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April 24: In this insightful episode, Drex DeFord, President, 229 Risk & Security at This Week Health is joined by Jason Taylor, Senior Vice President, Growth with Panda Health, who delves into the complexities and nuances of integrating digital health solutions within healthcare systems. With a rich background in tech and a deep understanding of healthcare's unique challenges, Jason shares his journey from IBM to leading efforts at Panda Health to demystify digital health for providers. But what drives a tech veteran to pivot towards healthcare, and why choose the path less traveled? Jason's narrative reveals a mission-driven approach, emphasizing the real, tangible impact digital health can have on both providers and patients. How does Panda Health stand out in a crowded marketplace, and what strategies are they employing to expand their reach and effectively serve health systems of varying sizes? Furthermore, Jason touches on the importance of collaboration within the healthcare industry, a sector where sharing knowledge can significantly uplift the entire community. This episode not only sheds light on Panda Health's innovative solutions and mission but also sparks a broader conversation on the future of digital health and its potential to transform patient care.

Categories: AI Machine/Learning, Leadership, Cloud

Transcript

This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.

Welcome to This Week Health. My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of This Week Health, where we are dedicated to transforming healthcare, one connection at a time. Today , we have an interview in action from the 2024 conferences, the spring conferences, VIVE in LA, HIMSS in Orlando.

Special thanks to our sponsors, Quantum Health, Gordian, Dr. First, CDW, Gozeo Health, Artisite, and Zscaler. You can check them out on our website, thisweekhealth. com. Now, onto our interview

(Interview 1)   📍 hey, it's Drex from This Week Health, and I'm here with Jason Taylor from Panda Health, and we're just going to talk a little bit about the company and the stuff that's going on at Panda Health, because I find it really interesting and intriguing.

But let's start. With you telling me a little bit about yourself and a little bit about how you wound up at Panda. Thanks, Rex. Great to be here. Appreciate the time. little bit about me. I'm a 30 year veteran of the tech industry. originally from Canada, and I spent a lot of the time of my first part of my career with IBM which hopefully nobody's going to hold against me.

But when you're in, when you're at IBM and you're in a sales type of motion you spend a lot of time with financial services. We fast forward through a lot of that. I found myself about 11 years ago with an opportunity to move to Los Angeles for a girl. That's a whole other story but it worked out.

We're married now, so, so I guess it's, I guess it's a good story. And I did what people do, I looked for where are the opportunities to reinvent my career as I was making this big move, I was a foreigner and I was given an opportunity to move into an IT implementation space and found myself starting at first to dabble, but then diving into healthcare.

And implementing solutions for healthcare companies. And to be candid, I fell in love with it, for all the wrong reasons. I was presented a chance to say, do you want to go deeper into this big banking stuff or do you want to work with healthcare? And I found myself saying, I want to work with healthcare.

I want, the conversations were more real. I'd come from a place where healthcare basically works. I've lived in Europe where healthcare basically works and I guess I like, either sadomasochism or big problems, but I decided healthcare was exactly where I needed to be talking with, real people about solving real problems.

It's a great, I mean, it is the mission and it's interesting. We'll tie this back into the conversation around Panda and the other and the companies that you work with and how you wind up sort of vetting those companies, because I know that's part of the mission too, but so tell me about Panda and high level what you do and why it's important.

So Panda is a digital health community or destination that was founded by health systems with a goal of helping to navigate these big, confusing, muddy waters of digital health. And so our founders, which are Bell Gunderson, ThetaCare, and CentraCare, got together about three years ago and said, we're struggling with this.

Some of the things we're struggling with are, there are a myriad of vendors, there's thousands of them, they're all coming at us from different directions. And not only do we not have confidence in, the legitimacy or the reliability of any of these vendors it's also confusing language. It's topics that we're not familiar with talking about.

And so if you look at the evolution of kind of IT and solutions in healthcare, it started with, device and data collection into EHRs. And still the bulk of IT time at most health systems is spent on the EHR and now the data warehouse. And all of these new topics are flying at people. So we started out as a solution product navigation system where people could come to research what's going on with, coding or digital wayfinding or prior auth.

And we've pushed our way now upstream to try and help get rid of some of the friction that happens way before you're looking for a vendor. So if I were to describe what we do right now, Drex, it's think about a CIO who has 30 things going on at once, and suddenly you have a meeting next Thursday to talk about, a coding solution that, Ambulatory Ops has been working on for six months.

We're going to check with IT, finally, and By Thursday, you've got to get smart about a topic that you have spent no time on. You've got maybe half an hour of free time between now and then to really dive in. And our job is to help try and make that easier. I think some of the challenge, listening to that story and kind of thinking about my own experience.

The other thing that happens too is that the Business or clinical or research leader will come to you with a solution. They've already decided that's what it is. Part of the benefit of Panda, and I want you to tell me more about this, part of the benefit of working with Panda is that you can certainly vet that individual company, but you also vet these entire categories so you can tell them they're maybe your other company that they should be considering, right?

Beyond that even, we're going to bring in a collaborative element to it as well to build on that actual, when we say community, an actual sense of community, a little like what 229 is focused on, but in a more, transactional, digital, in the moment format.

So we bring assets forward around digital health intelligence in general, where the market is going, what solutions are emerging. We do category explainers and so what we're building out right now is going to be a series of short clip videos and really short articles that are designed to solve that problem I described.

So you've got a meeting on Thursday, and it's a demo by a vendor, say, because that's how it goes. Hey, we're bringing in these guys. You should be in the room. So you load up a three minute video that says, let me tell you about the three types of coding solutions. And then, here's the next one, which is here are the five things you should be asking any vendor in this space, here's the kind of things you need to be thinking about on the back end so that you can just basically get smarter enough to go to that meeting and get something out of it.

And then behind that, we're adding a collaborative feature where I can go into a a chat and say, other CFOs, have you done this? Has it worked? What headwinds did you face? The idea really being, accelerate through helping you to be a partner with that. that leader who's working on the solution instead of an obstacle saying, I don't know anything about this, I've got security concerns and data concerns and, full stop.

I love the idea that there's an opportunity to get sort of just in time education on the individual categories and the idea behind, you're asking that, here's the five questions you should ask. Those are really the good tee up Educational pieces of these that I think a lot of super busy Chief Digital Officers and CIOs, especially, as you are in mid market and other places struggle with finding the time to do that kind of research.

I mean, you could build an army of people. internal to your own organization to try to do this, and you've taken that off their plate, right? That's exactly the idea. And that's, if you look at some of the founders I mentioned, they're solidly in that mid market space. They don't have the staff of, Baptist Jacksonville or Cleveland Clinic or Mayo to either do all the research into these things or lead the research.

Or frankly, to establish themselves at some of the big tables of the big systems solving problems. They're in the middle with 30 meetings on 30 different topics going on this week. And, like I said, about half an hour worth of free time to go research something and get smart enough to contribute.

And I had an aha moment a week ago, two weeks ago, I looked at my list, I do this for a living. I looked at my list of the podcasts I have queued up to watch and the articles that I want to read. We're into the hundreds of backlog now. The problem isn't finding information, the problem is finding the right net make me smarter information in a timely basis to make me a valuable contributor.

Yeah, this idea of being able to sort of curate and narrow down I mean, it's some of the stuff we do on the news channel, for example, right, is that we read, I mean, I'm in the same boat. I read, I must read 100 plus articles a day in cybersecurity, but in healthcare in general. And then, some of these are like, ah, just read this one.

This is the best one. So this same thing, what you're doing, just, focus on this and you can get all the information that you really need to be able to pull this off. The whole conversation around the founders and how this all came together is a really interesting part of this story too.

Can you talk a little bit about that?

Are you there? Yeah, so the conversation with the founders is interesting. They came together initially to say it's hard to contract with a digital health vendor because they all, let's be candid, a lot of them aren't healthcare companies or healthcare minded companies.

They're tech firms with something cool, but they haven't sold a lot of these things. And so they don't have all the processes and thought in place. So how do you help me buy this process? Massage these vendors into what I'm going to need as a health system. So it started. The idea was a Vizient or Premier like marketplace where you go in and the contracts, the marketplace would be ready of these solutions and I would know how to buy from them.

And they actually approached Vizient. So Vizient is one of our minority owners. They chipped in and let's solve this problem. But Vizient even said this, it doesn't quite fit. The same model. It turns out, after a year or so of us trying to build this and having some success, that buying digital health is not quite as simple as buying tongue depressors or rubber gloves.

It's the commodity, right? It's almost like the stuff that A GPO like Vizient does is down on this end of the scale and digital health is almost down on the other. It's all one off E. Very interesting. It's very much solutions and there's two kind of key reasons to that. One, there's a lack of standards as especially if you look at the kind of the architecture and security type of things.

Standardization's not there yet, even if we think it is. But there's 0% standardization on the business process elements. of health care. One of the things I said to myself when I was given this opportunity for banking or health care was there's only one way to open a checking account and everybody does it and it's boring.

There's 65 ways to schedule a cardio checkup appointment depending on which provider I have. Right down to the doctors, want to be individual about their processes sometimes. So when you take digital health, if you want it to be successful and adopt it. You actually have to have alignment with those business processes.

And a pure marketplace doesn't provide you that my needs are different opportunity. They're not necessarily special, but they are different, right? And the risk of buying something without going through that fit analysis. is pretty high. So when we move upstream, what we're trying to do is make the CIO, CDO, CTO smarter about what they ask to make sure the right topics surface.

Because as you experience in your CIO life and beyond, the problem isn't always the conversations you had, it's the ones you didn't have. It's the things you didn't ask, it's the requirements don't find out until after the contract is signed. Or halfway through implementation. Yeah. Right.

You're doing some of that vetting. I mean, as you're looking at these companies for things like cyber security, for example you're looking at these companies for a lot of criteria, including the like, you must be this tall to ride the ride like you're actually ready to go. We are. We have hundreds of vendors in the system already and part of the, this kind of leveling process of the vendors a little bit with their cooperation, we'll do a vetted, kind of panda badged status for a lot of vendors.

And it's a combination of, do you substantially meet the requirements that are, acknowledged as common, for this set? Do you have references? We will talk to them. Can you pass a sensor net security scan? All right. Can we look at some evidence of financial stability? They're not going to give us the financials.

And we even go so far as, have you employed clinicians in any way, if that's appropriate? And are you taking this from a healthcare angle or a tech angle? Because a lot of companies see money in healthcare. They bring their cool AI to healthcare and say, I'm going to find a use case. But the ones that have been more successful, frankly, are the ones that start with clinician has problem.

Provider has a problem. How do I build technology on top of that? And it's a different angle of approach. So what we try to do is not to replace what a health system is going to do on their own. They're going to have their own security review, their own, legal review, their own procurement processes.

But if we do enough of that to pre vet, The vendors, there's confidence going into, say, an RFP or procurement cycle to say the three that we're going to evaluate, they've been pre screened by somebody. We're not going to get eight months in and find out they've never heard of a BAA, right? Or a HIPAA.

I've fallen in love, but it turns out there's a deal breaker. You've sort of sorted out all the deal breakers ahead of time. That's the idea is to really de risk that because we've seen a lot of churn of companies that have tried to make an early investment and have pulled back. We actually have an interesting report.

I'll send you, we can link to it from the site if you want on the churn of everybody coming out of the pandemic, what they bought in a hurry to be digital. And some of these products, there's 84%, abandonment rate. Or turn off the product because it didn't really meet the needs.

It was just a, got it back quickly kind of thing. So we're trying to keep that from being the norm de risk things going in. so health systems. See us have this conversation. They have this problem of like, I'm getting a thousand phone calls.

I don't have time to deal with it. I know I have some problems I want a solution, but I just don't have time to sort through all of these smaller. Companies. does the relationship work then? They call you, and then does a normal kind of engagement look like? So, we have three levels of membership that we've set up for providers.

The first one, which is essentially access to the Panda, industry intelligence, is free. It does have a contractual kind of login type relationship, but basic intelligence around the industry, what's emerging, who's been successful, even those explainers. that I talked about. How do I understand a category as well as how do I collaborate with other leaders, other CIOs.

That's all baked into the system. So, all of the access to our general information, plus the collaboration, is included at no charge. And that's part of the mandate we have, being owned by health systems. Our mission is help people do digital health. And in fact, help that middle tier.

Help the mid market people do digital health that don't have the resources to do it. We have Your board really comes at it from that perspective, right? It really did. Every time you sat down to have a board meeting, The first question that you get and the last question you get from your board is how are we helping health systems?

How are we helping health systems? Are we staying true to the focus of helping? The health systems that need the help. We have a couple of levels on top of that. and they're both designed at a reasonable cost to replace value that you might, spend money on elsewhere.

So, we call them connect explore and adopt. So the connect is the free level. The explore level adds in things that Panda has done above and beyond to get research. So in the free version, for example, you might see that a vendor has been vetted by us. But if you want our deep dive report, on the vendors, that'll be in the paid.

Something your procurement people might do. You would spend money to go do a deep dive on a vendor yourself. We have some, market intelligence that's more prescriptive, or more what I should do instead of what's happening in the market. More advisory, that's also in that middle tier.

And the price point on that is around 24, 000 a year. So it's still about 20 percent of an FTE. To get all the work that Panda's done provided. The third level actually brings in a lot of pre bundled Panda services to help you for systems that want it. So we have our success managers. For the members, they will help guide you through a sourcing or a decision process or a custom evaluation of a vendor that maybe we haven't done a vetting of on your behalf.

And we even go so far with some of them to help you set digital strategy, do some custom research around, what others are doing, etc. That's again the highest paid membership, that's 48, 000 a year. So it's still a fraction of an FTE, fits well with those tiers that, that just don't have the bandwidth or scale to put full bodies on this.

And then Drex, behind all of that, we actually have that transaction engine we set up in the first place. We have pre negotiated contracts and pricing with a lot of these vendors for people who choose to use it or would like us to manage that transaction. We're not a party to it. We've just got pre negotiated paper that.

hopefully accelerates and brings everybody together. for some solutions, there may be an easy button for them to with everything already set, you don't have to do a whole bunch of additional work. Okay, great. I love that.

The idea of getting involved with us is as simple as let's have a conversation and outline what the member levels are and then, like I said, there's a very quick two, two, three page contract that outlines, the IP and identifies how we set up users but that's it. It's as simple as signing up with that.

It is a journey. We are effectively a startup. We are building a lot of this stuff. So, people that join us now are participating and giving us that voice of what would really be helpful and helping us prioritize. There's a lot of tech out there. So, we've got those explainer videos for some categories.

More and more are being added every week. But the members that already exist are telling us which ones are priority and more important and helping to steer the ship. And we're setting up advisory council provider members as well. So, we're going to have A lot of lens on what do our member provider systems really want?

What do they get value from? And trying to keep that as our compass, because our mission is to make digital health easier for providers that need the help. And we are committed to stay true to that. And we have the support all the way up through our board to make that happen. Got it. One of the things I'd like to do in these interviews at the end is to ask you Is there something I haven't asked you about you want to share with the audience?

I think the biggest thing that I've learned in the past three or four months of engaging with a lot of CIOs is when we talk about success in digital health, all boats rise with the tide. You know, is, Is clearly been adopted by a lot of people, but the smaller boats are the ones that kind of can be the most important voice in a lot of this, and with all due respect to the big systems, they do have the resources, they do have the kind of the muscle to power through some of these challenges that we face and innovate, but the smaller systems bring a different lens and almost a more FHIR.

real world perspective for, that's all well and good, but it's not going to work in my regional hospital where I'm worried about how many beds are open. the power of bringing together the community of, the middle, that mid tier who are trying to do something, but just don't have the resource to do it.

I think that's really what's going to elevate, moving healthcare forward. I think that's where the vendors will learn scale. And that's where the health systems can benefit more from real experiences. You go to HIMSS or ViVE and you hear what. John Halamka saying about what Mayo did, that's all well and good, but he's Mayo, right?

How do I make that happen in Southern Coos, hospital or Opelousas General? Those are real world places worried about keeping enough beds open so that their communities have a place to go without driving 50 or 60 miles. Yeah, the reality is that's where most of, patients and families get their care in the country, is at those small places.

That's exactly right. So it's something that's very near and dear to me and, is how do we help expand that? It's a big part of health equity is making sure we can reach out to communities that don't have the advantages of big cities or big systems. And that's really, it's one of our core values is making sure everything we do has an equity lens to it.

But it's really important to me and and to Panda. Thanks. I really appreciate your time today. Jason Taylor from Panda Health. It's been great to speak to you. Rex, always a pleasure. I enjoy our chats. Thanks

for listening to this Interview in Action episode. If you found value in this, share it with a peer. It's a great chance to discuss and in some cases start a mentoring relationship. One way you can support the show is to subscribe and leave us a rating. If you could do that would be great, and we want to give a big thanks to our partners who make this possible.

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