Leaders say partnership could bring ‘radical change’
Last week, Experian Health, a health IT division of the credit reporting giant, acquired MyHealthDirect, a care coordination company.
Two leaders of the respective companies — Jason Considine, a senior vice president of Experian Health, and Tom Cox, the CEO of MyHealthDirect – spoke by phone with Inside Digital Health™ this week.
Together, they envision their merger improving care for hundreds of thousands of patients — while improving business for thousands more hospitals, doctors, and insurers.
“Tom and I, we’re extremely excited about the acquisition of MyHealthDirect and our mission at Experian Health is to use data-driven insights that connect and simplify care, and then the delivery of care, between payers, providers, and the patients they serve,” said Considine, to kick off the conversation. “Acquiring MyHealthDirect gives us a better opportunity to deliver on that mission.”
The following Q-and-A has been slightly edited.
Inside Digital Health™: In some of the announcements of the acquisition, mutual benefits were mentioned. In general, what are those respectively for both joined entities? What does each bring to the table, Experian and MyHealthDirect?
Jason Considine: Sure. What Experian brings to this relationship is, an extremely robust provider-customer base. You have thousands of hospitals, hundreds of thousands of providers that use our tools today that help them manage the revenue cycle of management processes and identity management-type processes in their organization. Leveraging that customer base and providing the opportunity to add in the best scheduling solutions and the best care coordination solutions in the market that MyHealthDirect brings is certainly something that Experian Health brings to this relationship… The first statement I made, there are some big problems in healthcare that we have an opportunity to solve together. I as a consumer — and this is something I Tom and I absolutely agree on and have talked about for many months now – I as a consumer want to pay my bill… I want to understand what I owe, I want to pay my bill up front. I want to be done with it. Putting these businesses together gives us the opportunity to create a much-better patient experience. And providers are going to win, too – patients who understand what they owe, presented with flexible payment options, are more likely to pay. So it’s that marriage of capabilities that I’m most excited about with putting the businesses together.
Tom Cox: First, before I get specific, I do want to comment on the similarities of our mission. So you heard Jason articulate the mission of Experian Health. And ours is to make access to care as easy as possible — so people get appropriate care in a timely fashion. We’re really trying to make it easier for people to access healthcare. So we have very similar missions, which is awesome when you bring two companies together that are really trying to solve the same problem, but coming at it from different places in the care continuum. Speaking sort of the care continuum, we bring the digital care coordination tool. That’s what we bring to the Experian equation. And a lot of that is the scheduling component of healthcare, with the different resources that exist in the healthcare ecosystem. Whether that’s scheduling with physicians, scheduling labs, scheduling imaging, scheduling transportation – all the different things that we can bring together to make it easy for consumers to get the care that they need. By doing that, really everybody wins. All the different constituents in the healthcare ecosystem win. So, the patient obviously wins, because they’re going to get the care they need in a timely fashion. The provider wins, because they’re getting qualified patients, and they’re acquiring those patients at a lower cost. Whoever’s at risk wins, because the patients are getting timely care they need. So everybody wins in that scenario – that’s sort of what we love about our business. But again, what we primarily bring is the scheduling solution. I’d say the other component that we bring is our relationship with payers. Experian has some payer relationships, and then we also have some significant payer relationships, and our business with payers is really focused on that closing gaps in care. When you think about some of the things that Jason said regarding social determinants of health… so if we’re trying to close a gap in care for a consumer, and they need to take their child in for a well-child visit, but we know they don’t have access to transportation, they’re probably not going to be able to make the appointment. So if we know those things through the social determinants of health work, that experience doing, and we leverage out capabilities to connect them to those gaps that they have – whether that is transportation, it could be food, it could be housing, it could be whatever component of health that they don’t have access to that’s prohibiting them from living the healthiest life they can – we can connect them to those resources to facilitate that. So those are a couple of the different components that we bring to the table as well. You can sort of see how this is a hand-in-glove relationship.
IDH: It sounds like there would be not perhaps that many dramatic case studies about this — it would be a matter of smoothing out that need for transportation, or understanding up front what the payment situation, what the coverage situation is. Am I right in thinking that? Or is there some kind of dramatic hypothetical that would tell this story?
TC: When I think about it… I think we can radically change the way healthcare is delivered. You may say that it’s the smoothing, but I’ve been in healthcare a long time, and I think it really would be a radical change. If you think about it, it’s like, okay, I’m going to go online to schedule my appointment — then after I schedule, I’m going to register online. So no more going into the office and getting the clipboards and them asking me what the dosage of the medication that I have that’s sitting in my medicine cabinet back in my house – which I have no idea what the dosage of that medicine is – so they’re going to send me information to register at that time. I’m going to take a picture of my insurance card on my phone; it’s going to automatically upload. So they’re able to verify my eligibility at that same time. Then they’re going to send me an estimate of how much the care is, before I go, so I can make sure I can budget for this, and afford this, before I actually go, and make a decision to incur some cost that I’m unaware of. Closer to my appointment, they’re going to send me a reminder that says, “Hey, it’s time for your appointment.” They’re also going to let me know then, “We checked to see where you are in your deductible. Here’s where you are in your deductible – you have this, okay, this is how much you’re going to owe for your visit,” before you actually come, so now you know exactly how much you’re going to owe. Then you’re going to go get care – we’re not going to have much to do with that mid-cycle care piece – but then, on the tail-end, we’re going to survey you to make sure the whole process was convenient for you. That’s how, as consumers, we’re used to consuming all of the other goods and services – and I think we, between Experian and MyHealthDirect, have the capabilities to bring all this access together to radically change how consumers access and consume healthcare. I get pretty excited about that.
JC: We’re completely aligned. The one thing I would add is we have an ability to help consumers even more with the power of Experian’s data. If you think about that point in the process where the estimate’s generated, and we’re asking a patient to pay a bill, we know before the patient ever arrives in an organization to receive that care, what their income is. We know how many people live in their home, and because we have access to that information, we know if they qualify for a hospital’s financial assistance policy, for example. And so some of the things you see patients really struggling with is, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do with this $5000 bill, because I’m on a high-deductible plan?” We have an opportunity to leverage that data and say, “Hey, you know what? You don’t need to worry about that $5000 bill, because you’re covered under our financial assistance program. Your balance is going to be forgiven under that program when you arrive at the hospital.” Or, we know the patient can pay — but they can’t pay the $5000 bill. We can use our data and insights to say, this is about the right monthly payment that that patient can support without unduly stressing their household and other finances. And so we bring a lot of empathy to the equation with recommending that right financial solution, as well, along that ecosystem that Tom just walked through of managing that patient experience.
IDH: Thinking of it quantitatively, what’s the total reach now with this partnership. I saw some of the numbers: Experian, 3,400 hospitals, 7,300 other organizations, 44 countries, that kind of thing. How big is this concern going to be, with the joining of the two?
JC: One of the things that made a lot of sense about putting these businesses together was that… Tom mentioned the exposure that MyHealthDirect has to the payer market. Experian certainly has some payer relationships, but we look at this acquisition as an expansion opportunity for us to provide more value to the payer part of the industry. Certainly that’s additional reach. I think we have with the combination of things that we bring together and just discussed, there’s tremendous expansion opportunities for our combined business and to the payer market. From a provider perspective, I think we both have really good coverage of the provider market today, but that value proposition for the patient and for the provider that Tom just walked through… that isn’t something that’s really realized today. There are pieces and parts of it that are realized today in different provider settings, but to get to a place where that’s a pretty standard experience, that’s a massive opportunity in the provider organization for our combined businesses.
TC: When you think about the provider side, you have large national health systems, then you’ve got regional health systems, academic medical centers, you’ve got large multi-specialty practices and you’ve got the single-specialty practices. The two organizations together really cover all that continuum of the provider side, and then you have our payer business on. And we really do have good coverage of the entire market there. So I think we’re excited about that.
IDH: The obvious growth of ExperianHealth — what does that not only signify for the company, but what does it mean for the healthcare industry? It seems as if there’s a real need for this kind of foray, this kind of partnership.
JC: Experian is very committed to our health business. And what we do globally — we’re a global information services company, and we leverage our information and our data and software to help organizations make decision and run more efficient businesses. When we look at healthcare, one of the things that I consistently hear across the industry is, it’s 10 to 20 years behind other industries, right? I can buy a house and digitally sign all my paperwork, and qualify for several-hundred-thousand dollars on a loan. But I just switched doctors, I moved from one side of town I lived in to the other, and I switched doctors here last December. And when I checked in, I had to fill out 19 pages of paperwork while I went through that visit. And it’s a large health system, they have an electronic medical record, they have an app that I can see my lab results. But I still had to get through all of that very manual, friction-filled experience. It wasn’t enjoyable, as a consumer. So I think leveraging our capability, our data, and our software capabilities to bring those same efficiencies that we brought to all the other industries – finance, banking, automotive, and different spaces – we’re doing the same in healthcare, and we have tremendous opportunities for continued investment and growth in the healthcare industry. The acquisition of MyHealthDirect is a logical step in that journey. We mentioned all the things we’re excited about in putting the businesses together.
IDH: For MyHealthDirect… how much has the operation changed since 2006, its founding?
TC: To put this in the frame of reference, that was before the iPhone. That’s a good way to put a frame of reference around things for you. We’ve changed a ton since 2006. We’ve added a bunch of capabilities. We really started off doing some referral scheduling, that is, we were helping hospitals scheduling follow-up patients, when they were discharged from the emergency department. That’s kind of where we started, and then obviously we’ve been growing from there to include consumer scheduling, we’ve added outreach, so then we can do text and other ways to outreach to consumers so that they don’t have to talk to people on the telephone all the time — and still get the care that they need. We’ve added data science and analytics to the capabilities, so the company’s grown significantly in its solution set, and in the number of employees. It’s been a fun journey along the way, to see these things come together – and really, just making that difference that we set out to do in healthcare, to make it easier for people to get the care that they need. I’ve been in healthcare for a long time, and I’ve recognized that that lack of convenience is a significant hurdle for a lot of people – and that’s why I think social determinants of health is so important right now, so that we continue to remove the hurdles in front of consumers so they can get the care they need. If they do that, we can lead healthier and more productive lives that cost a lot less. But we’ve got to get those hurdles out of the way! Those unnecessary hurdles.
IDH: Final question: how soon do you see those hurdles being removed as a result of this partnership? When do think you’ll really reach critical mass, where this is really up and humming?
JC: We’re going to go to work on this right away. There’s some obvious things we need to just to make sure we get some of the initial work done, as you always do when you acquire a business, but our product organizations are actively in conversation now. And over the next few months I think you’re going to start to see, and the market’s going to start to see, some of these packaging and bundling of solutions that we’ve spoken to — about creating that convenient, connected journey for patients, starting at the scheduling, moving through registration, estimation and the ability to make payments – and then connecting in some of these data-driven decisions and leveraging the power of Experian’s data to determine whether somebody has a social determinant of health that a payer of provider needs to know about, as they’re involved in that care coordination journey. The other thing I think that’s important to highlight is, about 18 months ago, we saw this need in Experian’s portfolio: of getting further upstream and wanting to connect some of these experiences that we’ve already created into the scheduling world, and the care coordination experience. We did an exhaustive search for a partner who would help us fill that gap in the portfolio – and after several months of really intense analysis, the clear leader for us was MyHealthDirect.
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