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How No-Code is Transforming Healthcare
Episode

Kara Dennis, Head of Healthcare at Unqork

How No-Code is Transforming Healthcare

In this episode, I am honored to have the outstanding Kara Dennis on the podcast again. Kara is the Head of Healthcare at Unqork and she discusses how her company modernizes healthcare companies through the no-code platform. She talks about modernizing the front-end experience, digitizing workflows and business processes, reducing variability, and delivering better care to patients. Kara shares examples of how Unqork has helped healthcare businesses. She also added insights on overcoming setbacks, pivoting, and changing your messaging to get the right market. This is one great conversation in health, technology, and application development, so please tune in!

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How No-Code is Transforming Healthcare

About Kara Dennis

Kara is the Head of Healthcare at Unqork. She leads the health care go-to-market strategy, owning their efforts with payers, providers, and life sciences companies. She joined Unqork From Clarify Health Solutions and Advanced Analytics Company, where she was the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Life Sciences. 

How No-Code is Transforming Healthcare with Kara Dennis, Head of Healthcare at Unqork: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

How No-Code is Transforming Healthcare with Kara Dennis, Head of Healthcare at Unqork: 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. Such a privilege to have you join us again. Today, I am honored to have the outstanding Kara Dennis on the podcast again. She is the head of health care at Unqork. She leads the health care go-to-market strategy, owning their efforts with payers, providers, and life sciences companies. Kara helps health care companies identify ways to use Unqork’s no-code platform to modernize the front-end experience, digitize workflows, and business processes, and integrate modern and legacy systems, all while delivering better care to patients. She joined Unqork From Clarify Health Solutions and Advanced Analytics Company, where she was the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Life Sciences. Just an extraordinary contributor in health care. I’m so privileged to have her back on the podcast here. With that intro Kara, I just want to welcome you back.

Kara Dennis:
It’s great to be back.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. A lot of time has passed and I think you’ve been up to some really fantastic work. I think it’s always great to visit that why. So talk to us about why you continue to work in health care. What is it that inspires you?

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, I think the great thing about health care is that it’s so easy to be inspired on a day-to-day basis with all the different use cases. Certainly, the cases that we work in at Uncork were in many instances providing a better experience for patients. We’re advancing the operations and clinical trials. We’re providing point-of-care clinical decision support, which is reducing care variability. All Of these really help us on the health care team at Unqork wake up every day really excited. find it really easy and I’m so glad that I’ve chosen this industry for exactly that reason.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunities to make things better. The digitization, the workflow improvement, just the overall integration is a key pain point for a lot of organizations. And so I’m excited to dive into the no-code work that Uncork is doing. And so talk to us a little bit about Uncork and what is the main way that you guys deliver value to the health care ecosystem?

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, so Unqork is a new way to build enterprise software. It’s completely visual drag and drop. Any what we call configurator building an application in Unqork is not writing any code and they don’t need to be an engineer, are trained in code. It takes about three weeks to be fully proficient in building an application within Uncork. And why does that matter? One is it enables us to build software faster so we disrupt the software development lifecycle and not the build process can happen much more quickly and with much more visibility to end-users, especially business end-users who don’t know how to write code. So we do that. We also, for our clients, lower the total cost of ownership because it’s easier to maintain our visual interface than it is to fix and debug code. And we’ve got a number of studies showing this.

Kara Dennis:
So it’s a way for our clients to build applications that are highly tailored, whether it’s to their specific clinical trial. Because certainly in my time building clinical trial software, rheumatoid arthritis trial is very different than an ulcerative colitis trial. And there have to be changes to processes and workflows. And if it’s too hard to make software that’s sufficiently tailored, companies default to using spreadsheets and word files. And the experience still feels very manual and slow. And so what we enable is the ability to digitize and automate those kinds of formerly manual workflows without spending an enormous amount of effort going through a 12 to 18 month application development process.

Kara Dennis:
So that’s really our focus. And I would just add a few numbers to call out. So there is about one point two trillion spent on enterprise software annually. And what I didn’t realize before joining Uncork is that over five hundred billion of that is spent on in-house development. There’s a slightly lower number, just under five hundred billion spent on off the shelf tools.

Saul Marquez:
That’s an annual number?

Kara Dennis:
eah. And yeah, and coming from the SAS world for about a decade before coming to Uncorks, I assume that the entire world was moving towards SAS workflow. There’s a company that knows that workflow inside and out and they’re going to sell software applications of that workflow all across the industry. And certainly, a lot of that is happening. But companies are still spending five hundred billion dollars a year building their own software workflows. And why is that happening? Because they’ve got company-specific processes, because maybe their processes involve competitive advantage and they don’t want to use an off-the-shelf solution for that. And what we’re trying to do is to enable that to happen much more quickly, much more effectively, lower cost, and also broaden the aperture so that more stakeholders, especially local business stakeholders, individuals with knowledge of the business processes, can become much closer to the application development process. It doesn’t feel like a black box where maybe they send their requirements over a product and engineering team and cross our fingers and hope that it turns out all right. They can actually be much closer and see what’s being billed as it’s being built.

Saul Marquez:
Wow. Sounds awesome. Know, and my mind goes to like, how do we simplify? You’ve done a great job, but I’m like, is this like the platform like WordPress to the people, or is my analogy totally off?

Kara Dennis:
So the question about whether Uncork is a platform for citizen developers comes up all the time. I would say to that is we build complex enterprise applications and we focus entirely on technically complex and heavily regulated industries. And so there are no-code platforms that focus on simpler use cases that do allow, I would say, more citizen development. The reality of our use cases, and I should say even from the very beginning when Gary Hoberman left MetLife to start Uncorks, he was focused On things like insurance underwriting and marketplaces and buying applications that Required complex business logic, complex algorithms, multistakeholder typically and you alluded to this at the beginning, lots of integrations across the enterprise, internal systems with external systems, and we’ve continued really to do that. So in health care, I talk to you about some of our use cases, but digital front doors that we’re building, a digital front door that has 12 internal and external integrations for a large hospital in New York. We’re integrating with EHR’s and so on. And the reason I bring that up in response to your question is that we respect the software development lifecycle. We know that for a complex enterprise application, you have to gather requirements. You have to build the software, you have to test it. All of that still happens with Unqork, but we really compress that build timeline and that process can happen faster. But it does require the thoughtfulness and care of enterprise software.

Saul Marquez:
Got it. Thank you for clarifying that, Kara. And I love the idea of compressing the timeline to launch on some of these large-scale enterprise implementations. So there’s a lot of assumptions that happen. You know, and I think about like Elon Musk and his rocket. You know, like crazy to think that you’re going to actually land those two rockets and then, like, get the payload up there. Some people might asy, you guys are crazy to think that you can modularize this. What do you say to them?

Kara Dennis:
The best thing to say is actually to show them. And by the way, I’m so honored by the Elon Musk rocket comparison. What we find is most effective is to do less talking and just more showing of the software itself. This is the first software company I’ve been to where I can do the demos. It’s just so easy to go into Uncork and show how. Let’s start up a workflow. There are multiple stakeholders. Stakeholders one needs to do X, Y and Z. Stakeholder two needs to do this. By the way, we need to link in a medical records access. We need to link in a chat board. We need to link in a geolocation pathfinder software, video chat. All of that is something that’s very, very easy to put together. And once clients see, OK, I started five minutes ago and I’ve just built a piece of software. It’s live. It’s working. You can engage with it. It’s the most effective way to have that conversation.

Saul Marquez:
Love it, So many businesses do become hostages to the developer. And it’s like, why not take a little bit more of that power? I mean, I think this is a great opportunity. If you’re listening to this, got a big project on mind, just think about what else you can do. What COVID has done to health care overall is showed us that we can work a lot faster. And so Uncork is an opportunity for you. If you haven’t heard of them, we’re going to leave show notes links to this interview, obviously, and ways to engage with Kara. So let’s talk about specifics. Let’s dive into, like, what exactly makes you guys different? Maybe an example. I know clinical research trials are a big thing right now, maybe something in that department or maybe something that you feel would be a good highlight.

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think a couple of examples and I’ll talk about differentiation. So you mentioned clinical trials, which are near and dear to my heart. I worked on clinical trials for a very long time. And what we find in clinical trials are many workflows that fit really broadly the two areas that within Uncork Healthcare, we find are great applications of our platform. One is applications that have to be put in front of a patient or a clinician or an investigator in a clinical trial or some sort of end-user that is expecting and certainly more and more so requiring a modern experience, an application that’s web and mobile that’s easy to interact with, that doesn’t require endless reentry of data and so on, so that patient or provider clinician facing tool is one area where a lot of clients are using Uncork. The other area is for workflow modernization, linking together typically multiple systems to create an internal or external workflow that is easily tailorable. And that last point is really important because as I talk about some of our use cases, there’s a need for tailoring based on patient population, disease area clinical trial protocol, whether or not the trial is international, and so on.

Kara Dennis:
What we find is that workflows like site selection and activation or patient recruitment and onboarding are a great fit for our platform because often there’s a company-specific process that needs to be codified into an application. But also there need to be for every new trial, there need to be some changes, some tailoring, and we allow that to happen really easily. Client can drag and drop in what we call snippets or modules can make all of that easier. But there’s still this core chassy that’s tailorable. On the commercial side of pharma, we do find that things like provider services center, patient registry is a bit crosscutting observational research and into commercial. Those are great examples where the clients need to build out an experience, whether it’s for provider figuring out how to access resources around a new therapy or a patient registry where patients can come and participate, contribute data to ongoing research. Those require a very modern web and mobile experience and one that can be tailored and evolved over time. So those, I think, are great examples of where this technology can be applied for best use within the clinical landscape.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Some great examples. Thank you for that. And so let’s talk about improving outcomes, improving business. You guys are obviously doing both is what you’re doing. But just curious if you have any examples there. Maybe we could take a page, for example, on how you guys are doing this.

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, yeah. I’ll start with one provider example and then go for the payer. We have a use case that we’re deploying this quarter. It was originally estimated to be a 12 to 18 months billed time for the hospital that we’re working for. And we ended up building it in about a quarter. So we built it in the first quarter of this year. It’s going to go live in the second quarter.

Saul Marquez:
That’s awesome. That’s like crazy. Yeah. Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt but that’s worthy of interruption. Nine months before the time.

Kara Dennis:
I love it. Yeah. And it combines a lot of what we’ve been talking about in terms of web and mobile experience for patients. It provides the hospital with better insight into what patients are doing, what they’re interacting with, where they might be dropping off. And for them, outcomes are associated with the attraction and retention of patients, in addition to speed to market deployment competitiveness with other hospitals in their local region. So I think that’s a great example. We also leaning more towards the hybrid payer-provider side, we are deploying a clinical decision support tool that, as you talk about outcomes broadly, is designed to reduce variability in care delivery. It’s focused on oncology settings, and our tool provides a structured set of questions and data inputs and triggers workflows based on previous answers. So there’s a lot of business logic. It surfaces risk factors that may be specific to the patient at the point of care so the clinician can call those out. It accelerates downstream workflow. So follow on treatment for the patient going through this exercise. And that’s another great example. Rapid time and deployed at hospitals, integrated with the EHR, but really with the outcome of improving treatment for patients by reducing that care Variability.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s super interesting. And, you know, the variability piece is something that a lot of providers are thinking about. So aside from factors that the provider themselves are thinking about, are there things that Uncork and the experience in health care that you guys can help with?

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, so we bring a couple of things. One is that we have a team of subject matter experts in health care that works closely with me to develop these use cases and show up at the clients, not just taking the client’s requirements to build an application, but bringing best practices and thoughts on optimal workflows. And that’s something that Unqork has done from the beginning, is really leading with industry subject matter experts as we commercialize and new market space. The other thing that we do with this team of SMB is build-out libraries of what we call modules or snippets, which are the building blocks of applications. And these can be things like insurance, card, data ingestion, patient demographics, intake form, prebuilt integration to a solution. Like human API for patient medical records, access, geolocation chat, we include those in almost every application that we build, and that forms an ecosystem that we snap together to further accelerate our build of these applications. And that’s really coming from ongoing research that our team is doing. And to, as I said, best practices, best, best in class, third party tool and health care workflow so that we show up to our clients informed about what the best application could look like for them.

Saul Marquez:
That’s fantastic since the technical capability to do these things. And on top of that, some intel and insights to help optimize things that they may or may not be doing as well.

Kara Dennis:
Exactly right.

Saul Marquez:
This is fantastic. And so not all of this comes without hiccups, I would imagine. So what would you say is one of those key setbacks that you could reflect on and say, wow, that was tough, but because of that, we’re so much better.

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, where to begin? And it’s funny, as you ask that question, one of the first things I thought of was that when I started at Uncork, it was late March 2020, and we were already in office closure, everyone was lockdown. And so starting a new line of business within a company completely remotely was certainly a challenge for me. And that includes building up a team where everyone was on boarded completely remote-fashion. It was very much a paradigm shift to move. Certainly what my life has been prior to the pandemic, which is like on a plane in client offices many days a week, traveling every week to just moving that all to everything is on Zoom and still trying to build that same level of relationship with the client. So that was a big thing that we worked through.

Kara Dennis:
I would say the other thing is bumps in the road may even be like a generous term for any time you’re building up a new business and have to establish a brand, find the first client or first couple of clients to take a risk. It’s much easier for them to choose a low code platform that’s maybe already in-house. It’s a lot of incumbents in this face or choose an off-the-shelf platform or just choose something where it’s going to be a lot easier to explain to leadership. So finding champions within companies that are really, really pounding the table for a new technology, finding exactly the right use cases, that has been a non-trivial challenge. I would say I started this role by saying I know exactly what these use cases are going to be and pay our provider Lifesciences. That was right on time and I was wrong on and that there was a lot of effort trying to chase down some of these use cases that just didn’t resonate in the market that we weren’t able to sell as effectively.

Kara Dennis:
So I feel like a year in we’ve gotten to a point where we really figured it out where were great, because when I talk to clients, I find it’s very effective to tell them this is what we are and this is what we are not. And if you want to get started with us, what I would recommend is using us in these couple of areas and these are areas I’ve mentioned. If I need to put an application in the hands of a patient or a provider, clinician, investigator, we’re a great option for that. If they need to optimize or digitize a complex internal workflow, were a terrific option for that. So those kinds of things, I think providing them insights with here’s how to get started.

Kara Dennis:
Here are examples of how it’s been done before. A year in, we’re at that point, but it was a lot of 14 hour days to get to the point where we could say that.

Saul Marquez:
It’s tough, right, to find that sweet spot. And then you roll up your sleeves, you work hard, but if you stay focused long enough, you’re going to find it sounds like you have and now building to what could be from that core strength.

Kara Dennis:
That’s right. I was just going to say that I do think that the early wins and the early insights on what’s working and what I can say is those insights really drive a broader vision, which I think is a bit of what you’re getting at. It’s like once we found this caregiver application, this digital front door, this patient services hub, those are all working. And we see the differentiation. Now, we can really expand this vision, but also be really clear about where we can win. I think that’s definitely the case. And I would just say one example I would bring up that’s been interesting that I didn’t anticipate is when we first went to market with our solutions, I was very focused on what I’ll call the business via the clinical operations executive or the digital innovation leader at a hospital. And what we found is that some of our biggest champions have been in enterprise architecture or I.T. or products within some of these large organizations. And the reason is that there’s no quick platform to empower them. They can do more with less. They can take on mission-critical initiatives and deliver them with high quality to the organization. We have one client who’s told us that they’ve got 70 I.T. initiatives at any given time, and they released 400 to 500 new features and capabilities per quarter, and they saw us as a tool in their arsenal to move business-critical initiative faster. So when the business comes to them saying, like, I need this next quarter, they’ve got a way to do that. And I hadn’t anticipated that.

Kara Dennis:
But as I was thinking more about empowering the business user, but because of that, we’ve been able to shift some of our messaging and that’s actually unlocked quite a large array of use cases for us.

Saul Marquez:
That’s awesome. That’s a great example. And you just don’t know until you get out there and start testing it. Right. testament to the reality that the best way to succeed in business is to be in business and just be a business. Stop thinking. You have that idea and you want to perfect It. Stop. Just get out there and put it out there, get live feedback. And as Kara has demonstrated in the work that she’s done, shifting from economic buyer to technical, you know, software architecture buyer, it makes a difference. So very exciting. And what would you say as you’ve made these tweaks and start plotting the vision for the future here? What are you most excited about?

Kara Dennis:
So many things. So I’m really excited for some of the first clients that we’ve signed on. The applications are going live this quarter, which is just a thrill to be able to see. And these are applications that are going to be used by thousands or tens of thousands of end-users. And so that’s a huge thrill to be getting those ready to go any time. I would say we bring software to life, which is something that often happens in a matter of weeks and in many instances happens for what we call a proof of capability for clients that we typically build in one to two weeks. It’s just unbelievable to me because building software slowly for a decade just to see, wow, we just created an application in a week or two that is endlessly exciting, no question. So I would say that I think that being able to track the impact that we’re having on care delivery, on the pace of clinical trials, on other tailored workflows, that real-world impact is going to be one of the things that are really exciting.

Saul Marquez:
And I think that’s what moves a lot of us in our work in health care, is that ultimate impact that we could have on people’s lives and certainly with the focus that you’re working on there with your team, Kyra, on health care, I know that’s going to be the case. You guys will definitely be at the helm of improving the lives of many both clinicians and patients. So before we conclude here, by the way, it’s been fun having you back. This is great. It’s a lot of fun. Give us a closing thought. And what’s the best place that the listeners can find you or visit with somebody at your company if something that we talked about today resonated with them?

Kara Dennis:
Yeah, well, we are at unqorks.com and certainly, listeners can reach out to me on LinkedIn, Twitter, at Karadennis@unqork, would love to hear from your listening audience. And yeah, I mean, I think that as a closing thought, I think the follow on to your question about what are you most excited about? The other thing, even beyond health care that’s exciting to me about no code is the democratization of application development and broadening the group of stakeholders that can build applications. It doesn’t need to be just people with a Comp Sci degree or people with a high degree from a fancy school. We are finding that we can train people ahead of our field engineering division is a literature major, but we’re finding that we can train people of a broad array of backgrounds. And the diversity, equity, inclusion is really important to us as a company. And so what we’re finding is we can bring in people even without a college degree and teach them how to build applications and provide really an entirely new career path for them while creating these mission-critical applications across enterprises, whether it’s in my division in health care or government or insurance or financial services. And I think that that that expansion of who can build technology, I think it helps women. I think it helps underrepresented minorities. I think that that creates really a new path in the B2B enterprise space that could be the lasting legacy of UNCAC and is has the potential to be quite powerful.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s a great vision. And I’m glad you came here to share it with us. So thank you. And certainly, folks make sure to visit, Unqork. And by the way, the spelling is unqork.com. So make sure you check that. And Kara, thanks again, and certainly appreciate you jumping back on with us.

Kara Dennis:
Thanks so much.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • The early wins and the early insights drive a broader vision. 
  • You just don’t know until you get out and start testing it. 
  • The best way to be in business is to be in business
  • Being able to track your impact on healthcare is really motivating.
  • You can bring people in even without a college degree and teach them how to build applications and provide a new career path for them. 

 

Resources

Website: https://www.unqork.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/unqork

Twitter: @unqork

Email: karadennis@unqork.com

Kara’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kara-dennis-5109962/

Kara’s Twitter: @KaraNDennis