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HIStalk Practice Interviews Nancy Ham, CEO, WebPT
Nancy Ham is CEO of Phoenix-based WebPT.
Tell me about yourself and the organization.
I’ve been in the healthcare IT space for more than 20 years now, mostly on the provider-facing side. I’ve really been fortunate to be at the leading edge of many innovations in our industry, such as clinical lab order entry; results reporting; RCM; and more recently, population health analytics, clinical data exchange, and interoperability with Medicity. I’ve had a nice diversity of experience across 20 years of watching our industry digitize, automate, and interconnect. In terms of companies, my experiences range from true startups all the way to a Fortune 500 company. I think healthcare IT is an amazing industry and I feel really privileged to be part of it.
In terms of my current organization, WebPT was founded in 2006 by Heidi and Brad Jannenga. Heidi was a therapist in search of a great product; when she couldn’t find one, her husband Brad created it with her. Fast forward 10 years later to 2016 and WebPT is the leader in providing documentation, PM, and revenue cycle services to the rehab industry, which includes physical, occupational, speech, and other therapy modalities.
I’ve learned that physical therapy alone is a $30 billion industry growing more than 5 percent a year. Growth is being driven by the aging of the population, and from weekend warrior injuries to joint replacements. It’s also growing because of clinical evidence that physical therapy can be more effective and efficient than surgery or opioids for many conditions. Today, WebPT serves almost 9,000 clinics with over 63,000 users all using our true cloud platform to improve their businesses clinically and financially. We are very proud that we have a 99-percent customer retention rate, and we’re really proud that we have created the WebPT community. Together, we work on many initiatives to advance our entire industry – key initiatives like direct access, meaning that patients don’t need a physician referral; and expanding telehealth services to include telerehab options.
What made you want to jump from the world of HIE at Medicity to that of physical therapy and physician practices?
Medicity was focused on solving the problem of creating clinically connected communities in which every caregiver can securely and appropriately see the patient’s longitudinal health record. When you think about population health, spanning the continuum of care, what I was really seeing is a need to interconnect with more outpatient and post-acute locations of service, which very much included physical therapy. I had a burgeoning interest in moving beyond the traditional hospital setting and getting deeper into clinically connected communities, so it was a pretty logical jump for me.
On a personal note, I’ve seen the positive impact of physical therapy on my parents with joint replacements, and on my friends with sports injuries. I’m personally passionate about the WebPT mission, which is helping therapists achieve greatness in practice.
You’ve conveyed a love for WebPT’s workplace culture and the city of Phoenix. As the EHR industry continues to consolidate, how much emphasis should vendors place on culture when it comes to remaining competitive and attracting top talent?
I’ve always believed that culture is the foundation for being competitive. You can’t be a great, innovative, passionate company without great team members. When you think about the current business environment, competition for the best employees has never been fiercer. For us in health IT, it’s doubly challenging because we compete both within the health IT space and with the broader software industry. You take that background, and then you add in the stats around the order of magnitude difference in productivity between a good engineer and a great engineer, and I think the ability to use culture to attract, motivate, and retain the best of the best is mission critical.
From a different perspective, over time as products become more similar, customer service becomes the differentiator. You need a rock-solid culture of serving customers, which is one of our core values around creating raving fans. That really makes a sustained difference in your business and is for us why we have a 99-percent retention rate. I do have to brag a little bit on the point of culture: We’re thrilled WebPT has been recognized as a best place to work five out of the last six years. After a month-plus of being here, I can say for sure it’s vibrant culture that makes it really fun to come to work every day.
I know the company is planning a move to bigger headquarters. How do you plan on helping the company remain in expansion mode over the next several years?
One of the things that definitely attracted me to WebPT was that there are so many ways in which we can grow. Historically, we’ve done pretty well. We’ve been ranked in the Inc. 500 or 5000 each of the past four years, but you have to keep innovating to press forward. Looking ahead, we are helping our current customers with new products such as measuring the actual outcomes of the work that they do. We’re also expanding our market to serve larger organizations such as Medstar Rehabilitation Network and its 50-plus clinics. We’re supporting all of our customers in the move, of course, to value-based care including bundles for comprehensive joint replacement. There is so much opportunity for innovation on the patient engagement side as well.
Have you had a chance to talk with any end users yet? What are their thoughts on the current state of health IT?
They have all the same issues as other providers. They are struggling with revenue pressure and declining reimbursement. They need to prove their ROI through documented outcomes. They’re being prepped and they are prepping for more analytics and business intelligence. They need to connect with other providers to secure referrals and coordinate care.
Given your background, how interested are physical therapists in health information exchange?
Everyone is interested in improving the coordination of care. Certainly, being in bundles around hip and knee replacement is a big use case. Other use cases include post-discharge rehab for strokes or cardiac events. Being interconnected for sharing patient data with the entire care team is of real interest to therapists. HIEs and interoperability are a very hot topic for us. Given my background, it should come as no surprise that it’s an area you’ll see us invest in more in 2017.
How are physical therapists preparing for MACRA? Do they have unique challenges when it comes to adopting and participating in these value-based programs?
Many therapists are small, entrepreneurial businesses. They need a turn-key solution that caters to their unique workflows, which is part of what we provide. If they then ask, “How do I participate in value-based care including MACRA,” they do have a little bit more time than non-specialty physicians to come into the MACRA program, which is good because they need to prepare by aggregating their data and creating benchmarks with which to measure their outcomes.
For our larger enterprise customers, when they think about MACRA, it’s definitely about ROI and clinical outcomes. They also need insightful analytics around their total business. It’s a lot about the data. Outcomes plus analytics will give our customers the vital data they need to be successful in MACRA. It will also enable them to negotiate higher reimbursement with other payers and participation in bundles with physicians.
Do you have any final thoughts?
I’ve learned there are over 200,000 therapists today practicing in outpatient, inpatient, and post-acute settings. Given the factors we talked about earlier, projections are that it’s going to grow by 30 percent by 2024. I’m really excited to help people understand that therapists are an important and growing part of the clinical ecosystem. I’m also excited about all the opportunities to more deeply interconnect the rehab industry via HIE and interoperability with hospitals, providers, and increasingly patients in support of true population health. Most of all, I want to thank all the members of this vibrant WebPT community who have welcomed me and for their incredible support of us, of one another, and this exciting industry.
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