Pat Cline is CEO of Lightbeam Health Solutions of Irving, TX.
Tell me about yourself and the company.
I’m a 53-year-old cross between father, husband, entrepreneur, healthcare IT investor, and company operator. I started in healthcare IT about 34 years ago.
Most of my career has been with NextGen Healthcare. I retired from that company in 2011. I found that I was terrible at retirement. I came out of retirement a few months later and started to put together the concept of Lightbeam.
Lightbeam Health essentially is a population health management platform that aggregates data from many different sources and normalizes that data, represents it properly, mines that data for gaps in care, and does risk stratification. Then puts those gaps in care back to providers at the point of care, where we can affect change.
How big is the company?
Relatively small. It’s a software is a service model, so building revenue is slow in the early stages. From a revenue standpoint, we should be about five million run rate by the end of this year. From an employee perspective, I think we’re about 22 or 23 employees.
It seems like everybody’s next big thing after EHRs was electronic data warehouse and analytics. A lot of those companies are going to fail. What do you think will distinguish the winners from the losers?
Great question, and I think you’re right. One of the things, I believe, is experience. The team at Lightbeam has very broad and very deep experience in end-to-end data management based on our background in ambulatory health records.
When I talk about aggregating data, normalizing it, representing it properly, and de-duping it, there’s a lot of heavy lifting involved. That’s an area where we see some of our competitors faltering.
Many of our competitors are doing similar things, but with claims-based data, and as you know that data tends to be eight or 10 weeks old. This company can not only use claim data feeds and drug claims and those kinds of things, but also can get at the real-time or near-time electronic health record data.
Another uniqueness is, as I mentioned, our software as a service or our subscription model. It makes the cost of entry very, very low. Based on all of the costs that have imposed on medical providers and health systems recently with the move to ICD-10 and the costs involved with achieving Meaningful Use, most of them seem to find a subscription model without an upfront fee more palatable.
How does the integration with EHRs work technically?
I’m not a technologist any more. They threw me out of that profession in the 1980s. But the experience that too much of our team went through or gained during our years in electronic health records for provider organizations includes integrating and interfacing with many, many different systems, all of the prevalent systems both in hospitals and on the ambulatory side, and participating as we did at NextGen with many of the different early pilots and actually developing an HIE and those kinds of things.
We’ve got a team that’s experienced in doing that. Beyond that, if I start talking the actual technology, I’ll get in over my head pretty quickly.
Are your provider customers expecting a lot of hand-holding or do they know what data that they want and what they’re going to do with it?
There’s always a certain amount of hand-holding, but generally as providers move more toward shared savings programs — whether that’s participating in or forming an ACO or commercial-shared saving or move more toward risk-based or value-based reimbursement — they tend to want some of the standardized guidelines and managers. They want data mined for gaps against some of these standard measures, like HEDIS measures and ACO measures and those kinds of things.
At least for the interim, providers are going to have mixed panels where they’ll have some patients that will be under some new payment model and then others that are traditional fee-for-service. Will they ask for data to treat those patients differently?
So far, we’re not seeing that. So far, practices seem to want to include all of their patients in population health management.
If you believe that proactively managing patients is a good thing, then you want to spread that across your entire population. The difference is, as you pointed out, many of them are fee-for-service and therefore the providers aren’t paid for the proactive management as much as they are more reactive point of care or fee-for-quantity or fee-for-service business. But by and large, we’re seeing that providers want to manage care for all of their patients the same way.
What’s your assessment of the ambulatory EHR market, looking back on your time with Quality Systems and NextGen?
The market is maturing. While it’s not saturated, it’s reaching that point.
Over the next few years, there will be a tremendous replacement market, where providers that perhaps moved too quickly or made mistakes purchasing systems that didn’t quite meet their needs circle back and replace systems. That will also lead to a robust services market over the next few years.
It seems to me that it’s also increasingly difficult for the smaller companies in electronic health records to keep up with all of the government-mandated changes as well as market pressures. In the near term, we’ll continue to have a robust market even if it’s largely replacement oriented, and then in the long term, a lot of those companies will be adding features like the ones that Lightbeam Health provides.
HITECH created a big market. Was it a good thing?
Yes. The stimulus was needed. We would otherwise be at far less than 50 percent saturation. Once EHRs are installed and we move from that era of physician adoption — getting physicians to use the systems and enter data — to an era of doing something intelligent and actionable, it can move the needle relative to clinical outcomes and therefore costs.
As a business coach, mentor, and investor, what advice would you have for healthcare IT newcomers and startups?
You’re probably looking for a different answer than this, but as a coach and mentor at this stage of my career, I would tell you that I see a lot of healthcare IT people that work awfully hard. It doesn’t seem like there’s ever an end to the work to be done. I would tell those people to slow down a little bit and spend a little more time with their families and smell the roses along the way.
Along those lines, I’m fascinated that you’re a sommelier. If you were spending $30 in a red wine, what would you choose?
I would probably spend it on one of the mass-produced California or Oregon cabernets.
Getting back on track, what trends or factors will be important in the next handful of years?
The next few years will continue to be very exciting. The folks that predict that market saturation will cause a drop-off and things will level out I believe are wrong. As providers move from fee-for-service or fee-for-quantity to value-based reimbursement, it will be a very interesting time, both for the existing vendors and for new vendors like Lightbeam.
Specifically, I think we’re moving to a new era of interoperability. While interoperability and system connectivity have been talked about for a long, long time, there are strides being made and strides in standardization as well. That will bode well for the whole system and will improve quality and outcomes and will lower cost. I’m looking forward to the day when data mining might even lead to cures, which will also be extremely exciting.
Do you have any concluding thoughts?
First, I want to thank you for the opportunity and for the exposure. Young companies like Lightbeam can use it and we really appreciate it. Secondly, I’d say that Lightbeam Health has a number of unique advantages relative to population health and helping physicians move to value-based reimbursements to invite those in the market to speak with us.