It is just another busy day for Kayce Dover. At 11 a.m., on a Thursday, she has just wrapped up a conference call and is dashing off to a lunch meeting 40 miles away in Hanceville. Afterward, she will drive back to her Birmingham office for more work and to talk with a reporter for an interview.
Dover is president and CEO of HIM Connections, a Birmingham-based recruiting and staffing firm that specializes in matching health information management — hence the HIM — professionals with hospitals, clinics and healthcare vendors across the United States.
Dover, who grew up in St. Clair County and now lives in Trussville, says her interest in health information management started during her undergraduate years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The former UAB cheerleader credits her father with encouraging her to go into the healthcare field. She briefly considered nursing, she says, but she started reading about health information, and, after doing some research, she realized it was a better fit for her.
“UAB is a top-notch school, and it really set the foundation for my career, ” she says. “They had a very challenging academic curriculum within the HIM program.”
Dover earned her degree in health information management in 1997. Later, in 2002, she obtained her master’s degree from UAB in health informatics, a field that involves the collection, storage, retrieval and use of medical information for the benefit of patient care.
But after earning her bachelor’s degree, Dover landed a job at UAB Hospital as a systems analyst. Then in 1999, she began working in the Birmingham office of a staffing agency called Comforce and helped start the firm’s medical division in Alabama.
“I fell in love with recruiting and staffing and found a niche in HIM, because that’s what I knew, ” she says. “Coupling all of that together gave me the desire to start my own business.
“My entrepreneurial ambitions were heavily influenced by my father, ” says Dover. “Growing up, I watched him work from sun up until the sun went down to provide for our family and to build a successful construction company. For me, that’s where my desire to try something on my own originated.”
While at the staffing agency, she says she worked with a team from a software development company, Doozer Software, on a project to develop a remote coding system. In 2001, she went to work for Doozer.
Six years later, in 2007, she opened HIM Connections Inc., in her Trussville home. She says the hardest part was taking that first step. And she had a new baby at home, as well.
“I had a lot of really great mentors, ” says Dover. “I could never have found the success that I am fortunate to have without strong mentors and people who invested their time in helping me develop as a young professional.”
Today HIM Connections offers contract staffing and permanent placements for job seekers in a variety of healthcare jobs, including medical coders, who translate physicians’ notes into medical codes that hospitals and clinics use for billing.
Dover oversees a team of just under 20 full-time employees and is currently in the process of hiring others to grow her team, including two more recruiters.
“We also utilize contract coders, auditors and other interim staff, as our client staffing needs change, ” Dover says.
A Hot Job Market
Health information managers are responsible for the collection, management, analysis and security of patient data found in paper and electronic medical records. Those records can include information such as patients’ medical histories, the notes of doctors and nurses, lab reports and X-rays. Many HIM professionals must oversee the maintenance and management of databases and generate and analyze reports for administrators and medical personnel.
“At the end of the day, ” says Dover, “we’re responsible for getting the right information to the right people at the right time and ensuring privacy and confidentiality of that information.”
Dover says the demand for HIM professionals is high these days. In fact, a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the field, listed under the term “Medical and Health Services Managers, ” will likely grow 17 percent by 2024.
Several factors are driving the demand. First, America’s baby boomers are aging and, therefore, requiring more health care. The Population Reference Bureau, in fact, projects that the number of Americans age 65 and older will more than double by 2060.
Other factors driving the need for HIM professionals include changes over the years in the way health care information is stored — from paper to electronic health records. Moreover, because of the Affordable Care Act, many physicians seek assistance from HIM professionals who can generate reports to help them make health care decisions for patients.
Five years after launching her company, Dover says she began re-evaluating her business model. At the time, she was still working out of her home.
“We had a lot of business coming our way, ” she says. “We had some tough times. The recession hit everybody in 2008 and 2009, but we made it through and thrived, and so it was time to evaluate how to move the company forward.”
Dover says that is when she and her former employers at Doozer Software began talking. At the time, Doozer was operating The Coding Center, its medical coding division. In 2012, they decided to merge HIM Connections and The Coding Center.
“They were looking for someone with a passion for HIM and staffing to lead those efforts and change The Coding Center’s model into a traditional staffing firm, ” says Dover. “I was looking for people. HIM was my background and passion, and so it was a really nice fit for both The Coding Center and HIM Connections.”
Today, Dover and Doozer Software co-own HIM Connections LLC. Under the new company, Dover and her team recruit and place a variety of healthcare professionals, including medical coders, HIM directors, clinical documentation specialists and more.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth and have continued to press forward and provide value-added services to hospitals and healthcare organizations nationwide.”
“I always remind our team that we are in the relationship business, ” she says. “That’s our job, to build relationships with candidates and clients. If a time comes when a candidate wants to consider a career change, we want to be top of mind, and if an organization is looking for the best-of-the-best in HIM, we want them to work with HIM Connections.”
Dover says she works to keep abreast of changes in the HIM industry by staying actively involved with the American Health Information Management Association on the state and national levels, and by writing for professional journals and speaking at industry events.
Her advice for women in business — “Lead with confidence. I think we’re seeing more women attain and take on leadership positions, and any entrepreneur has to be able to enjoy the highs and the lows and know there’s a lesson to be learned through every situation.”
Gail Allyn Short and Art Meripol are Birmingham-based freelancers for Business Alabama.
Text By GAIL ALLYN SHORT // Photo by ART MERIPOL