share of mistakes but through them you gain humility and an understanding of this very complicated industry we are in.
What topics are you obsessed about in your industry and why? How do you keep tabs on the latest news?
I am obsessed with integrity, facts, and innovation. These obsessions have led to understanding both providers and payers and just getting down to “doing the right thing” and “focusing on the most important thing.” When the company you work for supplies innovative bill review applications/solutions, the one thing we never want to implement is a system that cannot be proved out with facts and is not applied objectively. My team and I receive over 300 news feed abstracts on a daily basis. We read all of them, some deal with regulatory, litigation, claims management and analytics but the most interesting have to do with new and innovative products that are being delivered to our market that enhance the claims management experience.
Most people have a life goal of being impactful. What’s your life goal and how does it tie into the work you do with Mitchell?
I honestly think for me that my life goal has always been to be a good person. Amongst all the technical prowess that I may have in this industry, it is really nothing unless I can teach others and bring in raw talent. I mean, people don’t graduate from college and say “Hey, my life’s dream is to be a claim representative” or “I want to work in casualty insurance.” The best people I have ever hired, and I have hired hundreds of individuals, knew nothing about the industry and if an employer would just give them a shot, they become the most loyal and pay it forward at some point. Don’t be a pushover good person, be a smart good person.
What’s something you do outside of work that adds excitement and joy into your days?
It’s really hard to describe just one thing – mainly I love horses. We have 6 on our property and I have been riding either competitively or for pleasure for over 40 years (ouch). Riding for pleasure has opened up a whole new view for me leading to nature photography. You can see so much more on horseback in nature than I ever could riding in an arena – this is where I take a deep breath and dream.