Earlier this year, the More Disruption Please program invited entrepreneurs, developers, health care professionals, and innovators from across the country to step up to a big challenge: help athenahealth build cloud-based solutions to hospitals’ biggest problems. The challenge welcomed anyone with a novel approach to fixing what’s broken, courting disruptive technologies that could improve care quality, maximize efficiency, and reduce costs.
As the winner of this year’s Innovation Challenge, my company, The Right Place, is delighted to be working with athenahealth to address a pervasive health care problem: matching the right patient to the right bed.
athenahealth: What Was Your Company’s Winning Idea?
Our winning idea and primary work at The Right Place revolves around improving the care coordination process between hospitals and post-acute care facilities, specifically Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs). With 40% of all hospital discharges requiring some level of post-acute care and a nationwide focus on reducing costly hospital readmissions, care coordination can greatly improve healthcare’s triple aim for improved patient experience, lower costs, and improved outcomes.
Our first product is a SaaS cloud-based mobile application for SNFs that empowers them to manage all beds and incoming referrals in one clean interface on-the-go,
How Did The Right Place Get Its Start?
My co-founder, Dr. Alan Abrams, is a long-time geriatrician. He was frustrated by the patient discharge process from the hospital to post-acute care, and he identified an opportunity to make a difference for the patients he was serving. After speaking with other clinicians and hospitals, he realized the process was not only clunky and paper-heavy, but it was also biased. Patients spend unnecessary time in the hospital or being matched to facilities that aren't the most appropriate for their needs. We set out to shadow as many hospital and SNF teams as possible and found that there were opportunities for improvement in workflow and communication on all sides.
SNFs need better tools to manage patient matching more collaboratively. The Right Place helps SNFs manage inventory at their facilities and empowers them to make smart decisions about patient referrals in a fraction of the time over current processes. SNFs can also create, edit, and share referral data as a team so everyone is informed about bed availability and incoming referral details. We’ve been compared to OpenTable for SNFs or Match.com for patient placement.
The Right Place for Hospitals is a web-based application designed for hospital case managers that lets them search, filter and identify the appropriate SNF for their patients. By providing these tools to hospitals and SNFs, we take the uncertainty out of patient placement, democratize the process, and ultimately provide better outcomes for patients and their families.
You Bring a Background in B-to-C and the Travel Industry to Health Care. What Kind of Perspective Does That Give You on Health Care and the Work You’re Engaged in?
It’s such an exciting time in healthcare technology, and we have the benefit of learning from models that have evolved in other industries over the past twenty years. In the late 1990s, I was working with Starwood Hotels when we saw the emergence of OTAs (online travel agencies), and it became clear that their ability to provide a business-to-consumer interface with real time search results of flight and hotel inventory created much more fluidity in the market. It impacted supplier pricing models, and consumers benefitted by being able to make more transparent purchasing decisions. In the span of 10 years, a complete transformation took place: from travel agent referral models to direct-to-consumer purchasing, powered by voluminous reviews so that consumers could make smart and informed decisions based on real data at their fingertips—anywhere, at anytime.
This new marketplace model really leveled the playing field and ensured that everyone would compete on experience and value. With people living longer with more complex healthcare issues, shouldn't we expect a variance of need and care in post-acute services? Shouldn’t we demand the same amount of information available to us when we are faced with determining which nursing home our mom may go to after recovering from a heart attack? Shouldn’t the hospital managing my mother’s discharge have that level of detail and information available to them in recommending a nursing home to us?
While working at HomeAway, I saw how a low-priced, easy to use solution could be quickly absorbed by a fragmented market and create a new marketplace. When Dr. Abrams shared his experience with me, I thought we would set out to develop the OTA of healthcare bed placement. What we learned was that the bigger opportunity lay in developing the building blocks of a reservation system from scratch.
If You Had a Crystal Ball, What Kind of Future Would You Predict for Hospitals?
The Right Place sees the hospital as the center for highly specialized care needs, especially in this day and age where many clinicians have an increased focus on specialization. The majority of wellness and population health initiatives, however, will be managed in community settings like retail clinics and urgent care facilities where patient records will be accessed across all providers, and patients themselves will have access to their medical history on their mobile devices.
What Advice Do You Have For Other Entrepreneurs?
There is so much we can do to create more efficiency in healthcare. I feel so fortunate to have had great mentors who helped me push and challenge the status quo. We need more fresh perspectives and focus on experiences. At Starwood Hotels, we were focused on creating experiences with the power of design thinking, and we worked with giants like IDEO, the Rockwell Group, Project (RED) and others to make it happen. There is no work more rewarding than to think big in ways and bring creative minds together to solve for a need.