By John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MedAssets
The Health IT Leadership Summit opens on Nov. 3, marking the sixth year of this signature event spotlighting the health IT industry in Georgia.
Created in 2010 by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society, the Health IT Leadership Summit brings together leaders from across the healthcare continuum to discuss how the industry can drive innovation to enable better healthcare delivery at lower costs to more people.
This year’s conference, themed “CONNECTING HEALTHCARE: Making IT Work for You,” will feature John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MedAssets, as its keynote speaker.
Based in Alpharetta, MedAssets is one of the largest health provider claims management and group purchasing companies in the country. MedAssets develops software solutions that sit atop of claims management systems to make them more efficient. The company provides group purchasing for health systems, including Grady and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. MedAssets has 18 offices across the country with 3,400 employees, including 500 in Atlanta.
Below, Bardis talks about some of the latest trends in healthcare IT, one of the fastest-growing industries in Georgia. Georgia is often referred to as the health information technology (HIT) capital of the U.S. and is at the forefront of consumer digital health. There are more than 200 HIT companies in the state and that number is increasing rapidly. The eight metro Atlanta companies ranked among the top 100 in the nation by Healthcare Informatics Magazine have cumulative revenues totaling close to $5 billion.
Q: What are the biggest trends in health IT today?
A: We’re moving from closed, platform-process applications to digital platforms that engage consumers through health information and health data. We’ve gone from a large investment in meaningful use —with Epic, McKesson and Cerner — to building digital platforms to allow consumers, health systems and payers to engage. Retail strategies are now taking root.
How we pay for healthcare is changing dramatically. More people, including millennials, have high-deductible health plans — if you have a $7,000 deductible for a family, you will think carefully how to spend those dollars. Digital platforms will connect to services that may not be hospital-based. For instance, take Theranos, a lab testing company in Silicon Valley started by Elizabeth Holmes – a $9 billion-valued business that provides any test for $50 or less. These tests will be available through Walgreens.
Q: What are the challenges and opportunities for health IT?
A: Health systems are grappling with tremendous disruption – how they’re getting paid, who’s paying them and how much. They have an overwhelming cost-reduction requirement —unit utilization is going up, while price is going down. At the same time, health systems have to engage consumers with different technologies and strategies than those they have deployed in the past.
We now have 67 million people on Medicare and 67 million on Medicaid. Medicaid alone is going to increase to 85 million – that’s a lot of people covered, but at the lowest possible payment rate. How will health systems respond? There will be a need for digital platforms to assist consumers in how to best manage their health and find the best value for their plan.
Q: Why is Atlanta a good place to set up shop and grow? How is Atlanta uniquely positioned as a healthcare IT capital?
A: With Georgia Tech and startup accelerators, it’s helpful to have the incubation capabilities that research environments create. They also attract talent for companies looking to do business here. In the area of innovation, Georgia Tech and cities like Alpharetta have attracted technology incubators.
Q: As an Atlanta healthcare IT entrepreneur at heart, how is Georgia addressing the healthcare IT entrepreneur scene and future challenges?
A: The broader issues in healthcare are prevalent and present in every part of the U.S., including Georgia. Georgia is fiscally sound compared to states like Illinois, for instance, where there are enormous deficits based on entitlement costs.
I do think Georgia is a state that has made a major effort to invest in health IT. The Health IT Leadership Summit founding organizations – the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC), the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Technology Association of Georgia – are doing a great job in attracting health IT companies and making sure that different forms of capital are available to provide infrastructure support.
Q: What will your Health IT Leadership Summit keynote speech be about? Can you give us a preview?
A: The role of technological advancement and investment and the changing role of healthcare. In energy, the fracking boom in the last decade was good for consumers – it helped create jobs and increased manufacturing. Consumers benefited from energy savings through lower gas prices; manufacturers benefited financially from a lower cost of electricity. In healthcare, the consumer has to be the target audience. Information will need to be delivered through mobile devices with a direct benefit to include lower costs because that’s the way consumers will make purchasing decisions.
Q: What’s the key to leadership and success for health IT CEOs? How would you describe your leadership style while you were CEO of MedAssets?
A: I don’t pretend to have the secret sauce. For me personally, it was very important to remain highly focused on the welfare of people. Our culture had to reflect a certain level of values consistent with my personal value system. It’s about creating value well past share price and earnings, while doing what you can to engage a culture of service that has authenticity.
Q: Any advice to women health IT CEOs, as studies have shown that women are less likely to get funded by venture firms than men?
A: Many miles of road have been paved, but we have many more miles to go to solve the workplace equality issue. At MedAssets, we have a model leadership program to select the next generation of leaders; there are many women in that group. Our last couple of promotions put two women in charge of our revenue cycle business, and they’re running a pretty big part of the company. It’s a reflection of the recognition of talent that is now emerging, the reality of reacting to that and the need to promote women and put them in leadership roles that they have so well earned and deserved.
John Bardis founded MedAssets in June 1999 and served as its chairman and chief executive officer until his retirement in February 2015. He also served as president of the company since its inception until December 2014.
Today, as a consultant and trusted advisor, Bardis works closely with the company’s executive team and remains engaged in valued client relationships, and in communicating the company’s unique value proposition as a performance improvement company to healthcare organizations. He is also involved in philanthropic and charitable causes. In addition to regular and ongoing support for multiple non-profit organizations, Bardis was instrumental in establishing MedAssets’ corporate charity status for Mully Children’s Family Charitable Foundation, Heart for Africa and MedShare International. He also is the Founder and Chairman of Hire Heroes USA, the nation’s largest veteran employment integration and veteran training organization.