EMS WEEK 2018 Industry Spotlight: Chris Watanabe

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As we come to the end of EMS Week 2018 we wanted to spotlight a leader in EMS that inspires us.

With a degree in medical records health information and experience in Health Information Management Chris Watanabe understands medical reimbursement across the entire healthcare spectrum. Her 38 years experience in healthcare information management, computer systems, and processes improvement helped REMSA expand to include Community Health and Rural medicine. While shortening the revenue cycle to half the national average DSO.

We had a chance to chat with Chris and she shared some great insights on being a first in many stages of her career.

Hi Chris, thanks for making some time to chat with us today.

It’s my pleasure, thanks for including me.

Let’s jump right in. If you could share one Idea with Women in EMS about succeeding at work what would it be?

My job takes one skill: tenacity.

You have to stay focused on what you want. You have to stay on it. It sounds corny but in EMS it’s pertinent because the industry has a short attention span.

How has tenacity guided your career to this point?

My strength is in building teams. Having people want to do the work, and optimizing computer systems. Those kinds of results take awhile to achieve and you just have to keep at it. At my last job, I took department employee engagement survey scores from the worst rating at the hospital to the highest rating in the hospital over two years by improving processes, implementing incentives, and increasing morale.

Speaking of previous jobs, Tell us about your path to a VP role at REMSA?

In 2012 I responded to a blind ad for looking for someone with HIM credentials. I thought the job was in a hospital because the company wasn’t listed on the recruiting info. “When the company called and told me it was in EMS I said: I’m not really interested,  I don’t have the skill set,” I said that in every interview and they hired me anyway. REMSA knew that understanding people, health information systems, and how to connect the systems to make the work more efficient was more important than having an EMS background.

Can you share how your experience on the hospital side how has helped you in EMS?

My ability to improve employee survey results and my varied business experiences were the biggest reason REMSA wanted me.

My first job out of school was was director of a 73-bed podiatric hospital, an entirely paper environment. After 18 months there (in 1982) I applied for a two year- leadership program offered by the hospital’s owner. I was the only woman accepted into the program.

In the 1990’s I was the Healthcare Information Management Director at Washoe Medical Center in Reno and oversaw the hospitals installation and transition to one of the first in the nation enterprise-wide hospital information systems.

After a decade away from hospitals working with vendors in IT  I came back to Hospitals as the HIM director at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno NV. In three years there I decreased outstanding coding from $18Million to $3Million.

What’s the future look like for you?

This is definitely my last Job. 6 years later I still like working for REMSA. It’s a company with a great purpose. Being at a company that saves lives feels good.

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EMS Survey Team collects and measures the quality of both patient experiences and employee engagement, to provide actionable data for EMS leaders. Learn more about our survey solutions here.

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