Bringing Ethics to the Forefront

R1 RCM’s Corey Perman explains how focusing on ethics gets his company ahead

Corey Perman admits that for every company, there might be a different name for what he does. Compliance, corporate responsibility, and corporate integrity all denote key aspects of his position as executive vice president, compliance and risk at Chicago-based R1 RCM, which provides revenue cycle management services and physician-advisory services to healthcare providers.

There is one word, though, that he and his team are driven to bring to the forefront: ethics. “Compliance connotes adherence to rules and regulations,” Perman explains. “Ethics means doing the right thing in an appropriate and responsible way.” And he believes a proactive commitment to compliance and ethics gives R1 a competitive edge.

In a little more than two years at R1, Perman has aided in the overhauling and reframing of compliance and ethics in not just his division, but throughout the company. Building a culture of compliance, Perman says, is essential for R1, whose more than 6,600 employees are split between the United States and India. Perman gives CEO Joe Flanagan credit for working to establish and emphasize a compliant and ethical tone from the top and aiding Perman’s team to generate wider visibility within the company. Meetings, from the senior executive level on down, typically include one question early on: “Does anyone have any compliance concerns?” Routinely talking about compliance, Perman says, helps breed ethically minded discussion and decision making. “If we work to set the culture now, we’ll be better off in the long run,” he says.

Off the Clock with Corey Perman

As part of a twenty-five-year-old organization presented by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Perman participates in Lawyers in the Classroom, a Chicago-based nonprofit that visits elementary and middle schools and aims to help students to better understand the US Constitution, the legal system, and law-related careers. Perman’s participation predates his tenure at R1 and is a role he cherishes.

Added visibility for compliance and ethics has taken many forms at R1. An increased emphasis on transparency is a key component to the company’s recently revised value statement. And Perman says that transparency leads to accountability. “A compliant culture means raising issues and owning them,” he says. “Our piece is helping people address those issues.”

For Perman and his team to be successful, he says that R1’s workforce needs to know that contacting compliance is not only an option, but it’s encouraged. His department has sought to conduct more in-person training to give a face to R1’s emphasis on ethics. A compliance and ethics guide that new employees receive during training also helps to underline R1’s commitment to a culture of integrity. Perman and Flanagan even conducted a call with R1’s India operations to highlight the company’s compliance hotline. “We want to make it clear that it’s incredibly important to speak out, particularly when you have an offshore workforce,” Perman says.

R1’s expanding emphasis on ethics and compliance is paying off. A recent company-wide culture survey rated the focus on core values and ethics as one of the highest-scoring essential behaviors, but Perman believes there is always room to improve. As R1 continues to grow—with his team alone shooting up from five to seventeen—Perman sees the company’s emphasis on integrity as a competitive advantage. “We can play offense in what we can offer in compliance,” he says. “You don’t just get the operational rigor of what we do, but you also get the benefit of a cohesive compliance team that can help you address issues.”

Perman says that working collaboratively with his counterparts at R1’s clients is key for his role. “The question should always be, ‘How can we build standards or get them to best practices more quickly than if we weren’t around?’” Perman says. “I think that’s what we offer as an advantage.” As an operational partner with subject matter expertise and efficiency, R1 as a whole supports its clients in a way Perman believes sets R1 apart. “We understand the nuances and methodology to help address an issue,” Perman says. And trust built through collaboration and communication makes that possible. Perman believes that collaboration breeds more success than the policing mind-set that can befall compliance professionals. Compliance means encouraging communication and candor, he says.

“The question should always be, ‘How can we build standards or get them to best practices more quickly than if we weren’t around?’”

Before coming to R1, Perman’s nearly twenty years of professional experience also included more than a decade spent practicing law. He believes his litigation experience has served him well at R1. Proactively identifying potential issues and risks are an inherent part of his current role. As a leader, he takes the same collaborative approach with his own department as he does with R1’s clients. Perman believes in leading with confidence, and he sets high standards for communication in his department. His expectations of his own team seem to mirror the aims of R1’s compliance commitment. “If we’re going to be the best in class,” he says, “we’re going to be responsive.”