How to Cut Vendor Evaluation Costs and Improve Outcomes without Sacrificing Quality with Bruce Brandes, CEO, and Founder at Lucro
: [00:00:01] Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes and business success with today's most successful and inspiring healthcare leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez
Saul Marquez: [00:00:19] Outcomes Rocket listeners welcome back once again to the Outcomes Rocket where we chat with today's most inspiring and successful health care leaders. If you love what you heard today or loved the show in general please go to outcomestocket.com/reviews and leave us an apple rating and review. This is how we know what we're doing is working in helping improve outcomes for you. Driving this conversation to help the feedback common enemy which has bad outcomes and inefficiency and so without further ado I want to introduce our outstanding guest. His name is Bruce Branders. He's the CEO and founder at Lucro. Lucro is a digital platform helping healthcare organizations make better purchasing decisions. He's been in healthcare for almost 30 years as part of Martin ventures. And he's also been executive vice president and president at other health startups. He's done such an amazing job in this field but what I want to do is open up the microphone the Bruce to round that intrp. Bruce, welcome to the podcast.
Bruce Brandes: [00:01:24] Great thank you so much for having me Saul. Really appreciate this forum.
Saul Marquez: [00:01:29] Absolutely. And Bruce why did you decide to get into the medical sector.
Bruce Brandes: [00:01:34] Well it's actually wasn't really my decision coming out of business school in 1989 had a great opportunity to go work for IBM. And at that time IBM would assign you by industry vertical and IBM just so happened to assign me to the healthcare vertical. And I remember coming out of business school as IBM gave us training to better understand the industry how it worked and obviously in education about technology as well as I learned about the business side of how healthcare work that kind of scratch my head and said Well this is completely illogical and makes no sense at all. And then as I got deeper into it I kind of puffed out my chest and I said but I work for IBM. Certainly technology can fix all this. I kind of chuckled over that you know the last 45 years we've shuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic but we really haven't meaningfully adopted technology the way potentially could transform an industry the way it has other industries so really excited to have been part of healthcare through this whole journey but particularly excited to be part of healthcare today.
Saul Marquez: [00:02:32] Bruce It sounds like it was just luck of the draw I guess that you were put into this segment but yet it stuck. And so you obviously found that to be an area where you could contribute and you have through various different companies and ventures. What would you say a hot topic that should be on every medical leaders agenda today. And how are you all at Lucro focused on it.
Bruce Brandes: [00:02:55] Yeah that's a great question and I I think my hot topic is one that is not news to anyone. I think everybody is struggling with it but the reality is the health care industry is currently facing unprecedented financial operational clinical challenges that are coming at a much more accelerated rate change whereas historically doing nothing was always a viable option for healthcare executives. I don't think doing nothing will serve you anymore. There are going to be winners and losers as this industry consolidates. Whether you're a provider or a pay or a vendor serving the industry and I believe that the ability to develop core competencies in focusing and developing agility regarding innovation and cost containment is going to be critical to any of the organizations that are to survive much less thrive. And we started Lucro specifically to address that issue and what we started by doing was building a network of healthcare organizations that collectively operate over 20 percent of the hospitals in the United States to band together to reinvent how the buyers and sellers interact so if you think about traditional things that are used like cold calls and emails and RF no shoving a chocolate down someone's throat at a trade show. I mean these are all antiquated notions and processes that may take 12 months 24 months to make a decision around a you know a complex collaborative AIST new evaluation that needs to happen no longer acceptable. We don't have that kind of time as an industry anymore. And so we've delivered a trusted market place that can reduce the time and costs required to evaluate and choose vendor partners specifically concentrated in purchase services so not so much commodity sized items. But really you know health I.T. digital health outsource services consulting those types of areas which purchase services collectively account for upwards of 30 percent of all the non Labor spend in hospitals. There's a tremendous opportunity for us and trol over that spend and get better returns from the investments that we're making. At the same time help the vendors that serve those spaces that in the same way.
Saul Marquez: [00:05:06] Bruce It's so true right. I mean we were faced with just growing costs and and just the need to continue cutting costs. Lucrow is focused in this in this area where I think there is no system. Currently there's just kind of multiple different ways of doing it and there's just no one way of doing it. What does Luke road do that makes it more effective.
Bruce Brandes: [00:05:29] Well if you think about the traditional vendor evaluation selection process it's really fraught with a lot of fragmented components and pieces of information whether there are a lot of in person meetings that may or may not really be a good use of people's time spreadsheets e-mails very antiquated notion. So first of all built a technology platform that builds a community to enable us to do things differently and so fundamentally that's the first thing that we've built. I'll give you an example of how how this manifests itself. So we have one of our clients is a health system that runs 10 hospitals in the Northeast and the bay had identified that they needed to replace their physician credentialing application by RFP process. That would be about a 12 month process and they recognize that they didn't really have 12 months. This was one of many projects that they worked on that they really needed to do an evaluation quickly and be able to move on even though it required input from lots of different stakeholders. So they actually created what we call a project board in Lucro in lieu of an RFP required that those vendors enter their content in Lucro not just for their benefit but for all the rest of the health systems in our in our network. But they use that as the platform to be able to ask questions and compare to evaluate the different actually they started with six. They found two more through our platform and ultimately narrowed that evaluation down to 2 and then made a final selection in about half the time with about half of the resources required to be able to make that decision. But then the power of that was even better when it gets amplified across our network because there was another helps healthcare organization which was a 200 organization ambulatory surgery center that operates nationally that have the same need for physician credentialing. And because the first health system has engaged all these vendors. The second health system actually just went into our platform searched for physician credentialing found those eight vendors in the robust set of information that they needed to do an initial look at the market and he looked at me and the CIO looked at me and he said you know what this process would have taken us weeks to do this market research. And I got my shortlist within five minutes. And from there they could ask questions you know create qualifying questions to narrow their choices and then the more detailed questions all within our platform. The power of that for the vendor side as well as the health systems are getting benefits. It's also beneficial for the vendors as well because those eight vendors only knew about Lucroy because they engaged because the first health system told them that they were required to to be able to compete. The next thing they knew they got an e-mail notification in lucro saying hey you've been kynde to the project board for this other health system that's looking for physician credentials. And they had no idea who that organization was much less that they were looking to buy what they do. And so the power of that is now that's a much more concentrated use of their sales and marketing resources that they can redeploy. And then where that scales as we've can then notify the entire healthcare community that if you're in the market to buy over the next 12 18 months physician credentialing software you can sign up for Lucro for free and get all. And we're not going to tell you which one is the best. We don't have an opinion. But ultimately you can use this platform to just like for the other two to save significant amount of time and expense in making that vendor selection.
Saul Marquez: [00:08:40] Bruce thank you for sharing that and so many of our healthcare dollars are spent on inefficient processes and just you know waste. And so I think what Lucro's doing is you know this Hub where best practice sharing can happen and not reproduce the same processes that happen when the with the buying process because it's the same it could be the same. And if they need to tweak it they could go in there and tweak it which is great. And then if you're a vendor that you don't even know if something was going on maybe you get alerted and now you have an opportunity that you didn't even know you had.
Bruce Brandes: [00:09:14] And perhaps you can redeploy the dollars you're spending on your database lists to spam e-mail the whole market assuming everybody must be wanting to buy what I do or to have people cold calling you know assuming that every buyer must want what I'm selling. The reality is really needs to be turned around and have the buyer's raise their hands saying these are the things I'm trying to solve for. And if you have a solution for that. This is how I want to learn about it.
Saul Marquez: [00:09:38] I think that's great. And I'm excited to see how this thing unravels because you know it definitely is. You know I've been through the process myself on the vendor side and it is painstaking not only for the vendor but also for the provider you know the purchasing officers just it takes a lot of time a lot of effort a lot of resources to manage an RFP and it's really cool to hear that that what you guys are doing is going to help simplify that.
Bruce Brandes: [00:10:03] Yeah absolutely. And I think we will talk a little bit more about this but I think there's a tremendous opportunity to come together as an industry and challenge ourselves on the way we've always done things because there truly is so much waste and duplication that can go away. It's really not difficult.
Bruce Brandes: [00:10:19] So Bruce you've created results and improved outcomes by simplifying things the example being your you know the physician credentialing. Can you share with the listeners a time when you had a setback it could be with Lou grow or it could be somewhere along the lines of your 30 year health care career. Give us an example of a setback you had and then a pearl that came out of it.
Bruce Brandes: [00:10:42] Sure. And actually this is one of my favorite hard lessons learned that actually at the time and this was 15 years ago. At the time it was happening we said someday they're going to write about this in business school textbooks on how to mess up a great company. And sure enough I actually serve as entrepreneur in residence at my alma mater University of Florida's business school and I guess next on this case study in 2002 I ran a division for a company called Eclipses which was a leading electronic medical records system company. We actually were winning virtually every large academic medical center every complex position driven decision for electronic health records. We were really winning a lot of time and so we were rated first in class and what we then recognized was that there was a lot of money being spent on all of the hardware and infrastructure required to operate our application. And so our CEO and founder at the time Harvey Wilson who was a great industry visionary saw the opportunity for us to develop a truly web based EMR as the Internet was really starting to take root. And so he made that announcement we as a company announced Hey we are going to build this next generation web based EMR that essentially today will cloud based tmr that will eliminate the need for all of this other cost and infrastructure and complexity and implementation time and great vision. Absolutely and we froze the market as we announced it and then spent the next 12 18 months building it only to learn once we got close enough and in delivering it that the bandwidth of the Internet at the time given the complexity when a physician's entering in an order for example the complexity of the rules engine made the response time of entering it in order just unacceptable. And so the real lesson learned from that was and I would contend that's actually what gave rise to epic and their dominance in that space because we are at eclipse us winning all those deals that have been subsequently started to go to APIC and by freezing the market and then missing that window of development opportunity and reverting back to the older platform once we realized didn't work we really messed up a great company. Now eclipse this is now part of Allscripts in 2010. They merged and they still endure. But I would rebound. And I think the real lesson learned from that is to make sure that you don't get too far ahead of the market and your ability to deliver and make sure that you set proper expectations and do that at the appropriate time publicly. Those are some of the lessons that I took from that.
Saul Marquez: [00:13:10] What a great share Bruce and I think it's one of those lessons that I'm sure will remain in your mind forever and now you're teaching to your students. I think it's a wonderful one to have shared with with our friends here our listeners. Tell us a little bit about maybe one of the most proud medical leadership experiences or moments you've had to date.
Bruce Brandes: [00:13:28] Thank you. That was a great question. And as I reflected on it I smiled because there is one story that I have great fondness for. I was chief strategy officer of a company called airstrip which was pioneering the use of mobility and health care. Back in 2000 9 10 11 before anybody really knew what that meant. And in many ways became the face of iPhone and iPad in health care and got a lot of great visibility through our Apple relationship. And one of the applications that we delivered was a way for an obstetrician to be able to see the real time and historical waveform data on their smartphone of a mom while she was in labor at the hospital while the physician was anywhere that they might be over the course of their day to be able to do that type of real time near real time remote monitoring of patients. I was sitting. Because normally that's handled the phone call and then the physician of drop what they're doing and you know get to the hospital. And lots of time delayed. Anybody who's had a baby knows that experience. I actually was at that was at church and met a guy sitting next to me we struck up a conversation and it turns out he was an obstetrician and he asked me what I did and I told him and he actually was a user of our platform and he shared with me a story about when he was he had a mom in labor and had late decelerations in a contraction in the heart tracings and noticed when he was away from the hospital something that was very distressing before the nurse ever even called. He was proactively monitoring that mom and he caught something because he had access to that information in real time that otherwise probably would have taken some time for the nurses to discover and then subsequently for him to be able to act on. And he shared with us that ability to intervene at that time right away may very well have saved that baby's life.
Saul Marquez: [00:15:16] Wow that's amazing. And that's just one of those things that it lets you know what you're doing is impactful right.
Bruce Brandes: [00:15:23] At the end of the day. Back to how did I get into a health care kind of Rwanda at IBM. I noticed that when they assign me to the healthcare vertical I had and that was a marketing rep. So I was basically selling IBM hardware and I noticed my colleagues who were assigned to other industries I really couldn't get motivated. I'm not a good enough sales person to sell computer you know servers to the banks. I mean frankly you know by whichever one you want whatever's cheapest forms are here. But when you look at it in healthcare it's really about how can we as an organization help doctors and nurses to save people's lives. How can we help people with chronic illness to be able to manage that condition so they don't have a sentinel event that sends them to a hospital in the first place. So I think that there's a tremendous opportunity for us to really do good in health care.
Saul Marquez: [00:16:07] Bruce tell us a little bit more about an exciting project or focus that you're working on today.
Bruce Brandes: [00:16:13] Yeah well back to Lucro as I mentioned to you we started by working with some of the large national and regional health systems and understanding their needs because we were trying to get scale in building our network. But what we found is the needs that those health care organizations shared frankly most smaller organizations whether it's a small you know hospital or physician practice have the same needs around being able to operationalize innovation faster to be able to filter the universe of all the shiny things that are out there to find the right solutions in the right way and to advance that we actually I'm not sure when this will be aired but we signed last week a partnership that will be announced next week with the American Medical Association to be able to take the platform that Lucro has built and to have AMAA be able to offer it across all of their memberships so that all of these individual group practices that have needs and oftentimes common needs for the AMA to essentially be a facilitator to bring together practices that are all looking for ways to reduce wait time or better serve a population of diabetics as they're looking for innovations we can bring them together to collaborate in a new and efficient digital way to be able to learn from each other and be able to make decisions with input from people that they know and trust. And you know we as a small company don't have the resources to be able to reach all those audiences. But clearly an organization like the AMAA that is already a trusted partner for these practices and physicians really gives us an opportunity to significantly scale the power of what we're doing so that's one of the more exciting things that we're working on right now because I think it takes the benefits of what we're doing and really scales it in a very big way.
Saul Marquez: [00:17:57] Bruce is so exciting congratulations on that partnership. I think it will definitely add value to those physician practices and help Lucro get a foothold of the market I think that is so exciting congrats on that.
Bruce Brandes: [00:18:10] Thank you.
Saul Marquez: [00:18:11] So let's pretend Bruce that you and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in medicine today. It's the 101 course or the ABC of Bruce Brandes. That's our syllabus. I've got four lightning round questions for you and then we'll finish with a book that you recommend to the listeners you ready.
Bruce Brandes: [00:18:31] Let's go.
Saul Marquez: [00:18:32] Awesome. What's the best way to improve healthcare outcomes.
Bruce Brandes: [00:18:36] I believe by empowering the consumer. And notice I say consumer not patient but empowering the consumer to be able to be in control of the decisions for their health care.
Saul Marquez: [00:18:46] What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid.
Bruce Brandes: [00:18:49] Misaligned financial incentives. I think have been the single most biggest distraction to us as an industry being able to do the right thing.
Saul Marquez: [00:18:58] How do you stay relevant as an organization. Despite constant change.
Bruce Brandes: [00:19:03] Listen and think more than you talk.
Saul Marquez: [00:19:05] What is one area of focus that should drive all else in your organization.
Bruce Brandes: [00:19:09] I believe having a common passion that the healthcare industry can do much better than we do today in terms of cost quality outcomes. I have always believed that you need to put your mother your wife your daughter's face on the person in need of care and make it very personal and let that fuel your passion.
Saul Marquez: [00:19:29] I love that Bruce what book would you recommend to the listeners.
Bruce Brandes: [00:19:32] There are a lot of really great business books that I would get a snippet from. Here they are. As I reflected on that there's one in particular that stands out to me over the last 10 years as being very helpful that I refer back to quite commonly and it's a book called insanely simple my Ken Segall and he was one of the marketing executives that was involved with Apple in the early days. And it's a book about what makes Apple different than all the other companies that built similar products to what they had built. I'm particularly looking back over the last 10 or 15 years and what he describes is their obsession with getting past complexity and going the extra mile to make something very simple. So if you think about it why does the iPhone or the iPad just have one button instead of three. Why is it so intuitive that a two year old or a 90 year old can just pick it up and know how to use it. And so there are a lot of great lessons there not only in product design but also in how you build a business to make things simple. And as I reflect on everything that we do in business and everything that I appreciate in my life it's things that are more simple. But a key tenet of that is that simplicity is much more difficult to achieve and complexity.
Saul Marquez: [00:20:46] And it's such a great recommendation. Haven't read it but will definitely be going on my list. Insanely Simple and for that listeners friends you want to go to outcomesrocket.com/Bruce B-R-U-C-E. And you'll be able to get all of the show notes a summary of what we've discussed the syllabus that we just put together and that links to this book as well as links to Bruce's profile and Lucro. Bruce, thank you so much. Before we conclude I'd just like for you to share one closing thought to the listeners. And then the best place where they could get a hold of you.
Bruce Brandes: [00:21:22] Great. I'm just so optimistic about what can be achieved in the next generation of what healthcare can be and whether you're a healthcare leader at a health care organization or your healthcare solutions provider. I would say that together we have a real opportunity to make a meaningful difference in this industry. And so I would just encourage people not to get so caught up in the legacy of we've always done it this way but to look with an open mind and be part of developing that new solution and to engage. If you're interested whether you're a health care organization or a health care vendor I would invite you to go to app.lucro.com and you can sign up and engage in Luchino. There's no cost. If we've built it right and designed it right there's no real implementation or training required. But feel free to reach out to me with any questions. My email address is email@example.com and I would welcome the opportunity to together help to change the industry are our businesses based on predicated on achieving network effects. And so now that we've built the platform we're inviting every healthcare organization that might want to be part of this. Every vendor that might benefit from being part of efforts to join us now and help us to build a better health care together.
Saul Marquez: [00:22:43] Bruce I love it and I'm so certain that you guys will do it and you'll partner in a very meaningful way. So glad that you're able to join us to share the insights that you guys have been building over there and excited to stay in touch. Bruce thanks so much for being on the podcast.
Bruce Brandes: [00:22:58] Saul thank you for the opportunity.
: [00:23:03] Thanks for listening to the outcomes Rockett podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.health for the show notes, resources, inspiration and so much more.
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