June 20, 2018
Demystifying value: one entrepreneur’s mission to transform primary care
An interview with VillageMD CEO Tim Barry
Tim Barry has spent his career building solutions that help primary care providers (PCPs) deliver real value and better health outcomes for patients. His latest company, VillageMD, equips PCPs with the data, resources and clinical decision support they need to provide proactive, holistic care.
At our most recent Tales from the Trenches, Tim shared stories of his early entrepreneurial ventures, his learnings from an extensive career in healthcare and his vision for the future of primary care.
VillageMD currently works with more than 2,500 PCPs, serving more than 1.5 million patients. Practices that adopt the platform see fewer emergency department visits and reduced Medicare costs, as well as a 20–45% drop in admission and readmission rates compared to the market average. Plus, patients are happier: VillageMD boasts a 92% satisfaction rate for patients with high-risk care needs.
In January, VillageMD received $80 million from Athyrium Capital Management to enhance their technology and grow their geographical footprint. This raise is one of the largest digital health investments so far this year, and brings the company’s total funding to more than $116 million.
We followed up with Tim to learn more about his journey with VillageMD and the approaches that have fueled the company’s success.
Collaboration is crucial to the VillageMD business model. From your experience, what are the keys to a successful collaboration between businesses and providers?
There are three keys: alignment, doing what you say you are going to do and trust. Having the honest dialogue to truly ensure multiple parties are aligned is always the first step. From there, do you deliver what you promise? We have found there is usually a lot more talk than action, and if your organization does what they say they will do, then you will build trust. And trust is the way collaborations work over the long haul.
Value-based care may very well be the biggest buzzword in healthcare — though each stakeholder seems to define value in varying ways. How do you define value?
I really don’t think value should be that complicated of a definition in healthcare. [Value is] highest quality at the lowest total cost. In my years of experience with patients and doctors, this kind of value is what everyone wants. Unfortunately, we have way too many “higher cost” options that are not providing optimal quality to their patients, which is why we sometimes have different definitions of value.
The national healthcare conversation often centers around reducing costs and conserving resources. But in building VillageMD, you made a point to come from a place of abundance, working to provide more resources for all providers and their patients. How does this idea of abundance work in practice?
The way this idea of abundance works in practice is that we embed nurses, social workers, pharmacists, analytic staff, general managers and technology into these practices because we know the upfront investment in resources will ultimately lead to a better healthcare system (higher value). This system does a better job of solving patients’ problems (best possible clinical outcomes), which leads to these patients requiring fewer healthcare services (reducing the total cost of healthcare).
You mentioned honesty as a cornerstone of VillageMD’s culture. What advice do you have for making transparency and honesty a natural part of company culture?
I believe culture stems from the actions of the people of the organization. It should be a natural extension of everything you do, and should ooze out of you. If you and your team are transparent and honest, it will be evident to everyone, and the people that sign up for your vision will be attracted to this value. Like all things, it will eventually become larger than you, and take on a life of its own by the actions of everyone on your team.
You’ve spent your career in a variety of roles across the healthcare ecosystem. What advice do you have for startups that may not have the same breadth and depth of connections you have?
If your product or solution requires you to have deep connections, then I recommend finding people who have these connections and bringing them into your organization in an operating role, or as an active advisor or board member. When you are recruiting them, though, don’t just be satisfied if they let you “use their name.” Require them to open doors and help you build credibility. If you don’t have the capital to bring these folks in, then attract them with equity. You will be much happier with a smaller piece of a larger pie than a larger piece of a very small pie.
If you were to make a case to medical students about why they should choose primary care as their career, what would you say?
The future of our nation’s healthcare system is going to be driven by primary care providers who take a comprehensive view on everything that happens with their patients, and are supported by teams of people who work at your direction to help your patients in incredibly special ways. I believe you will want to be in that type of role, and the joy you experience from being positioned and supported in that kind of healthcare system will be unlike any other specialty.