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HIStalk Interviews Scott Bagwell, President, Experian Health

August 12, 2015 Interviews No Comments

Scott Bagwell is president of Experian Health.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’ve been in the HIT industry since the late 1990s. I’ve been through a dozen acquisitions on both sides. I started out with a small company in Charlotte called Systems Associates, Incorporated — which was the SAINT hospital system — that was acquired by American Express, which became First Data, which sold to HBOC, which became McKesson HBOC. I stayed through all those acquisitions. In 2000 I went to Sunquest in Tucson, acquired by Misys Healthcare. I then went to NDC Health in Atlanta, which was mainly a healthcare claims and pharmacy transaction company, including analytics. That was acquired by PerSe, which was acquired by McKesson, and I ended up again at McKesson. I left there in 2010 and came to Passport Health Communications, which was acquired by Experian.

What is included under the Experian Health umbrella and what’s changed since Experian acquired Passport?

I came to Passport in 2010. My former boss Scott MacKenzie and I had worked together for 10 years at McKesson, NDC, RelayHealth, and all those McKesson companies.

Passport was known primarily in the early days for patient access, focusing on eligibility, address verification, those front-end components of the patient access solution. We eventually became an integrated workflow. We replaced multiple point solutions in hospitals and physician offices. In the patient access world, there could be as many as seven different vendors on the front-end process. We developed a platform called eCare Next that integrated all of the front-end functions, from ordering, scheduling, eligibility, address verification, patient estimation, quality control, and payment systems, including claims and management.

Experian Health originally acquired Search America in 2008. Search America had a strong presence in about 900 hospitals, primarily providing payment prediction services, correction software, and address verification. They were also focused on data analytics. That was Experian’s first venture into health. In 2011, they acquired Medical Present Value, which is primarily focused on physician practices. It was an Austin, TX and San Antonio-based company providing services for physician practices in large academic medical centers for over 75,000 doctors,  focused on improving reimbursement and payments from commercial providers.

That was 2011. That was Experian Healthcare. Then in 2013, Experian acquired Passport. We had a strong presence in both hospital and physician markets. Our products were focused on front office efficiency and an integrated workflow management system. Our guiding principle at Passport was payment certainty. Our systems were designed to find a payment for patient, no matter whether it was charity, Medicaid, Medicare, or third party. We focused on that guiding principle of payment certainty for every patient.

That’s who Experian Health is today. It’s a combination of those three companies: Search America, Medical Present Value, and Passport Health.

Passport was a fairly quiet company that sold for $850 million. How does a company position itself for success in ways that might not be obvious?

Passport began in the mid to late 1990s providing Medicaid eligibility systems. At its heart, it was really a technology company. It’s those roots and that focus on technology that allowed us to evolve into SaaS. We’re a SaaS solution today. That allowed us to begin to integrate those disparate modules into one integrated workflow. Our core value is client driven, first and foremost. Focusing on the customer. We believe if you focus on the customer first and foremost, everything else follows in line.

Technology was the enabler that we had in place. We had some really smart people at Passport. We encouraged teamwork. Consider the source, but I think it’s one of the best collections of employees that I have ever worked with, really dedicated to our customers. We are somewhat maniacal about customer satisfaction.

We are in a tough market. Tough with all of the variables that we deal with, but we are very metric driven. Every function that we have at now Experian Health — we began this at Passport — we measure. We measure the user experience. We get automated reports showing how our customers are actually using our products. The ultimate goal is to help those customers optimize our products and solutions.

Customer driven first and foremost, high-performing teams, and then the metrics –measuring how we do. Never, never, ever achieving “becoming good enough” because we always know there’s room for improvement.

What is the biggest change for providers trying to collect the increasing amounts of patient responsibility while maintaining their satisfaction scores?

It’s tremendous change with uncertainty over financial responsibility, the fact that a patient can’t know in advance what their service is going to cost them. There’s increasing ownership and involvement by the patient to become more engaged in that part of the healthcare system. There’s a need for transparency.

We developed a patient estimation solution several years ago. It is one of the most widely deployed out there. It’s part of that integrated workflow. The uncertainty of financial responsibility, both from the provider and the patient perspective and the payer as well, and then that need for transparency. Part of what we focus on and the challenge that we see is how to optimize performance in the midst of the growing out-of-pocket fees and the decline in reimbursement for our customers.

Reimbursement seems to have diverged, where on one end patients are expected to pay for their specific services in cash, while on the other end value-based care makes charges mostly irrelevant. Is it a challenge to deploy technology to manage both?

Yes, it absolutely is. There’s a blurring of the lines in a trend that’s moving quicker from providers to the payer side with this value-based reimbursement model that’s gaining strength in the marketplace. There definitely is a blurring of the lines. 

In post-acute care, the patient goes into a black hole today. There’s a coordinated care document in a hospital, but it rarely follows the patient. In order for the payers to bill for bundled payments, for the providers to understand what payments they should be getting, we think there’s some common good in there. We believe we’re in particularly good position to do that today. That’s the part of the growth strategy that we’re focused on right now. How we can help with that whole value-based reimbursement world, both from the provider perspective to the payer. The bulk of our business is with hospitals and physicians. We have a number of payers, but we’re a pretty provider-centric organization today.

What drives you crazy as a patient when you experience your provider’s revenue cycle first hand?

I like to know that my bills are paid. The fact that a provider would take so long to get the bill back … I just think it’s crazy to wait 60 to 90 days for the providers to get paid.

At NDC, we worked in the pharmacy transaction world. It’s a simpler transaction, but the standard in the pharmacy world is NCPDP. When we were at NDC, we used to wonder why we couldn’t auto-adjudicate for hospitals like we did for pharmacy. Granted it’s greatly more complex, but why can’t we get there? To this day I wonder why we can’t get there. We had a number of initiatives and we thought we could pull it off, but it still hasn’t happened.

What opportunities and threats do you see for provider revenue cycle?

Wherever there’s a threat, there’s typically an opportunity. Our goal is to encourage greater patient engagement. We are working on mobile applications for mobile access to our applications today. Maybe not schedule an appointment, but why can’t you request an appointment? We’re looking at greater patient engagement. We engage our clients in client-driven innovation. We’re in almost 3,000 hospitals today and we work with some of the largest systems in the country. They drive us. We like delivering client-driven innovation.

The other thing that has been one of our guiding principles is touchless processing. I talked about being metric driven and how we measure everything we do. We look at the customers who are coming closest to achieving touchless processing. You’ll never get 100 percent touchless processing, particularly in what we do in the patient access-revenue cycle world, but 85 percent of the time, we believe a transaction could go through our integrated workflow. We think that’s the ultimate goal and we’re continuing to drive to that.

We’re not there yet. We’ve got some large customers who are achieving 80 percent touchless processing, so the workflow just goes through.  The hospitals only touch the exceptions in the process. That’s where we think the opportunity will continue and we’re focused on delivering it.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I’m pretty proud of the company. We achieved #1 in KLAS last year. That in itself is a challenge because people will tell you the only way to go is down. We’ve had a contest among every department to see how we not just live on last year’s laurels, but how we can improve our customer satisfaction scores. We really are focused on that. We’re just announcing the winners. Every department, every functional part, sales and marketing, the sys ops, the devs all had nominations to see how they could personally improve our customer satisfaction scores. We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done. We’re not going to rest on our laurels moving forward.

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