Offering a simple way to buy contact lens and renew your prescription with an app-based vision test
Thanks for tuning in to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I want to personally invite you to our first inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It’s a conference that the Outcomes Rocket and the IU Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Sciences has teamed up on. We’re going to put together silo crushing practices just like we do here on the podcast except it’s going to be live with inspiring keynotes and panelists. To set the tone, we’re conducting a meeting where you can be part of drafting the blueprint for the future of healthcare. That’s right. You could be a founding member of this group of talented industry and practitioner leaders. Join me and 200 other inspiring health leaders for the first Inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It’s an event that you’re not going to want to miss. And since there’s only 200 tickets available you’re going to want to act soon. So how do you learn more? Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference. For more details on how to attend that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference and you’ll be able to get all the info that you need on this amazing health care thinkathon. That’s outcomesrocket.health/conference.
: Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I want to welcome you again to the podcast. Thank you for tuning in. And I also welcome you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you could rate and review our podcast because today we have an amazing guest. His name is Joel Wishkovsky. He’s the founder at Simple Contacts. Joel is an innovative entrepreneur, investor and startup advisor. He’s a leading voice in digital health and telemedicine. And he’s obsessed with the democratizing access to health care, making it more convenient and accessible with technology. At Simple Contacts, they’re refill service for contact lenses that allows patients to avoid unnecessary visits to the optometrist office. Let’s face it. It could take long and arduous time to be there. And so he’s come up with a great solution for it. Previously he founded Sols Systems, a pioneer in 3-D printing of medical devices and he was instrumental in launching Smart Vision Labs, a smartphone based medical device. This gentleman is an amazing contributor to Health and I’m so excited to welcome Joel to the podcast. Joel, thank you for joining us.
: Thank you. That was a wonderful introduction.
: Hey my pleasure. So what did I miss? Is there anything else that you want to tell the listeners about you?
: You know I think you know what gets glossed over a little bit in the introduction is that in addition to being a founder of companies if you want to make a difference in healthcare you’ve got to get involved across a variety of different parts of the ecosystem. So not just starting companies but also investing in them with their personal capital or in behalf of other syndicates advising new companies and mentoring people who are thinking about getting into healthcare because you can’t do everything alone.
: I totally agree. Joel and that’s a great call out, right. Putting your money where your mouth is and you’re definitely doing just that. What got you into health care to begin with?
: Yeah I actually got sick and I got diagnosed with the disease called ileocolitis it’s actually very similar to Crohns it you’re familiar with that, it’s auto-immune disease. And I was healthy you know late 20s I was active and had my first real health scare and was just completely blown away by how bad the system was. I started thinking really that what kind of technologies can we create with brain to make the system better. How can we make it faster. How can we get cheaper. How do I know how to go to the doctor’s office. And that question how do I not have the doctor’s officer sent me down the path of looking at remote technologies like sols where we did orthopedics remotely and simple contacts were doing vision exams online. Anything you can do to sort of take out all the infrastructure costs of delivering care in a doctors office getting to patients who can do it remotely and were healthy enough for it and doing it that way it’s more cost effective use more convenient. And because we’re going direct to the patient and we’re a sort of a new company, new system, new technologies and an opportunity to redesign process and experience for patients rather than for a payer or a hospital system.
: That’s fascinating. Thank you for sharing that. By the way the frustration of your own care led to just this opportunity to say you know what I could do something about this. And listeners. It’s the courage to create. It’s that just the ability to say I don’t have to deal with this that distinguishes the guests on this show. And it’s also the listeners of this show. You too are doing a great part to improve health. Just like Joel has and so Joel in your current venture with simple contacts are you guys is this a consumer product. Who is your customer?
: Yeah we’re a consumer product. And investors are putting money into the company and it’s how we talk about consumerization of healthcare. I would create a platform where patients come online take their exam get prescriptions from doctors fees or platform as well and then combine conferences and everything we do everything we think about. How do you make excretion patients exceptional, it choose us. Patients can choose to go optometrist office know LensCrafters known as ophthalmologist. She’s also in her care. We make a difference is that patients know about us and choose us. And that means that we can put the patients first. They have to choose us as a consumer.
: Yes. Very good. And is this something that they could use their insurance on or out of pocket.
: Yes the exam cost $24 out of pocket for most patients. And the cost for an exam even if you have insurance. So the vision of space has a number of complexes. One of them is contact lenses and eyeglasses exam are not the same results are different. So you don’t have insurance. okay for glasses exam it does not include a fitting for contacts which can be anywhere $150-200 dollars and that part of exams like $200.
: So the patient would actually still have to pay 150 bucks.
: If go to the doctor’s office?
: Yeah. Well that’s big. And they could do it from the comfort of their own home.
: Yeah they can do from anywhere, from office, from their living room, bathroom, they can do it in a hotel room, do it on trains, to the parking lot was like the break room of their work, factory floors.
: That’s amazing.
: Actually. If you think about it it’s fascinating it’s like the realization of telemedicine, it’s medicine and checkups feeding into patient’s lives.
: That is super cool. And Joel this is super fascinating and amazing that you’re able to put together a platform like this. It takes too much time to spend at an optometrist office and it’s pretty cool that you put this together what would you say is a big thing that you guys are doing to improve outcomes?
: I think the one thing that’s really important about platforms like ours is when you increase access and you make it more affordable. Patients can choose to do instead of trying to go around the system. So the largest issue for people who are contacts is over wear. People tend to where the last pair of contacts for way too long because they don’t have time to see a doctor in their office. We have a lot of evidence that you use our system are taking exams more often are buying freshlense s more often and are using the recommended where schedule versus doing things that are incremental to their health in order to save money time.
: That’s pretty cool. It’s the side benefits of it that I think would be of interest also to payers because if you have over wear you can imagine some of the complications like hey you know somebody ends up getting some sort of eye infection or eye disease and so I think that’s really neat. So Joel, let’s jump into how you guys are doing things differently. I mean is anybody else doing this out there?
: Not really. And we’re really the only one stop shop that has an exam built into the experience. If you think about where we are is we are very much like a traditional optometry clinic. We have doctors who work with us. We have exams like done for patients and we also happen to sell contacts so patients come to us and they will know optometric clinic. The difference is that we don’t have any of the overhead costs of the retail clinics, we don’t have any of the electricity bills and it’s not taking hours for your exam and visit the doctor is taking you on average less than five minutes. So that’s…
: Mentally unique and it fits into this in concept patients have been how they get their care. They don’t want to go one place to go and examine another place contacts or glasses and I think that’s sort of a model that is actually very applicable to a lot of verticals like people want be able to go see the doctor and get their medications or get their sort of prescriptions without having you know many steps.
: Yeah. That’s awesome. Simplifying the process and listeners. The thing that I want you to take away from the amazing things that Joel and his team are doing at his company is that when you come up with an idea to improve health it doesn’t necessarily have to be a product it could be a process improvement. And he’s doing just that through his company now. Joel, can you walk us through a time when you made a mistake or you failed and what you learned from that.
: Yes. So interesting things that sort of happened is there’s been a group of small group and vocal group of retail clinics who are running optometry clinics and glasses and stores those stores. Sort of like, hey that technology is very disruptive to us we don’t want to exist. And in 2016 actually a couple of states pass laws that banned us.
: And in Georgia for instance I was basically saying you get obese online you can get birth control, abortion using drugs online but not contacts and not glasses. I can prescribe online and have very specific rules against it. I didn’t really see that coming. We didn’t know there was a blowback and we certainly you know we are now Paul, clinical guy not regulatory guy. And we just saw them. Oh my goodness like these guys are going to try to legislate us out of business. There are clinics and it’s really definitely that mistake we should have realized earlier that what’s happening is that they also engage. I think what we did learn was like hey, we can win these battles. We can go do education campaigns, talk to legislators, talks to the regulators. We can make sure that when they’re debating this the State House is not just a retailer’s perspective not business person’s perspective. It’s a patient’s perspective and they consume technology and meet us and so very engaged. It’s 2016. And actually in late last year we had state level battles with seven states seven…
: Hated the idea of banning our technology and we won every single state.
: Seriously. So some.
: We found that eyeglass, and we’ve learned how to engage the regulators, representatives each state educate them and show them where technology is starting rumors and mistakes and beliefs.
: And Joe what do you think has led to your victory is that different litigations.
: At the end of the day what we’re doing is the future. Depending on the representative right, different representatives have different platforms.
: Some are. You know people care about things like free market better access for patients. So are you with that is hey this technology is just one competitor in many patients to choose. We’re not forcing patients into online, patients choose us.
: And they want more comprehensive exams they go to see a doctor saying we’re not doing that. And then the second arguments is like other people who care more about like access in rural communities. The cost of care. So your own music listen tell them this. They are already on this and in many states are passing laws comprehensive reform to enable telemedicine to use the fares that the carry medicare medicaid. Think about how to incorporate telemedicine. So we are sort of say hey this is not a consequence and glasses issue. This is a telemedicine issue and the technology we use contacts has happened. We just happened to sell contacts, like we could just as easily have a simple birth control or simple hair loss and been selling those products. All right positions for those products because really the technology is the same. What we do is not really today’s contacts, we’re specific to be we’re doing online, get prescription and get a refill without all the steps that normally involve process. And so that our evolution goes a long way with this patients representatives that care about things like rural access and low cost access here.
: I love it Joel. This is so awesome and you guys are adding so much value to people out there by removing all these steps in a convoluted, complicated and time intensive process. And listeners the takeaway that you should take from what Joel just shared I mean he did not get into the business of policy but because he had his strong vision for the business and helping patients. He had to and he didn’t let that get into his face and he didn’t feel like he failed. He actually prevailed and it goes. Joe, you’re a good example of that quote that says failure does not define you, it refines you and Joel.
: Absolutely. Before we recorded this you mentioned that when you’re entrepreneur at heart and this story of entrepreneurship is not what you hear in the Mark Zuckerberg of the world. You know like that’s Bill Gates, it’s like very very rare normal store of entrepreneurship is about struggle and coming up with creative interesting solutions in spite of all the offset you. It was easy to to sell contacts online to remote telemedicine, someone have already done. I would have even have an option. There would be no opportunity. And so you know you get if you want to be an entrepreneur. You’re gonna be a founder of a company especially in healthcare where there’s so many different stakeholders. When big, powerful stakeholders you have to adapt and use points where you have friction as a sort of catalyst create new and interesting solutions.
: Yeah what a great share and thank you so much for sharing that with us. And you know behind me in the back of my mind I kept thinking like Uber and the things that they’re doing and the fights that they had to have. And when you push the system to that edge of discomfort that’s when you know you’re doing something impactful and you’re doing that, Joel.
: Yeah a lot of people were interested in our company advisers to work here. Part of our customer service teak and fast company a lot of them look at this from over half of the legislative side and see the animosity was really small retailers say oh my god if someone is upset about what you’re doing, you’re clearly on to something. Would be upset.
: They wouldn’t be spending so many million dollars a year stop you if they didn’t think it was a mortal threat.
: That is so great. I appreciate you sharing that listeners I hope you get a little bit of inspiration here from Joel and what him and his team and this group is doing. Tell us a little bit more about the other side of the coin. Joel an experience that you’re super proud of in your medical leadership career.
: Honestly I’m proud every single day. I’m proud of that part who feel incredible. I’m proud of that team of forty something employees now and it works best consumer companies in the world. Making sure technology companies and we have this channel where men are slack when everytime writes a review every time they write an them. Yes. You know survey result. Any feedback. Talk to a customer service rep or you know the email goes in his channel and you know you get like dozens, hundreds of these things a day. And they are all so positive. And yes we’re 88. Health care is just like stupid right now dollars and is down five star reviews on android and reviews were crazy. I mean I would support a battery like a first when I wake up with the letter and look at that feedback channel I’m like wow like Imagine for a second that you are an entrepreneur and you get that idea that affects you. You know I’m kind of. And you’re like wow this response really is things I could fix that. But you like it when you make a little MVP product and it kind of works. Kind of like it. And then you know fast forward you know a year or raise some money like that Isoke really starting to see it all scales of business and you get dozens hundreds of vice or abuse a day that is so validating it’s like.
: Super validating.
: Like how proud I had this idea of I into a company a a service. And people love it. Like that’s just amazing. Original one from 730 AM.
: Yes 730 AM’s just two at that time actually the first one. Five stars IOS review. I’m never going anywhere else if you don’t believe in a five star. I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s called simple contacts for a reason. It’s cheap to get lenses it’s dazzling and helpful to make sure it stay atop your prescription. They go above and beyond the US as a customer and I’m so glad. Try it out. I would never go anywhere else. My contacts for 18 years now and I wish this company has been around for that long because it makes getting new contacts so easy and accurate your prescription. Thank you so much simple contacts.
: Wow. Why does a raving fan right their.
: nd awesome Joel.
: The next one is actually read only piece of it you know a five star review in IOS like a few minutes after that one is titled wearing contacts from a subway.
: From the subway. I love it.
: I was on my last pair for the month. I’m ashamed to admit it. As silly as it sounds or Conatser an app really has been a game changer for me how easy and fantastic.
: That is so cool man.
: Ordered a new set of contacts from the subway question mark. Why yes I think I will add a hash tag. I’m even writing this review from the subway.
: That is awesome.
: And amazing. It’s someone’s life on the way to the office. They provide other prescription. I don’t have to call the doctor and make appointment. I’m so proud of that.
: That’s so awesome. I’m glad you opened up your phone and shared some of the reviews because it is validating when you hear people like even when when I hear folks post reviews on my podcast. Hey keep it up like amazing interviews great. I mean this is just an example the market speaking to which you’re creating an acceptance and encouragement to keep going. That’s awesome, Joel. I love that you shared that with us. So let’s dive into this. Things are going well there. What’s an exciting project that you’re working at Simple Contact right now.
: Yeah I think one of the things that we’ve learned is that patients want things that are super easy and were sort of constantly working on making that task easier and more convenient. One of the things that we learned a while ago is that the task we have was pretty easy to do. Still these people say oh is this thing legitimate. Yeah you ask a question as to whether the larger search results how far to organic search results is simple contact’s legit. We’ve been working in front of the last two months to recreate example in a way that feels more like a doctor visit. So said having books right now you’re going to see a treasured instruments and it goes a lot of good process. It is self directed. The new version actually looks like a FaceTime interface now and so close out there’s a doctor’s I can get you a doctor or I’ll give you all explanation. And he also will walk you through the process take you step by step. And it’s a real doctor doing it so he feels a little more like the official doctor. That same amount of time is not more time to do it this way but it just feels more interactive and more personalized that’s what we’ve been working on.
: That’s pretty cool. And so this is just a testament Joel to you and your team’s ability to take what the market says. Because listen there is the market speaks and if you listen you’re going to get the feedback that you need to make your products and services that much better. And useful and Joel and his team saw that one of the organic searches in Google was is this real. So what led you to go with that feel of the doctor. You could have done a lot of things right. You know you could have done an education campaign but like what got you guys focused on doing it this way.
: So our team is everyone in our company comes from a massively successful consumer direct consumer consumer technology company things like SoundCloud Sikhi and you know Casper like those kinds. We have a lot of experience building things for consumers. And with that experience a heavy reliance on data. Yeah well Dick’s looking at our flow understanding we’re dropping off and people start to drop off Zamel during the first test. They don’t really understand if it’s real.
: 2000 reviews, you know people are organics off the charts with a lot of referrals. You just hear about some podcast like this or maybe their friend they don’t really trust Helden about it like they get it started dropping off. So yeah a lot of what we’re doing is focused around that zone where you are extrinsic test first time. It’s always for that.
: That’s pretty cool and all and congrats. I’m sure it won’t affect the flow. I’m sure it sounds like it’s still the same amount of time and you guys are still continuing to do it. Hey from the subway and listeners if you’re listening and you wear contacts by all means. Joel will share how you could get this done. In fact why don’t we just do it now. JOEL How did they get in touch. Do they download the app? Can you give us the onboarding here?
: Yeah I mean look simplecontacts.com there’s a lot of experience. I can also download the app for iOS and also for Android. Just search for simple contacts. So we actually have a code for all your listeners. It’s code: outcomesrocket all lowercase, all one word. The $3 off code so they can use that don’t be out I guess Android or find us on the web. simplecontacts.com.
: Amazing Joel. Thank you so much. Listeners take advantage of that. Go to simplecontacts.com when you check out use outcomesrocket you get 30 dollars off. That’s amazing. Joel thank you for that.
: No problem.
: So Joel this has been fun. Let’s get into the section of the podcast where we build a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful. The 101 course with Joel Wishkovsky and so we’re going to write out a syllabus. I got four questions for you. Lightning round style followed by a book and a podcast that you recommend to the listeners. You ready.
: Yeah I guess didn’t we have to name it first.
: Which one.
: Do we have to name of course. I was told I was told I need to come up with a name the course.
: Let’s hear the course.
: You had written the 101 course ABCs of and I had empathy. It is empathy.
: I love it. The ABC of empathy listeners and Joel you were the first to come up with the official name for the course. I love it.
: So the ABCs of empathy. Let’s hear it Joel. What’s the best way to improve health outcomes?
: I think a lot of times we talk to patients and the the key is to listen to what they want into what we do. Look at how they use our app. They know if they want to gain their trust. Once you gain their trust you know they’ll work with you to take your recommendations and be healthier.
: I love it. What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?
: Treating patients and caring for them by giving them. Here’s your issue. Go take this drug. I’m an investor advisor or lover of a company called Parsee health which is a direct consumer holistic medicine practice and it’s a take that to heart. They said okay if you have a headache I’m not going to give you Advil. I’m going to figure out what’s happening here why are you sleeping. Well you have stressed to marital issues like what is going on that could be religious. We can try to help solve before we start giving you some occasional. Caring patient, not just treating them.
: Love it. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?
: A lot of values it just happens and I will never compromise on and use as type principle you make a decision so no matter what the role looks like you have values it for us transparency is openness and caring and sort of focus on patient experience. And I think that’s the most important thing.
: That’s awesome. What is one area of focus should drive everything in a health organization?
: This is the one thing that no one ever does understand why it’s putting patients first. There are so many stakeholders in our health ecosystem a payers the suppliers. The hospital systems or the doctors that it seems like for so many organizations especially the recumbency, payers to treat first providers to treat it. Second doctors third in patients last and that really needs to be footpads had patients first.
: Patients first. I love it. What book and what podcasts would you recommend?
: These are not about health but there’s a book called The third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond an evolutionary biologist talks about human beings and our relations with other animals how we evolved and specifically looking at similarities and other animals and I think for any person who thinks probably about the world as a really good option to how closely we are with animals and the things we learn about ourselves from their anatomy and their structures.
: I love it. And what podcast would you recommend, Joel?
: My favorite is Tim Ferriss.
: That’s a good one.
: Yeah they just Tim doesn’t always talk about healthcare very often the third of his podcasts are about throwing out personal conditioning and treating your own biology. But overall his approach to life and thinking about individuals in your own development is great.
: Outstanding recommendations listeners don’t worry about writing any of this down. Just go to outcomesrocke.health/simplecontacts and you’ll be able to find it. Joel’s profile, our question and answer session, as well as links to the resources he provided and a copy of that link that you could click on and type in outcomesrocket for your 30 dollars off. Before we conclude Joel would love to just hear your closing thought. And then the best place where the listeners get in touch with you.
: I think just put patients first. Care about the user experience the patient experience bring all the things we know about consumer design and customer service to healthcare. We can do got some major improvements. When you care about the patient first you put them first. I think everything else falls in place like sort of the right alignment you can find me personally @joelwish on Twitter and also Instagram over joelwish And you can find our apps simplecontact.com or @simplecontacts on Twitter
: Fantastic. Hey is my pleasure Dolle. So glad you made the time to be on.
: Take care. Have a good day.
: You too.
Thanks for tuning into the outcomes rocket podcast if you want the show notes, inspiration, transcripts and everything that we talked about on this episode. Just go to outcomesrocket.health. And again don’t forget to check out the amazing Healthcare Thinkathon where we could get together took form the blueprint for the future of healthcare. You can find more information on that and how to get involved in our theme which is implementation is innovation. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference be one of the 200 that will participate. Looking forward to seeing you there.
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