Outsourcing is nothing new, but the 21st-century solution is just arriving to the maze-like field of medical administration. A pioneer in the field, Pam Osatiuk founded Nexstep Group, an “off-site-administration” company, to cut through red tape and monitor patients more closely.
In 2006, Osatiuk discovered the ideal stay-at-home job to raise children while keeping her nursing license: coordinating administrative services for a pharmaceutical firm. Replicating her work, she began developing off-site procedures for other specialists and created her company, which serves Alberta and Saskatchewan. Today, Nexstep Group has 15 employees and operates major contracts, including the Alberta Health and Wellness Initiatives and KarmaLife. Here, Osatiuk tells Advantage how she turned her small-time job into a big-industry phenomenon.
Advantage: What exactly does off-site administration entail?
Pam Osatiuk: We take pieces of the job off-site to free up time for physicians and nurses to do what they do best, which is not administrative work. We identify the gaps in the system and try to fill them—data entry, transcription, diagnostic coordination, patient coordination, patient education, insurance coordination, and recalls. We have a recruitment component where we hire, interview, and train remote workers for clinics. We also have a 24-hour call centre that makes reminder calls, appointments, sales, orders, and research inquiries for different healthcare businesses.
Haven’t some of these services been done on-site for a while?
We evaluate clinics to determine which services don’t have to be performed in-house, and then we offer to take those services off-site. Maximizing resources in this way wasn’t even imaginable before. My goal is for Nexstep to become the trusted name in off-site administration.
Which service makes the biggest impact?
Encouraging patient involvement. Everybody knows somebody who has been lost in the healthcare system. Patient education is going to be a huge area of growth for us. Patients who are more involved in their healthcare have more opportunity for better outcomes. In fact, all our services are designed to enhance patient outcomes and to ease stress on the healthcare system.
Overall, how has the physician community reacted to your pitch? It takes a while to understand what we do; that has been the biggest hurdle. Almost anything except direct care can be done off-site. That is the hardest concept to understand, because it’s brand-new and so forward-thinking. It takes trust. The physician is trusting me with his practice, and I don’t take that lightly. Our clients overwhelmingly report that off-site services greatly enhance their practice and quality of work.
Do on-site workers feel threatened when you come in for a sales call?
If you’re starting a new office, it’s not an issue. What better way to go? Here is your administrative support; here is your IT support (which we also contract out). All you need are doctors, space, and a front-end girl. It’s more challenging with an existing office. But I haven’t been to one yet that didn’t have staff members who were too overworked to be truly productive. Remember, we’re not taking jobs away from the market; we’re diverting them to a new field and creating more efficiency for patients.
Off-site administration saves time, space, and money. It’s more cost-effective to hire us than to take on new administrative staff whose salaries, pensions, benefits, remittances, furniture, and equipment are all avoidable expenses. Another benefit is confidentiality; all our services are encrypted and password-protected, which is hard to guarantee with some services. We also expedite referrals and turnaround time, because patients have direct contact with registered nurses and patient-care coordinators. Our follow-ups increase patient compliance, track outcomes, and facilitate primary care. Because we’re well-versed in all these processes, it makes coordination smooth.
Clearly, planning is your strong suit. What’s your game plan for expansion?
I have three goals: First, in the next two years I hope to expand off-site services into medical and dental clinics across Canada, and then go global. Second, I plan to do more disease management from a genetic point of view through KarmaLife, of which I am also part owner. This company analyzes DNA and then supports the results by creating nutrition and fitness plans customized to the person’s genes. I really like the idea of knowing what might be ahead and acting now to prevent ill health. Third, I plan to be more involved with patient research initiatives in identifying trends and issues. I think this goal complements the notion of proactive healthcare. In my vocabulary, it’s never “no”—it’s “how.”