Editor’s Note: Rachel Faustner joined TailorMed in 2021 as Service Manager, Financial Navigation. Previously, she spent more than two decades at Advocate Sherman Hospital, which is part of Advocate Aurora Health, one of the largest not-for-profit, integrated health systems in the United States. We sat down with Rachel to chat about her career in healthcare, her passion for TailorMed’s mission, and how she’s empowering TailorMed’s team of expert financial navigators.
TailorMed: Let’s start with your personal story. Tell us a bit about your background, education, and journey into the field of financial navigation.
Rachel Faustner: I worked for Advocate Sherman Hospital for 25 years. I started when I was 16 as a patient care technician. I’ve always wanted to help people, so I grew up wanting to become a nurse. My high school in Streamwood, Illinois had a health occupation program where you could get a certified nursing assistant license. So, I started as a volunteer and then, during my senior year, I was part of the work program.
After about 13 years, I had the opportunity to become a revenue cycle informatics analyst. I was blessed that the manager of clinical informatics saw something in me and created my position. This was around 2008 when health systems had to convert to electronic medical records (EMRs). I was a project manager who helped the nurses and physicians make this transition.
While supporting the hospital’s revenue cycle, I also worked with the cancer center team. The director of the oncology institute told me that we needed a spot for a financial navigator. The field was new, but she knew we needed it because patients couldn’t afford their treatment. I worked with her to build our financial navigation program from the ground up. I was working on the corporate side, but I really missed being with patients; I thought this would be a great opportunity to combine the two.
We launched the program in 2015 and within the first quarter of 2016, we had covered our costs. It was a very successful program.
TailorMed: After more than two decades at Advocate Health Care, what motivated you to join TailorMed?
RF: The costs of healthcare are going up. We also have a growing population of older Americans, as well as patients with cancer and chronic illnesses.
I felt that there was only so far that I could go to address this problem from a hospital perspective. I had helped build our financial navigation program and I’d mentored people to become navigators. I wanted to join an organization that might have a bigger impact across the country.
I knew TailorMed was a leader in financial navigation technology. When I learned about the open position, I jumped at the opportunity.
TailorMed: Tell us about your role as Service Manager, Financial Navigation. What are your primary responsibilities?
RF: My primary responsibility is the management of the TailorMed Complete team. We now have a team of financial navigators who can help provide the resources for healthcare organizations to complete their financial navigation program—and to make it as successful as possible.
As far as my day-to-day responsibilities, I’m involved with the onboarding, education, and training of our financial navigators. I also help create workflows for our new clients, so that our team can become part of their team, and they can achieve the best outcomes.
TailorMed: In a recent poll, about 25% of Americans say that they or a family member have not taken medications as prescribed during the past year due to costs. In your experience, what are the greatest financial obstacles facing patients—and healthcare organizations—today? How can financial navigation, supported by technology, help?
RF: First and foremost, it starts before you even get to the cost of healthcare. Many patients have high-deductible health plans with a large out-of-pocket responsibility. Others go without insurance because they just can’t pay the premiums associated with it. We have an unfulfilled gap in our society where the prices are coming down on the healthcare consumer.
Our technology and our team fill in those gaps. By looking at the patient’s insurance, diagnosis, and treatment plan, we can proactively analyze their out-of-pocket costs and find available financial resources. So, before a patient even realizes they have a $3,000 balance, we’ve already enrolled them in an assistance program.
TailorMed: One of the ways we describe TailorMed Complete is “high-tech meets high-touch.” What does this mean to you?
RF: Our team is the high-touch piece related to the high-tech. We have a fantastic software solution, but somebody still has to do work behind the scenes. Getting patients approved for assistance is one piece of it. The other piece is making sure those claims are submitted and paid, so that we’re actually mitigating the patient’s cost concerns.
We can help address those pieces to make sure a healthcare organization’s financial navigation program is as proactive, robust, and patient-centric as possible. Between us, we have 78 years of service related to financial navigation—working in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and in the pharmacy world.
We’re all passionate about the work we do, and we’re personally invested in helping each patient reduce costs.
TailorMed: What is your philosophy in terms of empowering our financial navigators to do their best work on behalf of the patients and healthcare organizations we serve?
The two main things that I live by are transparency and coaching. I encourage our financial navigators to take ownership of the clients they serve. When they have a question, I ask them what they think is the right thing to do—and then we can discuss it that way. I like our team to collaborate and run scenarios for each other, too.
I also try to give them a voice, so that they can give feedback, feel valued for their expertise, and contribute to the company as a whole. And then, with the transparency piece, they understand what’s going on within our organization. I think that empowers them to do their very best every day.
TailorMed: What do you find most rewarding about your day-to-day work and what excites you most about TailorMed’s future?
RF: For me, it all comes down to our mission: moving mountains for patients. If we live by that motto—by creating a team of passionate financial navigators and using technology to help patients afford their healthcare—that’s the best thing we could possibly be doing.
I’m looking forward to TailorMed’s continued growth, so that we can reach as many healthcare organizations and patients as possible. We’re helping to make financial navigation the first step in a patient’s journey.
At the end of the day, it’s about touching as many lives as we can—and I love it.