Tell me about yourself and the company.
I’m the CEO of Definitive Healthcare. We started about six years ago. We provide detailed information and analytics on the healthcare provider market. We track data on everything from hospitals to physicians to imaging centers. Our goal is to have the best data on every facility and provider of healthcare in the US.
Does your business overlap with that of HIMSS Analytics?
HIMSS tracks a lot of data on technologies within hospitals. We do that as well. We’re much more broad. We tie the technology back to the analytics on what’s actually happening at the hospital. Things around readmission rates are very important to our clients. We track a lot of data on affiliations and how these organizations refer patients back and forth across the continuum of care.
How much of the information that you collect in having conversations with people in health systems hasn’t been publicly announced?
A lot of the really interesting stuff that we get is through conversations with IT directors and CIOs at hospitals, as well as people on the finance side. Probably 30 percent to 40 percent of our data is from a completely proprietary source that has not been announced anywhere else.
I assume a significant part of your market is vendors looking for marketing and sales data. What kind of information do they want?
The uses are changing over time. Six years ago, it was, do they have an EHR system? Which one? That is still a very important element of what they want to know, but it’s for a different reason. Oftentimes they’re trying to think about how to bolt on technology.
As the technology is becoming more sophisticated and EHR systems are becoming more ingrained with what they’re doing every day, a lot of our clients are interested in what the healthcare ecosystem looks like in a particular market. Who are the players, who owns who, who works with who and aligns with who. All of that is incredibly important to the technology players because the EHR system being at one hospital is interesting, but where it becomes really useful to healthcare is when everybody can talk to each other.
A lot of the vendors now are thinking about, how do I expand my reach beyond the hospital or the health system to link in all of the imaging centers and the most important physician groups and all of that? Our data helps paint a picture of what that ecosystem looks like and where the informal partnerships and alliances exist. That helps them think about, what is our go-to-market strategy? Who are the important players to get involved that are the influencers and can drive change within that market?
Other things they’ll think about is, depending on what their technology is, the revenue cycle guys will try to understand not only what’s in there today, but the collection process for that hospital and who the important people are for that collection process. The care coordination people want to understand the ACOs that are in partnership with the hospitals. All of that arms them with the information that they need to go have an intelligent conversation with a CIO or a CFO.
Does your conversation touch on user satisfaction with a given product or a potential system replacement?
We don’t go so far as to say somebody is unhappy. There’s some inferred satisfaction with the fact that they’re making a change or looking for a new technology, which is the type of things that our data will pick up. A lot of the people that we’re speaking to on a day-to-day basis are not going to go out on a limb and say, we’re flat-out unhappy with a vendor. Therefore, we don’t necessarily ask that question.
A lot of the product decisions must be driven by new affiliations, where a hospital or practice didn’t necessarily acquire or become acquired, but partnered with another organization in a non-ownership model.
There’s so much of that. Obviously mergers and acquisitions is a pretty tremendous trend within the market right now. We track something like one merger-related piece of news per day, a major piece of news.
Informal alliances are becoming increasingly important because there’s a limit to how far you can take the M&A game, especially as these markets become a bit more concentrated with ownership already. As everything moves to outpatient, it’s a lot less expensive to start this stuff up on your own.
Urgent care is a great example. You can have a couple of physicians who band together and create an urgent care clinic or two or three or four that can become extremely profitable very quickly. The hospitals may end up buying those up over time, but those are sprouting up so quickly that you need to create alliances with those organizations, even if you’re not in a direct ownership situation. The move to outpatient is spreading out the care so much that the need to have these informal alliances is becoming more and more important.
What other big trends are you seeing?
Something that comes up a lot that is nascent but that our clients are particularly interested in is the move towards mobile and telehealth. It’s almost like the Internet was in 2000. Telehealth is finally starting to come to its time in the spotlight. Telehealth has been around for a while and mobile health’s been around for a while, but the tools didn’t exist for it to get exciting — better phones, better cameras, and the ability of wearables that can collect information. All of a sudden all of these technologies can actually work, whereas with the Internet in 2000, it was Pets.com and in 2002, that company went out of business and everybody said, “That was the stupidest idea ever.” Now there’s Chewy, which is a billion-dollar company selling pet food online.
The mobile and telehealth stuff is finding its way now after trying to for many years. We’ve seen a lot of interest and a lot of questions around, what are people doing? What’s working? What’s not? A lot of that is just because it is still such a new market that there’s a lot of interest in how to make it work.
Are health systems forming relationships with turnkey companies like Teladoc that has their own doctors or are they more interesting in creating a service that features their own medical staff and brand identity?
Where we’re seeing health systems attacking is much more around chronic diseases. How do you manage that better? If you think about a capitated payment model where the health systems are taking some of the risk for things like diabetes care, if you can keep people out of the hospitals, obviously that’s a tremendous benefit to you. Things around wearables that can measure blood glucose and technologies like that are very interesting to them, to be able to get that data in real time and essentially get in front of any issues before they become a big issue.
Along the same lines is medication adherence. That’s a little bit out of pure telehealth and more into apps. How do you engage that patient on a regular basis and ensure that they are taking their medications? Once you release somebody from your hospital, how do you make sure that they don’t come back in for the same reason? Payment structures are driving them to think about things like that.
The classic telehealth, the doctor on the phone, is still struggling. Where we’ve seen a lot of success is around more behavioral, psychology, and psychiatry.
Are you detecting budgetary caution around the possibility that many patients could become uninsured with Affordable Care Act changes?
There’s a lot of talk of it. We haven’t completely seen that come through. We haven’t really noticed our clients saying that budgets are getting cut or projects need to be pushed down the line. It is potentially coming. There’s just still so much unknown that nobody’s hit the panic button quite yet.
And, the need for change is so high within the healthcare system that there’s no stopping it. They need to drive down structural costs still applies, whether there’s uninsured or not. On the one hand, you don’t want to spend as much money. On the other hand, you need to change your system quickly enough to be able to deal with lower payments if that’s what’s going to happen in the future.
What’s it like running a research-based business?
The most important thing that we think about is innovation. It’s absolutely essential. How do you get information that nobody else has been able to find, do it in an efficient way, and present it in a way that people can take tomorrow and go utilize? Within healthcare specifically, there’s just so much data that’s out there that it can quickly become noise if you’re not innovating and showing clients, here’s what you should draw from the information. Here’s how you can go use it tomorrow. Here’s data that you just can’t find anywhere else.
It’s an extremely difficult business. It’s competitive. The way to stay in front of the competition is to continue to innovate and do things nobody else is doing. It changes so fast. Every day we’re rethinking about, how do we do this better? That’s essential to staying at the place that we’ve been able to get to.