My friend Carl, who responds to a lot of posts here, made a statement last week that I found intriguing. He said "I think that every leader should know at least 5% more than any team member". I disagreed of sorts, but I've been thinking about that comment ever since, which leads me to this post.

I always thought that my strength as the type of health care revenue cycle consultant that I am is that I've done all the jobs that everyone in the revenue cycle process has done outside of collection, which was actually the first health care gig I got when I decided to go into self employment. On that front, once I learned why the charge master was important and how things needed to be, I then worked with departments and taught them what they needed to learn while I was still an employee, and I employ those things into working with people now.

Here's the thing. If someone asked me to sit down at a computer today and admit a patient, I would know every single question to ask and in what order. What I might not be familiar with is the particular program those people are using. There are hundreds of different companies putting out software for hospitals, physicians, or whatever, and without at least a 30 minutes crash course I wouldn't know how to begin the process at any hospital I went to. Yet, not knowing the software wouldn't stop me from knowing the process, the laws of registration, the different types (ER, lab, etc), and what's appropriate and not appropriate.

The same goes for charge master issues. I know the coding and how to do the coding. I use the code book because every year codes change, some being added and removed, some having their descriptions changed. Each department has standard codes just for them, and yet there are supplies used throughout the hospital and thus throughout all the different departments.

Take something like a catheter. A catheter is basically a hollow tube inserted somewhere into the body. There are many different points where a catheter can be inserted, and for many different reasons. There are literally thousands of different catheters, some attached to bags, some attached to other things.

Some drain, some put stuff into the body. Because there are so many different types of catheters, there are lots of different names. Once they arrive at a medical entity, you'd think people would call them whatever they were called when they showed up in the supply area.

But they don't, often for two reasons. One, because you might have multiple catheters that show up called the same thing yet aren't the same thing because each company calls the same items something different, no matter how slight. Two, what happens is that a person comes from a different place, sees something they're familiar with under a different name, and starts calling it that. If they're in a position of power often they start making everyone else call it that as well, but that doesn't necessarily mean anyone has changed the wording of that item in the computer.

So, when I talk to different people in different hospitals, I go in with this particular knowledge, knowing that only a few catheters, based on the multitude of them, are covered specifically by code. Thus, I end up asking a lot of questions, working with these different people to identify for me which type of catheters they're using based on the descriptions in the code book. I'm not a medical professional in that regard, but even medical professionals, I've found, get stuck in trying to describe these things sometime.

Therefore, as leaders, there are times when you're just not going to know something, and it's going to turn out that the people you hope know something may not know it either. Depending on how crucial it is, don't overly worry about that. Instead, worry about those things you can get answers to, those things that everything else depends on. And, for some backup on this belief, check out what Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say about a particular favorite subject of a lot of people, UFO's.