SM: What happened after you sold Accordant? Did you have to stay as part of the deal?
SS: It was a very friendly, good arrangement when we were purchased. I was enthusiastic about sticking around. They wanted me to stay and I was excited to do so. My right-hand person continues to lead Accordant today. We had a mature, thoughtful transition. When I finally did leave, it was mutually considered to be good timing.
I bought some ranches in Montana and did humanitarian work in other parts of the world. I did a lot of traveling to places like Romania. I did some investing in not-for-profit health clinics there.
About two years ago, I formed my own little consulting company because there were a lot of people who were very eager for information, expertise and knowledge around the space I had pretty much pioneered. Disease management was being recognized as a core strategy and capability for many organizations. I found out about Phytel in late 2007.
SM: What did you see in the marketplace that led you to join Phytel?
SS: Here is what got me so excited about this company. One of the problems of the first generation of disease management approaches across the board was how to actively, effectively and consistently engage the physician in the process. We were coming through health plan sponsorships, so physicians were sometimes leery as to what it could offer them as a solution. We had to work very hard to engage them. We did an OK job, but I always felt if we had done a better job we could have had more impact on our program.
The physician is hands-down the most respected and influential voice in healthcare. If you bring out something that gets physicians enthused, then you really have an opportunity for patient uptake. Phytel’s service offering, in its most fundamental fashion, finds patients in a manner of very elegant ways that are most in need of seeing their physician. These are patients who are out of compliance with the recommended care of their chronic diseases. We motivate those patients to reconnect with their physicians.
SM: How do you find them?
SS: We architect and interface with the physicians’ practice management systems, and the electronic medical records system if they are using one, and we sweep that data into our data environment. We have 150 different disease management, health improvement and preventative health protocols. We fire those protocols against that data to identify patients who are out of compliance with recommended care. We have an communication capability wherein we automate outbound messages in the name of the physician to those patients to book an appointment and come in.
I saw the company as a perfect place to bring a more meaningful and relevant solution to the marketplace. There are some really interesting changes happening in American healthcare. For a number of years, key luminaries and decision makers, many of them driven by the idea of employers versus government policy, have been driving payment reform to physicians. They want payments tied to the physician’s ability to improve quality, health and results.