Spotlight On: Nichole Russ, Director of Concept Development and Selection Analytics 

Decoding the “ClearBridge Queen” of Penstock 

In the shimmering ripples of Lake Erie, right on the serene outskirts of Toledo, Ohio, Nichole Russ is nearing the end of her master’s in health informatics and prepping for the launch of the ultimate payment integrity platform—one she helped bring to life. By day, she’s knee-deep in edit concepts, investigating and developing fixes for a flawed claims adjudication system that drives up the cost of healthcare. But there’s so much more to Nichole than her undeniable strength in payment accuracy.  

Journey to Penstock  

It wasn’t always payment integrity and software development for Nichole. “I had no intention of going into coding,” she admits. Fresh out of college, amid a grim economic backdrop, she began as a receptionist, only to venture into clinical documentation. This seemingly random detour paved the path for Nichole’s love of coding—a love deeply rooted in investigation. From inpatient coding at a local hospital, to her pivotal role in the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 codes, Nichole’s accidental trajectory into the health information field led her to her true calling at Penstock. The pivot from being audited to becoming the auditor gave Nichole a unique vantage point—a comprehensive understanding of both sides of the coin. 

From Auditor to Innovator 

Now, when you hear that Nichole is the Director of Concept Development and Selection Analytics at Penstock, you might scratch your head. What exactly does that entail? “My friends are as clueless as yours would be,” she laughs. “In simple terms, I develop filters or ‘edits’ to catch healthcare claims that are paid wrong. And I work closely with our tech team, taking the needs of our auditors and transforming them into tangible, impactful features within our payment integrity SaaS platform, ClearBridge.”  

But that’s just scratching the surface.  

Unmasking Her Superpower 

While the world reveres superheroes like Wonder Woman and Superman, Penstock boasts its own champion: “The ClearBridge Queen,” a title affectionately bestowed upon Nichole by her colleagues. Her origin story? Penstock’s comprehensive SaaS technology for audit management. Nichole’s superpower lies in the art of synergy. She gracefully merges her hands-on auditing experience with her ever-evolving tech domain. “I want to be able to search for anything I want—and I want auditors to have the system they’ve always dreamed of,” she once voiced, leading to ClearBridge’s advanced search capabilities and features. “Auditors like me have always wanted more freedom in what they could do, and we made it possible.” 

From being on the receiving end of audits to becoming the “ClearBridge Queen” at Penstock, Nichole has always navigated challenges with poise. “Thinking about where ClearBridge and Penstock started to where it is today is absolutely unreal,” she remarks. 

Beyond Penstock: Birds, Backyard, and “Little old man, Rocky”  

Close your eyes and imagine a tranquil backyard. A home with a beautiful pool surrounded by a field, woods, a serene pond and the majesty of Lake Erie. Nichole’s description paints a portrait of Eden, where her 16-year-old Pomeranian, Rocky, affectionately referred to as her “little old man” nestles beside her, all while eagles majestically glide overhead. Away from the whirlwind of audits and codes, “It’s like our little secluded sanctuary,” she muses, finding joy in life’s simple moments.  

Penstock’s Heartbeat 

If there’s one thing that resonates even more profoundly than Nichole’s dedication to her role, it’s her unwavering commitment to the Penstock family. She elaborates, “Yes, we work hard, possibly harder than I ever imagined. But the growth, camaraderie and spirit of mutual support here? It’s unparalleled.” Nichole praises the culture at Penstock for being open, transparent and so enjoyable. “We’ve developed an edit to make payment integrity so much fun!” she chuckles. 

From Auditor to Innovator - Penstock Spotlights Nichole Russ

Family, after all, isn’t just a concept restricted to work for Nichole. She gushes about her life outside of Penstock: her metric-loving husband Krys, who hails from Poland, her stepchildren, Evyn and Maia, who are rapidly inching towards adulthood, and her escapades as the “cool aunt” during family vacations. A recent trip to Disney World is a cherished memory. She reminisces, “Holding my 5-year-old niece during the firework show, her tiny voice singing along, it was… magical.” 

Nichole’s world is vast, encompassing the intricate codes of health informatics, the flutter of eagle wings, the splashes in her backyard pool and the infectious silliness of her nieces and nephews. And at the center of this universe is a heart that beats for family, both at home and work. 

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