“I approach everything I do first with a data-driven mindset,” Raif Erim, the Executive Vice President of Strategy for RCCS and Regents, explains. “And then with ‘okay, what are we really trying to accomplish?’ To me, it’s all about problem-solving.”
Raif credits this strategic mindset to the success of his career so far and intends to lean into it as the recent merger between RCCS and Regents redefines his role. Of course, his adaptability and willingness to take on new roles have also helped him get to where he is today.
Raif first entered the imaging field—by accident, he stresses—in late 2000 when he accepted an accounting position with MedQuest Associates, Inc. While having studied economics and finance, he didn’t have much of an accounting background and knew almost nothing about radiology and imaging. But a friend who worked at MedQuest introduced him to the HR department, and it seemed like a good opportunity, so he took it. Within about six months, he knew he didn’t want to stay in accounting—but he did want to stay in the healthcare space.
Raif transferred to the operations and development side of the business, helping MedQuest develop and acquire new outpatient imaging facilities. When he started at MedQuest, they owned and operated about 45 imaging centers throughout the southeast—mainly in Georgia and the Carolinas. By the time he left to join Regents in 2007, he had helped the company expand to 110 centers as far away as Arizona and Wisconsin.
Conversations about bringing together Regents and RCCS began in 2019, as Raif and his business partner Sheila M. Sferrella began to plan for the company’s future and Sheila’s eventual retirement.
“I can’t do this on my own,” Raif is perfectly comfortable admitting. “Sheila’s expertise is something I simply don’t possess, from true hospital operations experience, as well as what she knows related to running and managing hospital departments.”
The decision to reach out to Melody W. Mulaik was an easy one. She was not only one of the most respected names in the industry but someone Raif and Sheila had both known personally and worked with for almost 20 years. Whenever they needed extra support to help a client with revenue cycle management, billing, or auditing, Melody was the only person they ever brought in. Nothing came of those early conversations, which Raif acknowledges is probably for the best since they would have ended up trying to perform the merger in the middle of a pandemic. However, Melody reached out again in the fall of 2021, and by March 2022, a deal had been signed.
So, what does Raif’s new role look like after running and owning Regents for over a decade? First, Raif hopes to mentor others to take over the day-to-day consulting and allow him to focus his strategic and problem-solving skills on key accounts, planning, and networking. He is also excited to expand Regents’ offerings from a predominantly radiology-centered focus and bring the company’s expertise to the oncology space. Eventually, Raif is even looking to branch out into orthopedics and other specialties as well.
“Again, what problems are we trying to solve, and how do we put things together that make that process smoother, simpler, easy to replicate?” Raif says. “The more we can repeat what we do, the more efficient our processes become, and our client deliverables become more streamlined. So if we can put systems in place to make that easier, I think everybody benefits from it.”
The desire to help clients thrive and provide cutting-edge care to their patients is what really brings together Regents, RCCS, and RC Billing which will someday be united under the planned parent company Ron spoke about. Like Ron and Melody, Raif believes that building strong relationships with client facilities and centers is the most important thing a company in this industry can do. It’s not about having the most clients; it’s about cultivating a steady pool of long-term clients and becoming part of their team. Raif is proud to say that he has even become personal friends with people who started out as industry contacts—shortly before we sat down with him, he’d been staying with a client and now family friend in Cleveland and even had dinner with his friend’s in-laws!
Raif believes that “there isn’t always the perfect right way to do things, but there absolutely is a wrong way,” and he is adamant that neither Regents nor RCCS will ever cut corners or play in gray areas regarding compliance, legality, or best practices. After all, in the healthcare industry, everything we do as an organization affects people’s lives downstream. What made the merger between Regents and RCCS so natural to Raif, Sheila, Melody, and Ron was that both organizations share a similar culture, commitment to transparency and service, and a drive to prioritize clients’ well-being over making more money for the company.
Outside of work and his kids, Raif has a number of hobbies, including playing soccer and ice hockey. He spends a lot of time at his kid’s sporting events, with a son who plays tennis and hockey and also runs cross country, and a daughter who is pursuing a D1 scholarship in soccer. He is also an avid sailor and has been for his whole life, preferring to spend time on the water whenever possible. Now that his kids are older, he hopes to embark on a transatlantic voyage sometime in the next few years, starting in the Mediterranean, and working his way back to the Atlantic coast.