Carie Free, Practice Administrator
Chatuge Family Practice
Carie Free is the Practice Administrator at Chatuge Family Practice located just over the border into North Carolina in Hayesville. The practice is run a bit different than most doctors’ offices. Chatuge Family Practice is a rural practice non-profit 501c3. It is run by a community board of 19. The doctors do not own the practice, nor are they the boss; both doctors and practice manager are employees and answer to the board and the community. The practice has a team approach to total health care and provide a variety of services from acupuncture, acute care for adults and children, dermatology, family planning, lab testing, minor surgery, and well visits.
Carie was raised in the medical management environment. Her grandmother worked in administration at the local hospital, and her mother managed several medical offices. So she knew this would be her path as well. She started working for an Internal Medicine group at the age of 15. Carie started in Medical Records in high school and after college came back and worked her way up to Billing Manager. She finished her Degree in Health Care Management and became an office manager for a local Orthopedic. When his practice was bought, she became an employee of the hospital. When Chatuge Family Practice had some financial/leadership troubles, Carie was asked to step in and manage the practice.
The two tips that Carie would provide to other Practice Administrators is to accept change and have a big picture mindset. She states, “You can get caught up sometimes in the little details, and it will bog you down. I try to get the big picture in my head and then collaborate with others to get those fine details down but without a vision your practice will no longer be viable.” Carie knows that medical is constantly changing whether it’s the alphabet soup game, trying to stretch each dollar, staying in compliance, or juggling the insurance companies. She warns other Practice Managers and Providers that complaining too much and fighting the system is truly a losing battle. Accept the change and be the ‘poster child’ for the program so that you can help your employees to embrace the change to keep the focus on helping the patient. She enjoys the constant change and fixing problems as she gets bored if everything is running too smoothly. Carie feels that she has gained her best advice and knowledge from scripture reading of the bible and prayer life. She treats others like she would want to be treated and she would never expect them to do a job that she wouldn’t do herself.
Carie’s passion and hard work in her job are noticed by the doctors that work around her. Dr. Jill Brinke states, “I think the reason I like working with Carie so much and the reason she is so good at her job, besides being organized, motivated and resourceful, is that I know that I’m appreciated. Or more specifically the work I do is appreciated. She understands the complexity of our job and realizes it is more than just diagnosis and prescription writing. We are trying to heal people and give them better quality of life. She shares that focus and is an amazing advocate for our patients. We are incredibly blessed to have Carie and I am so glad she’s here!” Similarly, Dr. Heaver shared, “She has worked long (uncompensated) hours, taken the initiative, researched and generally bird-dogged ways of providing services for our patients and community–grants, collaborations, etc., all while keeping us afloat! Kudos!!!”
Carie understands the benefit of working with others and building relationships in groups such as Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Accountable Care Organization (ACO.) She believes in sharing her knowledge and learning from others on how best to manage the practice. Her nominator, Bart Segal Tri-Med Solutions, has been one of the valuable partners she trusts. She met Bart at an on-site workshop for the software company on meaningful use. Her representative did not show, but she heard Bart speak and sought him out with additional questions. As she says, “Bart is truly one of a kind and his company is as well.” One of the best things about Bart is that he is just like an extension of her office. He is genuine, honest, and visible such that her employees know who he is and if there are issues, Bart and his company are the people she calls first. Carie knows that if his team cannot figure out the solution then they pull from their network of other VARS to get that answer.
Carie is active in her community. She is a Sunday school teacher for teenagers and loves to sing in the choir. Her six year old daughter also keeps her active as team mom for cheerleading and going to Girl Scouts and Basketball. Her daughter also does natural pageants and works very hard for the community service awards that are with pageantry.