By Josh Byrd
It’s an exciting time to be at Patientco. We are putting the finishing touches on one of our most successful years ever. We are planning for 2018 with an incredible product roadmap (more on that next year!) and most importantly, we are growing!
Recently I had the chance to sit down and chat with our new Chief Operations Officer, Mike Hersh, to ask him a few questions to help us get to know him a bit better. He brings incredible experience, knowledge, and passion to Patientco and we are incredibly excited to have him!
JB: What about Patientco made you want to join the team?
MH: There are several reasons: First, I’ve known Bird for a long time and really appreciate and respect his vision, integrity and humbleness. Second, I love the healthcare space Patientco is in. Third, there is an incredible team that has really bought into the vision and believe deeply in what they are doing, which is to transform how patients engage with providers as it relates to patient payments.
JB: What is it about the healthcare space that you like?
MH: One of the big changes going on within healthcare is the ever-increasing percentage of the actual dollars that are the responsibility of the patient. While most people focus on the burden this places on the patient, which I have deep empathy and sympathy for, what most people do not realize is that many patients do not pay their portion of the healthcare bill at all. This results in material write-offs for a hospital, which society may think is okay until they realize that many hospitals, especially rural hospitals, end up closing their doors due to financial pressure. This means that most of rural America is forced to travel long distances to obtain quality care. That is not in the best interest of the public.
What makes Patientco special is that it understands how to get the subset of patients who can afford to pay their bill to willingly pay. Patientco helps them understand and provides a myriad of ways to for the patient to pay, on terms that they are more comfortable with.
JB: You’ve had a lot of different experiences. Which of them do you think has best prepared you for what you’re doing now?
MH: The most relevant experience that best prepared me was building a niche-based B2B financial services company where product innovation created a better consumer experience. I was fortunate to be part of an organization that started small and grew to over 3,000 employees. In that process, I learned first-hand what it takes to start, grow, scale and nurture an organization.
I believe Patientco is on that same trajectory, and I am excited to be in a position where I can contribute.
What happens with younger, smaller companies is they do not understand how to scale effectively. As they grow, they often times start to make fewer decisions than large companies, which can be fatal. The key is to add business processes at a rate that is appropriate for a company at a given size, as well as optimized organizations structures. Most importantly, the culture that makes a company successful initially needs to mature and change as the company grows, which can be tricky as a company can only absorb so much change at a time.
JB: Looking forward six to twelve months…what are your goals for Patientco, and where do you want to contribute?
MH: One of my key goals is to make sure that the Product Development, Engineering Implementation, and Client Services team really work well together in order to fully leverage our capabilities and also learn how to become a “learning organization”.
That is, as one person learns something insightful, how do we ensure that the entire organization learns and then later acts on new found knowledge?
The rate at which an organization learns and acts is key to remaining both innovative and nimble as we simultaneously build scale. I believe we are already well on our way to accomplishing this goal. In the end, that cultural mindset will allow us to always remain super relevant to our client base and one stay at least one step ahead of our competition.
JB: What opportunities do you see in the future for healthcare revenue cycle?
MH: I believe that most Revenue Cycle leaders are being asked to minimize the cost to collect. But in an industry that writes off as much as 85% of patient bills, the focus needs to change to “how do I maximize the dollars that I collect, as long as the cost to collect is lower than the amount of dollars that I collect, in a patient-friendly way.
A different mindset is necessary to make that next leap. I believe the industry is ready for a company like Patientco to help them materially improve their top line in a way that improves on the patient experience.
JB: What’s your proudest professional moment?
MH: I’d say my proudest professional moment was when I was a CIO in one of GE’s businesses. We were put in a very difficult situation where we had to convert from an outsourced business model to a model requiring us to build our own systems and hire the operational people to essentially insource what was previously outsourced; all because the company that we had been outsourcing to elected to go into business directly competing with us.
What made this challenging is we had just 6 months to hire over a hundred people, build a new system to handle the business, complete a conversion to a new system, and switch over all phone lines all over one weekend with no fall back option.
Going into the weekend, I did not know if the phones would switch over that Monday, the systems would come up, or even if the people we had just hired would show up and if they did, if our limited training would suffice. There was just a lot of unknowns and an unacceptable level of business risk, but everything actually worked pretty much as planned.
It taught me that great preparation, combined with a little luck, can go a long way. It also taught me how important it was for me, as business leader, to remain humbly confident when everyone around me was in panic mode and keep everyone focused on the task at hand. Maintaining a sense of team was key to thriving through, what we called, “D Day”.
JB: What is the number one thing that you want our readership to know about you?
MH: That I care about people, which includes prospects, clients, Patientcoians, and our patients. Caring about people requires that you walk the talk and that you do what you say you’re going to do. It means that you remain transparent, honest, and humble.
And it requires that when you make a mistake, you own up to it, learn from it and move forward. And that you allow others on your team to do the same.
JB: Do you have any fun or interesting hobbies outside of work?
MH: I love to ski, mountain bike, hike, run, play tennis and listen to live music. I also enjoy reading provocative books, traveling to better understand different cultures. But most of all, I like hanging around good friends and family.
JB: Where have you most enjoyed visiting outside of the U.S., and what did you do there?
MH: It’s hard, because there’s so many amazing places I have visited. If I had to pick one, it would be Africa, on a safari. It was a very humbling experience to watch nature in its raw form, largely untouched. It connected me with something bigger than myself. It reminded me how beautiful nature is and yet how fragile it is all at the same time.
JB: What’s your favorite book?
MH: Two come to mind. First, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. It basically reviews the history of man from several different perspectives to understand human behavior, how we got to who we are, why we do what we do from an anthropological standpoint. I also just finished the “Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis that was a fascinating read about the co-fathers of what we now call behavioral economics.
JB: What keeps you up at night, and what gets you up in the morning?
MH: Life gets me up in the morning. The unexpected, just being able to experience it and be part of it and maybe making someone else’s experience just a tad bit more meaningful, that’s what gets me up in the morning. I don’t know if anything keeps me up at night. I am blessed that way.