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The Growing Role of NPs/PAs in Healthcare
Episode 713

Richard Zwickel, Founder and CEO at POCN

The Growing Role of NPs/PAs in Healthcare

In this episode, we have the privilege to host Richard Zwickel, Founder and CEO at POCN Point of Care Network. Richard discusses how his company is a trusted source for many nurse practitioners and physician assistants who want to learn about the latest clinical and industry news network to improve outcomes. He shares how POCN helps practitioners earn, learn, care and connect across the different elements of how they’re helping themselves in their career especially at the local level. 

Richard also talks about America’s top NP and PA programs, the mentor-mentee initiative,  the importance of having the right source and information in situations where NPs and PAs have to move to a different job, and POCN’s AI capacity to gather data in real-time. 

There are so many things we can learn about NPs and PAs in this interview! If you’re looking to level up your skills, you’re a PA, an NP or even if you’re a system leader and you want to figure out a way to level up your staff skills, this is something that you should not miss out on. Please tune in!

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The Growing Role of NPs/PAs in Healthcare

Episode 713

About Richard Zwickel

Richard is the Founder and CEO Of POCN Point of Care Network. He founded POCN in 2014 with the goal of building a free, secure, peer-driven network for NPS, and that’s nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Prior to POCN, he was the MS Advocate for the Erica Zwickel Foundation. 

The Growing Role of NPs/PAs in Healthcare with Richard Zwickel, Founder and CEO at POCN Point of Care Network: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

The Growing Role of NPs/PAs in Healthcare with Richard Zwickel, Founder and CEO at POCN Point of Care Network: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody! Saul Marquez here and welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Today, I have the privilege of hosting Richard Zwickel. He is the Founder and CEO of POCN Point of Care Network. He founded POCN in 2014 with the goal of building a free, secure, peer-driven network for NPs and PAs – that’s nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The company is a trusted source for four hundred thousand health care providers who’ve opted in to learn about the latest clinical and industry news network with other NPs and PAs and access resources to improve patient outcomes. It’s going to be a great discussion around networking and how we could drive outcomes through providing very specifically tailored and customized training opportunities for health care providers and how exactly these opportunities can extend to the broader health care ecosystem like medical devices and pharma. So I’m excited about today’s conversation with Richard. Richard, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Richard Zwickel:
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me, Saul.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. So, Richard, you’re doing some fantastic work at Point of Care Network POCN. What is it that inspires you to do the work that you do in health care?

Richard Zwickel:
That’s a great question. I think the main inspiration has been the frontline practitioners or advanced practice providers that we’ve been supporting since 2014 and even prior to that, in some of the roles before I started POCN. NPs and PAs, as well as other folks across the continuum of care, really just their inspiration, especially with pandemic and what has COVID has done to the country and the work that they do, it goes without saying that there they are, the front-line traders. They’re the ones that inspire us the most.

Saul Marquez:
Couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, they’ve been extraordinary at the front lines of the pandemic, keeping all of us healthy, just putting their lives at risk. It’s amazing to work. And you guys work directly with nurse practitioners and physician assistants to elevate their work. And so talk to us a little bit about what exactly you guys do at POCN and how you’re different than what’s out there.

Richard Zwickel:
Again, awesome experience working with NPs and PAs and because, again, I think there’s been just a huge misconception on the work they do. A lot of times people think it’s them versus the medical doctor in the office. And that’s not the case. They’re collaborators. They work with everyone in the office, but they’re also trained what we’ve seen to spend more time with the patient, not to say that they care more or less than any other practitioner, but I think their outcomes speak for themselves. And what really drew me to this area of the healthcare system was a lack of understanding for both pharma and life science companies, as well as even people in my own family. I am blessed to have an awesome wife and kids. And my father-in-law is a surgeon. My wife’s uncle was an orthopedic surgeon. And I think at times people thought, well, NPs and PAs are not as good as a physician and that’s not the case at all. I think that’s basically an old way of thinking. NPs and PAs play such a critical role in the continuum of care and even in a lot of practices. The doctor may not be taking on new patients and the NP and PA play will be. Or there are procedures that are being done that everyone thinks all the doctors are doing the procedures and the NPs and PAs play such a critical role in the continuum of care and even in a lot of practices are back at the office doing the work. No, they’re seeing new patients. And whether it’s the diagnosis, prescription writing, treatment algorithms that they’re following, it’s the same that doctors would be doing.

Richard Zwickel:
So that was the aha! for me. I think everyone that comes to work appears in POCN except the NP and PA plays just as important a role as any other practitioner in the office. And that’s what motivates us, is to make sure that anybody we work with and collaborate with understands that same dynamic.

Saul Marquez:
That’s great. I agree with you. I think about a recent experience I had with my dentist. The dental hygienist, I swear, I went to a new dental office and I thought, like, I thought she was one of the partners because she just did a phenomenal job. And then she’s like, OK, I’ll get the doctor for you. And I was like, wow, you’re not the doctor. And I even told her, you knew everything so well. And the same thing happens, right? If you have a P.A. that’s super hyper-specialized in orthopedics, they’re going to know. That’s a Vargus knee. You’ve got osteoarthritis, right, all these things. It just becomes second nature to them.

Richard Zwickel:
Yeah, no, it’s true. I mean, even in gastro. Everybody thinks the gastroenterologist is there. He is not in the office because they’re off doing the colonoscopies and the things that they make money on procedurally. The NP or the PA are seeing their patients and going off and doing those same procedures and a lot of cases. In rheumatology. In any segment that we’ve seen. And we work with clients across almost 40 different therapeutic areas. The NP or PA plays a surprisingly important role in patient care whether it be procedures, diagnosis, prescription writing. They’re doing these things autonomously. They do not need to get the doctor’s permission in most cases. And what we’ve heard is even the materials in the patient pamphlets sometimes. You shouldn’t say ask your doctor, because what we’ve heard is there are a lot of cases the doctors isn’t there. They’re seeing an NP or PA is their primary care doctor or oncology. We’ve recognized over twelve thousand NPs and PAs that are actually treating patients uniquely in different tumor types. So there’s a lot going on. I think, what our mission, what we’re all about now is making sure that everybody that we work with or collaborate with understands that there’s data in different proof points to show that these folks are doing the work, seeing patients, writing prescriptions.

Saul Marquez:
That’s fascinating, Richard. So if you have to summarize what POCN does and why it does it so well, what would be the elevator pitch?

Richard Zwickel:
Yeah, we help practitioners earn, learn, care and connect, and that’s across the different elements of how they’re helping themselves in their career, whether it is with continuing at their job or different ways to make money with market research or working with industry or a bunch of other ways, but also in the way that they connect with one another. So NPs and PAs essentially run in packs. So in Chicago where you’re from, there are different sides of Chicago. You’ve got two different baseball teams, but most of your hospitals are on one side or the other. You’ve got your airports. The cities are so huge, the same in Houston or in New York and so on. So understanding which we’ve done and have been doing this for a long time of where the NPs and PAs work, how they’re localized with their organizations, or regionalized or national, understanding that dynamic, I think, also makes what we do feel more custom to them and that it’s that type of what I call the local strategy that allows us to really make sure that we’re connecting them with things that are going to help them earn, learn and connect, but that is going to be important to them.

Richard Zwickel:
We have America’s Top NP and America’s top PA which are two distinct portals that we own and operate in every single year, just like there used to be America’s top doctors that you’d see in the magazine on an airplane. We’re going into our fifth year of America’s Top NP and America’s top PA, where folks are nominating one another. And again, in therapeutic areas. It’s local, it’s regional, it’s national. But that has graduated to a whole we feel is a huge gap, which is the mentor-mentee initiatives that we have under America’s top as well. Because I think that there’s also a huge gap here in that NPs and PAs do not come out of school with specialties. There are not fellowships and residencies like there are for MDs. So what we’ve been doing, and it’s been very successful for industry and in support of NPPA organizations, is we have IP around what we refer to as an inferred specialty. So in Oncology, I mentioned we know that there are twelve thousand employees who are treating like oncologists, whether it be in a community or rural setting. And ultimately that allows for the practitioners to get a customized educational set or job set or resource set to earn, learn and connect paradigm. And it also helps the industry talk to them, because if NPs and PAs move around a lot, which they do because there are way more opportunities than our candidates, then the industry needs to know that. And that’s where POCN helps them. If somebody says in primary care last month or two months ago, but in, let’s say, the following month, they move jobs, another in a neurology office or in oncology office, knowing their patient panel, understanding what they’re the way they’re treating, makes it so that they’re not getting spam, they’re not getting contacted with the relevant information. It really helps industry and our partner organizations, which are nonindustry, connect with these practitioners in a much more meaningful way than when they just buy lists and go spray and pray. And hopefully, they’re going to reach people with a message. That’s no longer, I think, going to be something that NPPA appreciates. They really want to be just like you or I be spoken to or be engaged with things that are going to be relevant to their own journey.

Saul Marquez:
Now, that’s fascinating, Richard. And you said over forty subspecialties. I mean, you guys are definitely dialed into to this space. You’re able to then provide custom learning tracks, earning growing tracks for everybody involved. Talk to us a little bit about the and you mentioned that a couple of times, right. You mentioned the industry side of things. Talk to us about how the industry can learn and benefit from the organization that you guys have put together here.

Richard Zwickel:
I think industry truly benefits because I think in a lot of cases they look at the office and they think, you know, we’re calling on a doctor so that’s good enough when in fact, a lot of the prescriptions that are showing up under the doctor’s script are, in fact, being written by the NP or PA. Now, there is a little bit of a data set where NPs and PAs are showing up, but it’s not complete. So what POCN does we complete the picture, we call our total office AI. It’s a data set that essentially can extrapolate the NP or PA that actually saw the patient and wrote the prescription, but it might have gone under the doctor’s script or a chart. We can actually with our algorithm and IP, we can pull that out and we attribute the prescription that was written by that NP or PA. And this is critical because especially with COVID, but even pre-COVID and hopefully soon post COVID, the rep is going to walk into that office and are going to talk to Dr. Smith thinking Smith wrote all those scripts when in fact it was an NP or PA that had written that script.

Richard Zwickel:
So we work with clients to be able to extrapolate that data so that they can make more effective calls on to that office as well as we have a digital co-plan solution as well. So that whether it’s a telephone call, like a remote engagement as they call through Vivo or whatever system they’re utilizing, we have full integration as a Vivo partner. But we have since done is we’ve set Up this data real-time element, which means that every single month we have two hundred and forty million lives of claims and that 90 percent of all prescriptions that we’ve Crosswalk, meaning we understand the journey of that patient and allows pharma to understand who should they be called on to create a more dynamic call plan and fill the gap of the people that are essentially being projected because in a lot of cases the pharma life sciences need, they buy a projected dataset. POCN is real-time and our real timeliness allows for whether it be a rep or call center or digital engagement or omnichannel plan to essentially know who’s really working in that office and align with their target list or therapeutic area so that there’s a real efficient use of marketing dollars versus sending out things that essentially are just spam for the end-user, which is a health care professional that should be talked to based on where they’re practicing currently, not the things that they practice in the past. And that’s where we think that industry, by working with us, has a unique advantage.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, I would certainly agree with that, Richard. And so many dollars are thrown down the toilet in trying to reach out to people. You mentioned the mass lists. You’ve talked about the noncurated data points. Sounds like you guys are offering real-time data points through claims to help substantiate certain outreach efforts. And that’s very unique. I’ve not heard of that before. And so talk to us about the outcomes, like it makes. I could guess, but I would love to learn from you. How has this hyper-focused training helped with outcomes?

Richard Zwickel:
Well, again, I think from an outcome standpoint, there’s a couple of different endpoints. There are outcomes that we care a lot about, which is patient outcomes. Again, patients are either staying on therapy, they’re more adherent. Again, NPs and PAs oftentimes have a more important role, not that the doc doesn’t, but it’s what they’re trained in patient satisfaction. They’re getting paid and incentivized based on patient satisfaction. So we believe by educating these practitioners who inherently spend more time with the patient and follow up, that there are better outcomes also when it comes to the other side of the fence, marketing outcomes. So with marketing, what we’ve seen is very high ROIs. We see higher open rates. One of the reasons that is, is because while we have almost four hundred thousand people who’ve opted in to POCN, Which is about ninety-two or ninety-three percent of all in and in the country, a lot, oftentimes we have more than multiple contact information for them. Phone, email, social handles, all of that. On top of that, the ability to utilize our ambassador network. So what I didn’t share with you is that we have over five thousand APP, advanced practice providers who have higher status inside of POCN, either because they’re part of America’s top or they’re part of our advisors or mentors or Investor network. And what happens is when we send out communications, our goal is to always have those communications come from someone they know or know of. So while the Home Office and a former life science company might have a piece of a content approved, oftentimes we’ll have people in different geographic locations deliver that information through our system. So our system has many different channels between email, social activations, endemic and non-endemical, we just signed a deal with an HR partner. We have access inside of three hundred and seventy being charged as well as a podcast platform.

Richard Zwickel:
So these channels, though, when the education comes, it’s always coming from someone they know or know up with the exception of the H.R. because it’s inside of a system. But the whole idea here is that influencers, whether they be clinical or digital influencers, they deliver that message through our system and it makes it feel like it’s more custom to them and its importance. It’s not trying to dupe anybody. It’s all about, again, if it’s someone’s in Bucks County Outside Philly or they’re in Southern California or they’re in Florida, we’re always trying to make it feel like it’s coming from someone they know or know of. And just like for you or I, that influencer cascade is important to us. And all too often you think about the way that position marketing has been. You’ve had that national leader and many of them, and then you hope for that cascade of influence and peace and peace or the inverse of that. There’s that Doylestown in Bucks County. There are probably five or six NPR organizations and everything else around the country are like that. So we’ve mapped all that. I did that actually myself when I started the company initially out of right here, right out of my home office.

Richard Zwickel:
And ultimately that’s been our calling card. This B local strategy has allowed us to scale nationally and actually within a couple of things internationally as well, but mainly a national footprint that allows us to work with marketing teams so that when their message goes through POCN, it feels local. It touches a nerve. It touches folks where, yes, it’s still an industry. But it’s in most cases NPs and PAs and our education is a little bit void of industry. But they’re starving for knowledge. They want to exceed expectations of the practice they work for. So were essentially trying to play to that with our business model and have for a long time. We think it’s a differentiator.

Saul Marquez:
It certainly sounds like it. And appreciate you walking us through that. That warm touch, that familiar touch is certainly key to engagement, to opening, to acting on any messages that come through. So all this stuff is not easy. And I can’t imagine, you know, it didn’t come without any difficulties. So talk to us about one of your biggest setbacks, something that just kind of got you. But then because of that, you’ve become so much better again.

Richard Zwickel:
It’s probably like everybody has experienced here with COVID. We were doing in addition to a lot of the omnichannel digital stuff we were doing. We were doing hundreds of meetings a year, really cool meetings where we were basically having the same DNA and peace, and all these different locations get trained and speak on behalf of industry. And we would bring folks out the restaurants using our business model. And that that was probably the biggest challenge we had. I mean, was trying to pivot from there. Thank goodness we had other things that we could do and we converted a lot the virtual. But that was mighty difficult. And what our team did to respond wasn’t just like every you got to do it. Everybody else that we left our office, We everybody went to their homes, work with Zoom or Microsoft or whatever platform. We all became experts really quickly. But I think the biggest challenge and the way we overcame it was we did a very extensive survey during the height of the pandemic. And we’re doing more now to understand what our constituents want, what our members want, what our friends want. Because these are not just people who we don’t know. We have relationships. And without the association in society meetings, without the connectivity, with a lot of layoffs, especially for the cohort or not layoffs, but furloughs and what could we do and what are people and that’s one of the things where we know we’re about to announce. But we’ve already launched a mentor-mentee initiative. These folks need to talk to people. They need to know what other specialties they could be working in. I mean, it was four years ago, so I would have been unheard of, almost four to go leave school, go right into an accounting practice or some of these specialties now starting to become the norm. I mean, by 2030, with physicians retiring in the lack of clinical programming and Qs or the numbers are just shooting through the roof. So to answer your question, again, I think it was just adapting to the changing environment, making sure our team was in sync and on the same page. So that was it was hard, though, and we’re still dealing with it. But the likes of the end of the tunnel where clients are now saying, look, we’re going back out, we’re going to see their clients, which are in those offices, and that never goes back to work. And I think probably like you, you’re starting to feel like the sea change, hopefully back to the way it used to be.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, it is. It is starting to feel that way. And it’s great that you guys have done what you’ve done during the pandemic. I’m sure it’s made you guys stronger as a company. Now you’ll have this virtual capability, the expanded virtual capability, along With the traditional shaking hands and brick and mortar approach that has worked. What are you most excited about today, Richard?

Richard Zwickel:
Yeah, I would say I’m most one of the things I’m most excited about is this mentor-mentee initiative. And plus, I joked today with a client that we launched Posehn Plus, which is very similar to like Disney plus or ESPN plus jokes. And they’re not quite as big as us, you know, but because we have solved all these top leaders and even some leaders who are trained and. And a lot of and we have these folks in a situation where they can be called, be heard, be seen and be known, we’re finding those up and comers. We’re letting them publish content under their name, their institution. And we do a lot of survey work to find out what the audience wants to hear. And then letting them public should be on the platform and whether they’re on their couch through Apple TV or Roku or Crume or on their phones in between rounds or in between whatever they may be doing personally and professionally. Plus, is this really cool platform that is on any connected device In the whole world? We’ve had people from China and Europe and other people saying, wow, your content is great. We’re watching it over here and watching it over there. I was surprised sitting with him. I didn’t even realize.

Speaker3:
I mean, our pharma stuff is on. LifeScience stuff is all restricted to us at the moment. But that’s what we’re excited about, is to give these practitioners a voice and all these up and comers. I mean, you think you can probably in the area you work and you’ve got all these top doctors all over the place. Right. And they’ve been it’s kind of what was It was old is new again, as I’ve heard people say. And that’s what we’re doing. That’s what I’m excited about, is to be the group that’s trying to really support these folks and their associations. Societies are awesome. They do a great job of all this. And we partner with those groups to help them publish and propagate their whether it’s their CMHC, their meetings and events, or their faculty. But ultimately, that’s where I think we found a nice niche, where we’re not an association, we don’t really have a policy or an agenda, and we’re able to just support everyone in their own mission. That’s what we’re really excited about.

Saul Marquez:
That is super exciting. And I was just looking at the site as we were chatting. Man, that is sharp. Yeah. I think the cool thing, too, is there’s a lot of institutional mastheads that anybody would be proud to be affiliated with across oncology, with ASCO or Giblett or pain. We really I mean, we were about to publish close to 70 new cases and guess who are detailing those cases? NPs and PAs. You have a chance and any therapeutic area to be the ones that are helping train one another, because that’s, again, learning for them is there’s a gap in whether it be test prep for their boards or helping them get recertified. That’s our goal. And again, wherever and whenever we can do it in collaboration with any of the associations and societies that they’re either supported by or should be supported by, you know, that’s our goal.

Saul Marquez:
This is awesome, folks. If you have a chance, take a look at what Richard’s talking about. It’s pocnplus.com. Pocnplus.com. Phenomenal platform. You could find them at pocnplus.com but just incredible vision here, Richard, I’m pumped just to learn about it here. And for anybody listening, if you’re looking to level up your skills, you’re a PA, an NP, or even if you’re a system leader and you want to figure out a way to level up your staff skills, just something that you should not miss out on. Definitely an opportunity. Richard, this has been super interesting. I’m very impressed with the work that you and your team are up to. The mentor program, the new network. So leave us with the closing thought. What should we be thinking about and what’s the best place that folks can reach out to you or somebody on your team to continue the discussion if they want to engage? Yeah.

Richard Zwickel:
Well, thanks so much. I mean, this has been a great opportunity to talk to you today. I think that the parting thought here is that NPs and PAs are as important as the docs that are treating patients that pharma is trying to gain access to. I think when It comes to the total office and understanding that that’s where POCN can help you. And when it comes to engaging these important practitioners in a tasteful, super professional way, that’s going to be measurable from an outcome standpoint. We want to make sure that we’re here to support you guys. So we can be reached at info@pocn.com. And I personally can be reached. This is going to be an easy one. rz@pocn.com as in Richard Zwickel at POCN.com.

Saul Marquez:
Awesome. Richard, we appreciate the work that you and your team do. And folks reach out to Richard. If something today resonated with you and how you’re doing things, now’s the time to do it. Don’t just think about it. Just do it. Richard, thank you. Appreciate what you do and thanks for coming on.

Richard Zwickel:
Yeah. Thank you, Saul. Much appreciate it.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • There’s been a huge misconception on the work NPs and PAs do. 
  • NPs and PAs play such a critical role in the continuum of care and even in a lot of practices. They are just as important as any other practitioner in the office. 
  • NP’s and PA’s are trained in patient satisfaction. 
  • Discover where you can get the latest news and updates that will help advance your career and connect you to other NPs and PAs. 

 

Resources:

Email: rz@pocn.com

website: https://pocnplus.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardzwickel