Frank Cohen: A Man Who Goes by the Numbers

Thankfully, Frank’s number is not up.

While most of us are sipping coffee or nibbling on a tasty buttered croissant this Saturday morning, senior healthcare analyst Frank Cohen is probably still hospitalized, immobilized after having undergone a surgery he told me earlier might last as long as eight to 12 hours.  

Cohen, a longtime associate with DoctorsManagement in Knoxville, Tenn., has been suffering from the proverbial (albeit cataclysmic) pain in the neck. Hopefully, as this Saturday seeps into Sunday, Cohen will have regained enough physical strength to find himself on par with his formidable mental prowess.

Since about 2011, Frank Cohen and his brain have been an almost constant source of featured articles published by RACmonitor on the acutely arcane nuances of statistical analysis: thousands upon thousands of discrete data points that, when the dots are connected correctly, can reveal compelling stories of medical claim underpayments, or fresh interpretations of relative value units (RVUs). It’s the kind of information that, in the right hands, and seen by the right folks in the C-suite of a hospital or a practice management organization, invariably cause those “a-ha” moments.

Frank has also long been a source of personal fascination for me: a character writ large who stands out, even on a canvas otherwise populated by an array of mesmerizing personalities.

Frank has lived for years on a chunk of Gulf Coast land somewhere in Florida, although I believe the actual town is Spring Hill. There, in this jungle-like backyard, complete with a zipline and hand-hewn trails for four-wheelers (Frank is the father of four girls and seven grandkids), he built a soundproof, waterproof, bombproof bunker. Admission to Frank’s hideaway is by invitation only – and a biometric scan or two. And the technology mirrors Frank’s love of math. Even the bunker itself is deep-rooted in mathematical theory, with a length-to-width ratio of about 1.68. For the uninitiated, this represents the “golden ratio,” or the Greek letter Phi. The mathematical pattern certainly sounds like something toward which Frank would most definitively have a proclivity.

No doubt, when Frank returns to life, among those of us who are more or less ambulatory, his first reconnection most likely will be to his beloved bunker.

But how Frank ended up in a Tampa hospital bed is a story worth retelling, for it reveals much about the man who readily admits to liking numbers more than people.

At one point in his life, Frank entered the field of medicine, working as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman, physician assistant, and other assorted medical jobs, sans a doctor’s degree. In any case, he has spent the last 40 years as a devout physician advocate.

And then, in the 1970s, under President Richard Nixon, America declared its “war on drugs.” It would be a 50-year war, fought by the United States to stop the flow of illegal drugs coming into the U.S. In typical American fashion, the multi-front campaign included military aid and intervention. And there was Frank Cohen.

As told to me by Frank, he was part of military effort by the U.S., and he found himself in a helicopter during a rescue operation, caring for a teammate who had been gravely injured in an accident. Flying low over the ocean during a tropical storm, the rescue attempt went terribly south. Frank was tossed out the helicopter door, winding up in the water with numerous injuries, including damage to his spinal column. But he was alive.

For the next several decades, Frank underwent more than a dozen surgeries on his back and neck, although he told me once that he had accepted the fact that he would be living in pain for the rest of his life. Chronic care pain management is a subject we frequently report on here at RACmonitor, given that it’s a perennial favorite audit target.

The last and most recent major surgery that Frank Cohen underwent had doctors inserting significant amounts of metal – cervical plates, spacers, pins, rods, and screws – all implanted to provide neck stability. Frank once quipped that he had more hardware in his neck than Aisle 14 at Home Depot.

So, with a neck filled with titanium, Frank carried on analyzing and reporting on the data points that often are overlooked by others – but to Frank, these are delicious bounties of raw oysters, for which most epicureans have developed an acquired taste, as do mathematicians delighting in the discovery of discrete points of data.

Recently, though, Frank experienced difficulty in swallowing. Upon medical examination, the doctors discovered that one of the screws holding the hardware together in his neck had broken loose and perforated his esophagus. His recent surgery was to remove the hardware and patch the hole.

While I am not privy to his specific medical condition at the moment, my assumption is that the indefatigable Frank Cohen is restless, but nonetheless itching to get his hands on his keyboard, to once again connect the dots.

It’s what he does best.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can keep up with Frank Cohen’s surgery and recovery by going to


Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and is the program host and executive producer of Monitor Monday.

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