Karen Richter, vice president of managed care at Akron Children’s, knows firsthand how naturally curious children are. She saw it while working as a pediatric audiologist in Philadelphia. When treating children ages birth to 3, Karen witnessed the impact that hearing made on their kindergarten readiness. But when funding cuts affected early development programs like hers, it pushed her into a new career to influence how health care financial decisions are made.
By the time Karen joined Children’s, she had honed her negotiation and relationship-building skills as a network manager and health benefits consultant. Those abilities have served Karen and her team well because they’re able to bring a win-win outlook to every managed care agreement involving Children’s and its providers. Their goal is to ensure patients families have continuity and access to services and providers they trust.
On March 13, Karen ends her 27-year career at Children’s. She looks forward to “me” time and planning adventures that involve learning and exploration.
What brought you to Children’s?
I worked in benefits consulting in Atlanta when Children’s recruited me. This job intrigued me because it blended my previous work experiences. I interviewed in October and the autumn leaves were beautiful. There were so many things I liked here, including Akron’s proximity to my aging parents’ home in Greensburg, PA, east of Pittsburgh. After adopting my daughter and becoming a single parent, I appreciated the benefits of a smaller city even more.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
When Children’s hired me, I was our first managed care employee. I started as director of managed care before being promoted to vice president of managed care. Our department collaborates with our provider partners and secures managed care business through contract negotiation, contract management and payor relations activities.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I’ve recruited and hired quite a few people, some with experience and others just beginning their careers. I always look for people with strong critical thinking skills because the industry changes constantly and requires the ability to think on your feet. We can’t always rely on what worked before. One of my greatest pleasures is training, mentoring and collaborating with these staff members, many of whom went on to work in different departments at Children’s. I’ve always been an educator at heart, going back to my first professional job working with hearing impaired children in Lancaster, PA.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
Health care used to be more transactional. You showed up, received services and were mailed a bill. Today, however, Children’s focuses on the business of keeping children well, in addition to treating illnesses. Our contract reimbursement is increasingly connected to proving the value of our work. We negotiate and monitor those contracts. Children’s had more than 1.1 million patient encounters in 2018 across all our locations regionally and through nursing in-home visits and in-school programs. It’s much more complex now.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
A memory that sticks with me is a conversation Bill Considine (Akron Children’s CEO Emeritus) and I had before I went to China to adopt my daughter. He said, “You really are an advocate for children!” It still makes me smile.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
The time to see where the spirit moves me. I want to pursue longtime interests, such as music, hiking, traveling and writing, and revisit subjects I enjoyed before, like linguistics.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Moving at my own pace and enjoying time with friends or family.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Find opportunities to learn as much as you can about what others do in their roles. We all contribute and help produce an excellent experience for our patients and their families.
What couldn’t you live without?
I don’t know that there is anything I couldn’t live without, but my life would be infinitely diminished without my daughter.
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
I enjoy most genres of music, but most often listen to classic jazz from my collection or via streaming services. I also enjoy sacred vocal music.
What’s the last book you read?
I discovered the public library app for borrowing audio and written books and usually read more than one book at a time. I recently finished “Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Trying out new recipes on guests and binge-watching detective series.
Interested in working at Akron Children’s? Check our career site for current opportunities.