Matthew “Matt” Condon, JD, MBA is founder and CEO of Bardavon Health Innovations of Overland Park, KS.
Tell me about yourself and the company.
I’ve been in employer-driven musculoskeletal health for the last two decades. I grew up in Iowa, went to grad school and law school, and got passionate about this space. I was fortunate post-law school to relocate to Kansas City, which was the home of Cerner. There’s a Cerner halo here in Kansas City and a lot of people, including the founders, were important to me in the early stages and helped guide me in my career.
I have been on this journey for a couple of decades, building companies that were specifically aimed at supporting employers in how they optimize the musculoskeletal health of their employees. I’m really fortunate to have built a couple of companies here and I am proud and thankful to call Kansas City my home.
Bardavon was formed in 2014. It is absolute love of mine, intellectually. We partner with employers, or the carriers who represent them in some cases, to optimize the musculoskeletal health of their employees. This ranges from preventative through post-injury solutions that are offered in a hybrid manner at work, in the clinics, and at home. All coordinated, all collaborating, and all aimed specifically at improving the lives of the 60 to 80 million US workers that make up the labor workforce in this country.
Our biggest differentiating factor is that we have seen the spectrum move from all-in clinic to this digital-only focus, and I believe that we are the only people in this space that offer a truly hybrid approach. We have digital solutions that we incorporate, engage, and coordinate, but we also have a nationwide network of over 25,000 physical and occupational therapists that utilize our solutions in an integrated manner aimed at improving the health of the one patient-employee in front of them and the tens of thousands we serve on an annual basis.
How competitive or cooperative are you with the providers that contract with you?
They are partners and we are really proud of that. The first business I had was on the provider side, where I built a company and sold it to a publicly held company. That understanding of the provider realities, the environment that they work in, and what they are aimed at is important to who we are, and maybe why we bring such value to them. We partner with those providers. They get out of their EMR and into our platform for the patients that we send them from the employers that we work with, who want exceptional care for their injured employees.
It is double-sided marketplace, but one that I am proud of on both ends. We feel partner-focused. It is our job to get employers around the country the best healthcare for their injured employees. It is also our job to make that environment for the providers who are treating them efficient, clear and communicative, and collaborative so that they know what success looks like for their employers. They can aim at it and they are rewarded for achieving it.
We’ve seen MSK technology evolve from range-of-motion home exercise coaching that ran on consumer gaming systems and now to technology platforms that include apps and analytics. What is the best use of technology for MSK issues today?
Acuity levels drive the appropriateness of the solution that you put in place. But in the end, the in-person provider relationship experience has never been more important than it is now. Coordinating that with digital solutions that enhance it, especially as you get to a certain level of acuity, just makes sense, and it works.
The provider community was maybe generally reluctant to engage with digital solutions, but now at least the 25,000 providers we partner with use it because they see that when it is added into their plans of care and added into their care experience for their patients, they are getting better outcomes.That is what those providers want, especially when they are rewarded for it with more referrals from those employers that are looking for that better experience.
All this digital solution application was thrust at the marketplace. Ironically and tragically, though, there weren’t a lot of innovative solutions provided for the American worker, that 60 to 80 million men and women that build our roads, build our buildings, fight our fires, and protect our streets. There’s a unique engagement environment for them. They are unique in that with regard to MSK, their job is the biggest risk factor to their health. No solutions were targeted specifically at them. We think that is a mistake and an opportunity that Bardavon is uniquely fulfilling.
Do employers see workers’ compensation as a problematic expense where providers may take advantage of them or bill for services whose value can’t be proven?
It’s all of that, and there is validity to all the reluctance to enter into this marketplace. Some of it is more structural. Workers’ compensation care — how we address and impact our associates that are hurt on the job — is siloed in a completely different and often disconnected part of the structure. It’s actually property and casualty that your workers’ comp comes under. Your trucks, your equipment, your property, and the workers’ comp injuries are housed in a different silo of the insurance industry. That has created an environment that historically had us treat these individuals as widgets and line items on Excel spreadsheets.
Today’s reality is that we have this labor shortage and this massive need for these people to be healthy, happy, and productive at work. That has created an environment where the perspectives are evolving. That is tailwinds for us for sure, that employers and carriers are understanding that we have to reevaluate the way that we address this marketplace. They aren’t widgets and they aren’t line items, they are people and they carry with them functional issues that either do or don’t help them do their job effectively. Bardavon is leading in this solution set of providing that group with appropriate, effective tools that they can engage and utilize to improve their lives and improve their productivity and work culture as a result.
A lot of people are trying to solve MSK and workers’ compensation. The MSK health of the American worker has been historically neglected, but we feel that the evolution that needs to happen in the MSK space is best launched from workers’ comp. There’s a number of reasons that make it the most advantageous place to launch it, and we believe that that will happen and are excited about it.
You realized that your previous company, ARC Physical Therapy+, had reached a scale problem where you could only grow so much being tied to bricks-and-mortar operations. You also found that the insights available from data were more valuable than actually delivering the service. How did you apply that experience to Bardavon?
That’s exactly right. We went in with a belief in this unique way of addressing the marketplace, going to employers, building clear value propositions, and clearly aligning the incentives of the provider and the payer around the function of the patient. We believed that was the right thing to do. And as you indicated, we changed a marketplace because of it. We had employers change the way they helped their employees navigate the healthcare system to get access to our clinics for the data.
As I mentioned early on, I was fortunate that we built a great company and I was really proud of it. It was, in part, the founders of Cerner — Cliff and Neal a little, but Cliff in particular – who challenged me that we had a national business that we were choosing to operate locally, and shame on us that we were not thinking bigger. At that time, the world had changed. The cloud had come along, and housing those solutions within the bricks and mortar of the couple of dozen clinics that we owned didn’t change a national marketplace, it only changed a local one.
We believed that we could evolve the company to no longer be beholden to the bricks and mortar, but to partner across the country with providers and payers that cared. And in so doing, not just change the health and healthcare experience of the employees, but find out which providers in every ZIP code of this country were healing patients in a way that was quantifiable and objective.
That is an exciting part of what we do today. We get stronger every day in knowing who is actually healing patients in a way that we can measure, not based on CPT codes or bills, but whether or not their patients are returning to a level of function. That is, I believe, the most transparent and beautiful reflection of healing in healthcare.
How much of the company’s success and ability to scale was driven by requiring providers to document patient progress in your own proprietary platform?
It is bi-directional. It’s not just that they are documenting and sending us the data. We are telling them at eval what success looks like for that employer, what success looks like for that employee who is injured, and what their functional job demands are. There is no guessing, there is clarity. Then we create this beautiful feedback loop that updates and gets better every second of the day about what providers are doing in other parts of the country with like patients with like return-to-work requirements, that are optimizing their outcomes and doing it efficiently and effectively.
All of that is a dream and a vision. Healthcare providers went to school with the hope that they would be in that environment. Most of them, or maybe all of them, got pushed into an environment that historically and traditionally didn’t facilitate that. We had to ask the providers to do something unique to get there.
Asking them to get out of their EMR and into our platform is not easy. It’s incumbent upon us to make it as seamless and intuitive as possible, but more than that, it is incumbent upon us to make the providers believe that their dream of why they went to school is our dream. To create a system where good providers get more patients and benefit from that, and bad providers don’t. Creating an environment where providers know what their incentive is, and where employers or payers know that because they are partnering with Bardavon, they are getting access to the best providers in every community that are uniquely focused on the same goal that the employer wants, getting that employee back to work and effectively doing their job.
You used the word “grind” several times in an interview, talking about your college athletics experience where a bigger and more athletically gifted opponent knocks you down and you have to get back up and do it again. How does that personal philosophy translate into a business culture, especially in an environment where employees might not be as willing to sacrifice their lifestyle for company benefit?
I was blessed to not be exceptionally good at anything. It taught me the importance of work and that I could succeed if I would outwork others. My parents and growing up on a farm were surely a part of that, but the fact that I wasn’t blessed with any exceptional talent really was a blessing. It helped me, and that transcended from sports to business. The Midwest is part of that.
In all of the healthcare, and specifically now in every industry like this, I guess there’s always a level of negativity and a level of suspicion about whether people are doing the right thing. This business has been my choice to pursue my entire life, in large part because if you spend time with these patients, they are incredibly inspiring.
My entree into workers’ comp was working with professional athletes who were hurt. I saw all the technology and all the science that was aimed at getting a professional basketball player back to the court or professional football player back on the field. When you are able to take a piece of that and provide it to firefighters, police officers, and laborers who are doing their job very specifically to support their husband, wife, kids, families, friends, whatever … there are always bad actors and characters, but predominantly it is a remarkably inspiring client base and I’m proud of what we can do. It keeps me guided to grind every day.
The other side of that is those providers, specifically the physical and occupational therapy providers who spend so much time with their patients. An hour a day, three or four times a week, for five to six weeks. It’s a very intimate relationship. They put their hands on them and they help them regain the function they once had. They hear about their families and they hear about their personal lives. It is a really beautiful sector of healthcare that has been historically neglected and forgotten. I’m proud of the focus that we can put on it through our own grinding effort.
How will the company change over the next few years?
Cliff and Neal were always clear about having a vivid description of a desired future state. Keep that at the forefront of everything you are doing and why you are doing it. We believe that Bardavon will continue to evolve into a company that represents excellence in the way that employers treat their employees, specifically around MSK health. We will facilitate meaningful and intuitive technologies, services, and when appropriate, exceptional patient care for those associates, so that they know that when choosing an employer, they will assess whether or not that employer works with Bardavon. The providers they work with around the country will see that as a part of brand associated with quality and caring for them as people in their roles and jobs and lives.
I believe that we are on the precipice of that. I believe that as we grow and become the company that we can, that others in this space copy us and take that approach to other parts of the healthcare spectrum and continue to improve their lives as well. That’s probably a bold prediction, but I believe it.
I think you're referring to this: https://www.wired.com/2015/03/how-technology-led-a-hospital-to-give-a-patient-38-times-his-dosage/ It's a fascinating example of the swiss cheese effect, and should be required…