How to Increase Health System Loyalty While Reducing Expenses
Episode 353

Badri Narasimhan, Founder & CEO at AlertMD.com

How to Increase Health System Loyalty While Reducing Expenses

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How to Increase Health System Loyalty While Reducing Expenses

Episode 353

Recommended Book:

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Mentioned Link:

Company Website

How to Increase Health System Loyalty While Reducing Expenses with Badri Narasimhan, Founder & CEO at AlertMD.com | Convert audio-to-text with Sonix

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes, and business success, with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the podcast. Today, I have the privilege of hosting Badri Narasimhan. He is the Founder and CEO of AlertMD, an 11 year old mobile health company that saves seven minutes or more for every minute spent on its platform. Badri has a background in engineering, science, and management, and enjoys the use of mathematics to solve everyday problems. He graduated with a master’s degree in engineering and science disciplines at Georgia Tech. And with an MBA at Babson College. Before AlertMD, Badri had senior management positions with Choice Point and AlexisNexis company and AGCO Corp. Each for several years. Badri lives with his 12 year old son in the burbs of Chicago, that’s where we’re based and enjoys travel and reading is a phenomenal contributor to healthcare solving for that quadruple aim through making solutions that make physicians happier and at the same time patients more healthy so they’re really excited to dive into the details of what Badri is up to and with that I want to give you a warm welcome, Badri welcome.

Badri Narasimhan :
Thank you so much. There was a very kind introduction there.

Saul Marquez:
Hi Badri I think I just scratched the surface. You’re a humble man and definitely doing some great things with AlertMD. Is there anything that I missed that maybe you wanted to fill in for the listeners to know about you?

Badri Narasimhan :
Well not about me personally but I kind of start off on a little bit of a philosophic note over on the lower them be for more than a decade and I’ve been on the business side of things for a couple of decades before then and in all of those years and all of those business situations what is very clear to me is that the entity being purchased is really the human relationship and our customers know that that is in the load them DPM that cares about them that is behind them. They take a chance with us and we’ll come through with them and we actually have month to month renewals and that means every day we could possibly get a notice saying somebody is not renewing the next month and we have a 99% retention rate. What that tells you is somewhere in the back room that is a contract that nobody read and our company culture, the way we treat our employees, the way we make them think and act like they are owners of our company is really what delivers those kinds of results. So what I’m most proud about are really not my accomplishments but the culture of our company.

Saul Marquez:
That’s beautifully said Badri and I forget I think it was Peter Drucker that sets culture eats strategy for breakfast any day of the week… and the work you’re doing there is definitely a testament to that. Why did you decide to get into the medical sector?

Badri Narasimhan :
That’s an interesting question. I wish I could give a profound answer like I always knew there was inefficiency and healthcare. One day I woke up. Unfortunately or fortunately it’s not that in the early days we were beating around every bush we could find for inefficiency and the CEO of a large health system a little annoyed took a chance on two guys and 100 square foot office and it paid off for him. This institution was named the Malcolm Baldrige award winner for best improvement in quality and along came AlertMD for the next decade and the smartest thing that I think I did there was to keep that relationship alive and build trust. So we got into it by accident then by the fact that somebody trusted people do anyway.

Saul Marquez:
That’s great. And so you guys are in a hundred square foot office and you’re developing a solution that was able to scale across an entire health system mean something to definitely be proud of. And now it’s 10 years later or well more than 10 years later. What do you think is a hot topic that needs to be on health leaders agenda today and how is AlertMD addressing that?

Badri Narasimhan :
Ten years is a very long time it’s almost an era in technology. I remember when we first got started there was actually eleven years ago there was no iPhone. There were just web browsers and you know the reality of the matter is my son is 12 now and he goes online to order toothpaste or whatever he orders on Amazon or any other website and he can watch that tube of toothpaste order get profits, he can watch which warehouse that box lead, he can watch the estimated arrival time he’s… it’ll be here tomorrow by 3 p.m. He can watch the toothpaste tube travel and the last mile they say the tube is on the way you can watch it come to your door and I then go call his doctor’s office and I read on the phone line for 17 minutes and they leave a voicemail I have no idea when they will return my voicemail I go to their portal I leave a message I don’t know whether they read their message when they are going to call and that is what is frankly shocking to me. And the hot topic I would say and I hate to put it in a very terrifying dawn. One day the doctor’s office that does not think about the tube of toothpaste versus their own workflow, that doctor is going to wake up and find an empty waiting room and they are going to say it must have gone the business must have gone to the other shiny room across the street. And the competition to healthcare may come from outside. Healthcare delivery may not be sold in the traditional manner and that is a terrifying thought. And frankly the hottest topic that I think doctors should think about.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. That’s a great juxtaposition of something that we’re also used to Badri. You know this. And today we we’re calling it consumerism in healthcare and you know. But the fact is gosh I mean now these places Toys R Us, Sears, and all these traditional brick and mortar places to get things. They’re gone. And healthcare is not immune to it. So what would you say an example that you and your company have have been up to to solve this problem is and how have you created results?

Badri Narasimhan :
That’s a good question though. Or maybe give one quick example and there may be many. We have a mantra that we use internally and then that pretty much has been first to mind from a very very early going which is that every minute our customers spend on our platform they should save seven or more minutes. And that gives the framework know we are in the business of oppression the our customers are way smarter and doing their job than our software will ever be. And if we give them time, if we free up their time to go do the good job which is to focus on healthcare delivery or focus on billing or whatever their world may be then we are doing the right stuff. And so we never really try to think about how many clicks Is it then can a table click. Because I would say the bane of a software company’s existence is to sit there and optimize clicks. The real question the software company should ask is why is the customer logging in. We are failing them because they have to come to us to get the answer. Why don’t we go give them the answer when they need it and I’ll give you a specific example. Again going back 10 years ago, one of the products we had at the time was a 100 machine. The doctor would log in and they would hunt them back for this board and that board and it’s a laborious. And we had to at that point it was better than paper. And these days it’s a shame if I had to do that. So we’ve rethought that for us is about I want to say a couple of years ago and we then asked the question why is the doctor even logging in? Before they enter the information that gives the answer in the hospital system or in the ambulatory surgical service system or in any other system and can’t we take the answer from there and greenfill it on behalf of the doctor and give it to a certified quarter get rid of the doctor from the middle. And the same satisfaction that the 12 year old kid and their parent got from you know what I know that toothpaste will come. I don’t need to worry about it if I have a question I can go check on my Amazon App otherwise I don’t need to do anything. I will very humbly say that there are many doctors who are now able to spend time with their 12 year old or how many are old kids without worrying about my charge get billed because we just automatically source it from a different system than their coders, get the approval, submitted to billing, if the doctor wants they can log into our app and see if it is done or not. And most of them don’t even have time for that when they are busy ordering toothpaste and having fun and the little precious moments with their children.

Saul Marquez:
Well I think that’s masterful and thinking through this process. There’s so many point solutions in healthcare and what it sounds like you’re you’re delivering a really just kind of solution that to help across several different systems in such a way that delivers efficiencies to the physician and his staff. And I think it’s brilliant work that you’re up to so obviously it hasn’t always been perfect Badri. Can you share with us a time when you had a setback and what you learned from that setback?

Badri Narasimhan :
That could be the next 10 podcasts for you… like all companies we have had our fair share of mistakes. If I can kind of think of a couple let me give you an example and anytime a company says we are in the business of innovation you take a chance. You take a chance that what you’re about to build will be adopted by the industry. And like many companies sometimes we did the building then they will come approach and we got severely burned by it because we’re a small company we’re fully invested in Illinois and we can do a five year effort and then realized oh well you know the market doesn’t need it. And we actually did something I want to say about five years ago, five calendar years we built out that telemedicine solution and we did that because it seemed interesting. And then sometimes innovation you know the kind of try things out to see if it sticks or not but then not really in too much time until you know that that is buying and we made the mistake of saying “we think it’s good let’s just pour a lot of resources which are very limited for us into it” and we built that solution five years ago we sat and waited for that option and it did not come and we were humbled, humiliated, and shut it down a year later.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. So what was your biggest takeaway from that Badri?

Badri Narasimhan :
There’s probably are or several you know we spent 3 personal years developing it. I would say one of the takeaways for any organization and this would be a physician office as well. They say we’re going to go into risk based health and you hired all these people go into it and they realize it’s not what you want. Or it could be a software company. And we experimented with pricing. We followed 79 cents a minute didn’t work 60 cents a minute. How about 40. It’s free take it it’s free just use it to give us feedback. And the underlying parameters of the industry you know rewind five years. There was no you know or gee there was no network speeds were not that high. The iPhone… I want to see the iPhone 4 was what it was there when we released it. Physician offices were still kind of catching up on EMR. So the lesson if I can encapsulate all of that is understand the business drivers the industry drivers and sometimes you can be too early to market. And so bold then they will come is not a smart thing to do for businesses at all times.

Saul Marquez:
Now that’s a great share Badri and believe it or not this lesson that you share is it is one that comes up a lot when when I ask this question to our guests I wonder if there’s a book out there called if you build it they won’t come.

Badri Narasimhan :
I don’t know if that’s one to last.

Saul Marquez:
But I’ll tell you what. I made that mistake too and my gosh I mean it’s something that’s very common surprisingly but hey nevertheless I’m really glad you shared that and the context with which you put it in. Really I think will resonate with the listeners today. So let’s take a look at the other side of that coin Badri. What’s one of your proudest leadership experiences in healthcare business today?

Badri Narasimhan :
I have to say it’s not a product experience. It’s a team experience. And let me kind of put that into perspective when we where two people and a 100 square foot office I wore seventeen hats and my co-founder wore another’s seven hats or how many were hats there that were needed. And these days if I go into the customer service theme and start asking what’s everybody doing. They very politely. They want you go grab a cup of coffee come back we’ll chat I’ll give you highlights. They chase me over there and they only get involved when there is a red hot issue. I remember in some discussions regarding coding and I don’t even go into that room and I would say my proudest experience is that we have a team of people and these are all U.S. citizens who is educated we’ve been very very local about investing in the economy. They frankly are mostly Chicago graduates.

Saul Marquez:
Nice.

Badri Narasimhan :
Not that we are preferential towards that. But you know the way they help progress they have made me useless in the day to day work and helped me free up my time to focus with clients in the future and creating new products. And I know that a lot of them they will continue to prosper. And there was a new set of leaders that have been created and I would say that is the greater sense of satisfaction I get.

Saul Marquez:
That’s powerful Badri and definitely a testament to your leadership and your vision and the way you’ve been able to lay the groundwork there at AlertMD so big credit to you and and big kudos…

Badri Narasimhan :
No no no now let’s say I think it is the latter. My only responsibility there has been to make sure that and look I mean AlertMD is not a crystal palace where little parties all the time when culture fit that is a problem I have not been shy about getting rid of the wrong people off the bar very very quickly. So my job has been to put the people with the right mindset together and encourage them to dissent and say disagree. If you think it’s a stupid idea and that creates an internal reactor where people say you know Badri may be the person who brought us into the team but we are the team and we’re going to tell them he’s wrong we’re gonna tell him why he is wrong and we’re going to overrule him. And then I think that is the secret sauce.

Saul Marquez:
Now I think that’s great Badri and definitely big recognition to the group you’ve put together and yeah.

Badri Narasimhan :
Thank you.

Saul Marquez:
And so your solution has a lot of different pathways and different areas where it could add value. Which one of them is the most exciting to you today?

Badri Narasimhan :
Oh you’re asking me to pick my favorite child. That’s the hard one. I would say we we serve a different areas of the industry and the red cycle side. We have taken a very new take in saying why is the physician part of the group cycle aside from seeing the patient. And so that’s one way I’m kind of enamored by patient satisfaction because it’s such a nebulous topic. And I actually saw a salesperson in a physician office waiting room and they were bringing the latest brand of vanilla scent to put in the meeting room to say well you know your patients are going to get the scent of a garden and your satisfaction is going to improve. And that was a pivotal moment for me. The fact that the physicians office would spend money on things like they will do anything for patient satisfaction they are grasping at straws or more people at it. And so I would say our work in patient satisfaction and what that means is probably something that excites me because it’s not very concrete and there are many ways to solve the problem and I think we have a very unique way of dealing.

Saul Marquez:
Now that’s very interesting and as I understand Badri you’re also very engaged with the Alexa platform.

Badri Narasimhan :
Very engaged. We certainly are one of the many many people that are looking at it. I would say Alexa is just a channel. This goes back to the days of Go Daddy and all of these you know nobody knew what a website was but they knew if they paid ten dollars they would get the website from Go Daddy and they didn’t know what to do with it. And I think Alexa find that one of those you can buy an Alexa skills from you know to other guys and 100 square foot room somewhere else. But the question is how are you going to solve the proble? So our value is we understand the people, the web, Alexa, you are offered and we bring a package solution that fits upon the keeping points of patient satisfaction.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah that’s a great analogy Badri back when the website came out you could get a website and what do you do with that. And that’s kind of where Alexa is today. And folks it’s just a channel as Badri alluded. These folks are mastering all of the channels. And I welcome you to go check them out. Their website is a www.alertmd.com you’ll see all the solutions that they offer some. Some of the work that they’re up to that’s creating a major league positive difference in healthcare. So Badri we’re here at the lightning round. I’ve got several questions for you. And then I’ll ask for your book recommendation, you’re ready?

Badri Narasimhan :
Sure.

Saul Marquez:
All right. What’s the best way to improve healthcare outcomes?

Badri Narasimhan :
Go where the patient is and the patient lives on their phone.

Saul Marquez:
What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Badri Narasimhan :
To think you know everything. And if it wasn’t invented in your four walls, then it must not be good.

Saul Marquez:
How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Badri Narasimhan :
You have to think ahead and if you can do it within your own team, seek outside help, read, and get new ideas.

Saul Marquez:
What’s one area of focus that drives everything at AlertMD?

Badri Narasimhan :
As of now we are very very determined to try and figure out what the drivers of patient satisfaction and the one area of focus is all on our mantra. How can we save seven minutes for every minute our clients spend on our platform and drive patient satisfaction.

Saul Marquez:
That’s powerful, it’s powerful message and very clear value prop. So these next two Badri are more on a personal note for the listeners to get to know you, what’s your number one health habit?

Badri Narasimhan :
No I brush my teeth probably five times a day and I know you’ve most watched my dentist is very happy to know.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. I love it. And what is your number one success habit?

Badri Narasimhan :
I would say perseverance. I know a lot of people… there are many many people who are way smarter than I am. The rest of my team I can say on average is at least twice as smart as me. I work very very hard. I certainly put in my effort and my secret to success is I put in the hours.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. What book would you recommend to the listeners Badri?

Badri Narasimhan :
Wow. Well you know maybe this is another secret health habit right after brushing my teeth. I read one book a week and it’s always a nonfiction book generally a business book. So you’re you’re putting me in a very hard position by asking me to pick one book but I’ll give a very nebulous long winded answer. I will sell the book and both the… there you go. There is a book that tries to answer the question though Newton and DaVinci were extraordinarily bright but there are other people in the world who are half as bright who suddenly have all the things that would have made them one you know DaVinci but they have never established their name that way. There are 100 hundred people who start bootcamp at this point, 40% of them don’t make it at the end of bootcamp. What is different about the 60 that make it under 40 that don’t make it or maybe the numbers are even up. What makes somebody of average intelligence succeed on an above average scale and what makes somebody who’s above average intelligence not succeed and what should we really measure. Should we measure if they be schools and they see these scores. And then there’s a higher say score 30 years later always a predictor of success. There are enough college dropouts and enough people who haven’t been to formal schools. But with this broad notion until there is a book that tries to answer the question if success is the endpoint intelligence is one of the components of it. But what else is there. It’s intelligence times something else and something else equals success. And the book that asks some critical questions with reasonably good examples and I have no relationship with the author or the publishing company. It’s a book called Grit by Angela Duckworth. And the fundamental argument i may have given away in various bits and pieces but I’ll leave it hanging. But I thought the book made a very very good and convincing argument ther.

Saul Marquez:
Badri, that was an awesome summary and I… by the way I got goose bumps as you were talking because it was very inspiring and the numbers don’t lie. Folks, Grit we’ll provide a link to the book here. The podcast website just go to outcomesrocket.health and in the search bar type in alert M.D. just as it sounds a l e r t M.D. and you’ll find it there. You’ll also find a full transcript of our talk with Badri as well as the show notes and really excited for you to check it out there. Badri this has been a ton of fun. I really really appreciate your time here on the podcast. Why don’t you leave us with a closing thought and a call to action the listeners where they could get in touch.

Badri Narasimhan :
Well my closing thought would be something very personal. I have a 78 year old dad with Parkinson’s who lives with me and I’m able to become his personal assistant to provide him care mainly because the market does not provide a way for him to access healthcare easily and so part of why we are building Marjorie as we call it the machine assisted recommendation and guidance engine is so people like him and one day you know I face a situation like that where I need to depend on technology or another person. So my part for you is that someday you may be in a position where you need medical attention, you need easier access to healthcare. How would you like to be treated? You want to call your doctor’s office and wait on the line for 17 minutes or leave a message on the portal and say a prayer that it will get answered? Or do you want better access? And if you want better access hopefully even if this means increased competition for Margie and AlertMD hopefully you’re gonna do something about it otherwise we’re going to wait on large corporations large billion dollar software companies to one day think I’m going to do something about it and I can order pizza on Domino’s Pizza website and watch my pizza get cooked. If you have not seen that please do that. And they called my doctor’s office and they have no idea what happened to my portal message. And we pay billions of dollars in healthcare. That would be my final thought for you. Do this for yourself.

Saul Marquez:
What a great message. So that’s a great message a great call to action for the listeners. Again you could check out Badri and what his outstanding team are up to, go to www.alertmd.com and check out the show notes at outcomesrocket.health. Badri just want to give you a big thanks and really really looking forward to seeing where this thing goes.

Badri Narasimhan :
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you Saul.

Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www. for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.

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