Interview with Tammy Tiller-Hewitt, CEO of Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies
From her humble beginnings right out of high school as a physician liaison, Tammy Tiller-Hewitt has since built on her education and experience to found a successful healthcare strategy company. Because Tiller-Hewitt has spent her entire career within the healthcare industry, she has first-hand knowledge of the importance of medical assistants in the healthcare community. She says medical assistants often serve as “the right arm of doctors” who “help the patient transition from the outside world to the doctor’s office.”
Tammy Tiller-Hewitt earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree in Health, Healthcare Administration, Management and Marketing from Maryville University of Saint Louis. She then went on to earn her Masters of Health Administration (MHA) in Healthcare Management from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Her well-established career in the healthcare management industry has placed her on the board of the MidAmerica Healthcare Executives Forum, made her a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, and made her a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association—positions that keep her in the loop with colleagues about current developments in the healthcare field.
Read our interview with Tammy Tiller-Hewitt to gain expert insight into the healthcare industry from the perspective of someone who navigates the effective management of physicians, medical assistants, and hospital administration on a regular basis.
Tell us more about your background and education. What led you to earn your degree in healthcare administration and marketing?
I started in the healthcare industry right out of high school. I worked in the admitting department of a hospital and was promoted to physician liaison. I wanted to go from the bottom to the top and I knew I had to have an education to get any further than that position. So I studied marketing and worked in sales, got my undergraduate degree with a hospital and healthcare focus, and then I got my MHA [Masters of Healthcare Administration] so I could learn how hospitals are run.
Did you hold any past positions that have played a significant role in where you are today?
My experience in hospital leadership at BJC Healthcare, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in the US, where I served as an administrator and oversaw the physician liaison program and practice management. That solidified for me the idea of bringing physician liaison, onboarding and retention programs to hospitals throughout the country.
How did your education contribute to you starting a healthcare strategy company?
I knew I could do more with more education. It was the real world experience of working in a hospital that made everything click for me. When I was taking classes, I was also working at a hospital and that gave me the applicability to understand what I was learning. My education wouldn’t have been as fruitful had I just been sitting in a classroom. I had to learn it and experience it simultaneously. And the more I learned, the further I wanted to go. It wasn’t enough for me to work in a department at a hospital–I wanted to run that department. I wanted to run that hospital.
In your own words, can you describe healthcare strategy to someone who may not be familiar with what your company does?
Tiller-Hewitt works with physicians and hospitals to bridge a gap that most people don’t know exists. That gap is between the needs and demands of the doctor and the needs and demands of the hospital. Those elements don’t always intersect. When we partner with a hospital, Tiller-Hewitt conducts an assessment and that guides us in strategically developing and implementing a plan that will align those needs and demands in a way that allows the hospital and its physicians to work more efficiently. And when that happens, the ultimate winners are the patients.
Can you tell us more about your responsibilities in the professional positions you’ve held and how earning your degrees have prepared you for those roles?
When I started as a physician liaison, I didn’t have a degree. Working gave me an appetite to know more because there are so many career paths in the healthcare field. The real question was what direction to go in. I knew I didn’t want to work in the clinical side. Working with doctors and staff and talking to people was what drew me to marketing, which lead me to the sales route. Then I developed an interest in the operational side of the business and my degree helped me with accounting, management, and human resources. The next step was to be the boss and that’s what led me to pursue a graduate degree.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing about the work you do?
At Tiller-Hewitt, we work to improve the healthcare industry, one hospital at a time. We identify barriers that exist for physicians and their patients and develop an environment of success for everyone who goes into that hospital. Who wouldn’t be excited about that?
How has the healthcare industry changed since you entered the field?
Tremendously. The advances in technology have been incredible. What used to be a surgical procedure can now be taken care of with imaging or with a pill in some cases. Unfortunately, the business side still has a long way to go when it comes to streamlining operations and increasing productivity. There is much to be learned from other industries when it comes to the business of healthcare.
From your experience in the healthcare industry, how are medical assistants helpful to doctors and hospitals?
Tiller-Hewitt works with physicians and hospitals every day, so we know that the medical assistants are the right arm of doctors. In my mind, the medical assistant helps the patient transition from the outside world to the doctor’s office. He or she can also serve as an interpreter between the doctor and the patient, and they’re often the person that the patient and their family members fall in love with because the medical assistant is the one doing the ins and outs of providing care. They’re the ones with the power to make a physician’s practice and hospital more homey and comforting.
Do you think it’s an ideal time to become a medical assistant and if so, why?
Yes. I think it’s always an ideal time because it gives you a bird’s eye view of the other career paths available in that field. It’s also a career that is necessary on every channel from hospital to physician’s office to home healthcare provider and beyond.
Which skills do you think are necessary for pursuing a career in medical assisting?
Attention to detail and an aptitude for patient care are vital. I also think that a person must have compassion and unwavering positivity to really succeed as a medical assistant.
What advice do you have for students pursuing a certificate or degree in medical assisting and how can students prepare themselves for the challenges?
Just go for it. Be committed and know that you’ll be serving a good cause in an always-growing industry. You can make a big difference in the world with a career in the healthcare field.