In last month’s newsletter, we introduced WellPath Health– a fictional composite based on nearly 90 of our clients’ stories. We gave some of the background that led them to RES, including the pressures they are facing in their market, internal nuances, and what they really need moving forward to be successful with their ambulatory planning. Theirs is a story that encompasses the unique, and yet shared challenges, pain points and realties that so many systems have faced and continue to face in this complex, evolving industry. If you didn’t get a chance to read about WellPath last month, you can catch up here.
Four weeks into the project launch of STRATUS, we caught up with WellPath’s Chief Strategy Officer, David Weichert, to get his insight about the process so far. Over the past weeks, WellPath Planning has worked closely with the RES team to build out their market Whitespace Analysis.
This Whitespace Analysis is the critical starting point for any RES project, illustrating the ideal network of ambulatory locations by analyzing millions of intersections in each market and uncovering the network that maximizes service line market share and preferred payer mix, while minimizing competition and cannibalization. Effectively, the ultimate, data-driven network of outpatient locations to maximize access, convenience, and patient coverage without constraints or inefficiencies. The team is then able to compare this to their existing portfolio, revealing opportunities for expansion, consolidation, and relocation and forming the foundation of WellPath’s growth and transformation strategy, all seamlessly delivered and maintained in the online STRATUS platform.
The results were presented to the WellPath executive team last week— this was the first time they had the opportunity to truly understand the value this information and insights could give to their organization.
Q: What were the main challenges you were looking to solve with RES?
A: Initially, we were looking for a tool that would help us with mapping our market and creating demographic reports. We were also looking for “the next site” that we should add to our network.
When I saw the folks at RES at a conference, I was in the middle of several projects that I really needed to verify. I was worried that we were operating more on “guestimates” than on solid data. At a system level, I also knew we needed to take a close look at our existing portfolio, and find ways to clean it up.
So primarily that was the focus. However, once I understood more about the RES platform, I quickly realized it could help solve another of our nagging issues…. Once we fully socialize the results and recommendations, I hope to generate a few million dollars in consolidation savings that I can turn around and reinvest in the right expansion opportunities.
Q. How important is this to your organization?
A: We’re betting the future of our health system on ambulatory, and we’re adapting to what our patients want by providing convenience, experience, and engagement through our facilities.
The bottom line is that we have to get this right. With the big push for patientconvenience and value-based care, we must have a strong ambulatory presence moving forward…and there’s just not a lot of margin for error.
Q: What made your team choose to go with RES over other alternatives?
A: What a lot of people saw in RES was the marrying of really advanced outpatient healthcare and demographic data with a cloud-based, visual GIS platform that we can log into to see the results and then change the strategy ourselves. No one else is really doing that. That really got people excited.
We had honestly struggled before that. We tried to develop our own “tool” a few years ago when we just couldn’t find something that was already built that would meet our needs. We ended up with a really manual internal process with limited data that we forced to work for a while, but it was really slow and manual.
Q: What were some of the challenges in the decision-making process to engage RES?
A: At first, the executive team thought we already had all the data we needed. Yes, we had a lot of OUR data, but we definitely didn’t have data on the whole market though. And our own data wasn’t organized in a central location. .
The light bulbs really turned on when they saw STRATUS during the RES demo. At that point, there was no slowing down. We had a signed proposal within 2-weeks and were viewing initial results for our market 30-days afterward. RES was super responsive and thorough in explaining the process, methodology and assumptions of the program. Once our executive team was comfortable with that the product, they signed up quickly!
Q. What has been the response so far with stakeholders?
A: It’s still pretty early in the process, but I would say that STRATUS is alreadyhelping our leadership with multiple short-term decisions we had to make.
From a system level, we now not only understand how many sites we need and where they need to be, but also how to communicate the strategy to everyone involved. For us, it’s always been a fight for resources across different service lines and market leaders and we’ve been sort of stuck in the middle as a mediator. STRATUS puts everyone on the same page, in the same system, and raises confidence across the board. I can already see that we will be better at working as a team toward the same goals and objective, all operating from the same playbook. And now we can prioritize opportunities at a system-level, first to last, so we know where our capital will get the biggest return.
For example, just this week we used STRATUS to analyze a project we have been considering for some time. As it turns out, it wasn’t a great investment for us, so we used the projections in STRATUS to justify canning it. We also used STRATUS to identify a hidden opportunity that we hadn’t thought of before, and hope to allocate capital to it instead.
Q. Have there been any surprises with the data so far?
A: Yes, specifically from the Whitespace Analysis. First, we were able to verify that we had made some good decisions in the past with some of our existing clinics, so that was nice validation to have. We were also able to analyze some past projects that were more political, real estate deal driven and now have the evidence we need to get rid of them. But the Whitespace Analysis also identified a number of opportunities we hadn’t expected. Ones that the data could see, but those of us on the ground simply hadn’t.
One of the best things about the process is that it’s objective…it’s just facts and data…there’s no black box or alternative agenda involved.And we can use the recommendations to drive consensus across all parties in the organization, even with those that in the past have wanted to maintain status quo or may have resisted this kind of change.
Q. What are you really hoping to see with RES and STRATUS moving forward?
A: For us, the biggest win will be in creating the 3-5 Year Growth Plan, getting support from the board and capital committees, and actually getting started on transforming our network. By having data driven recommendations, I really think this “new way” of creating and executing strategies will speed the process along—from plan creation and interim adjustments to consensus and approval. It’s going to be so nice to have less bias, opinion, and politics involved!
Obviously, when all of that happens, we are hoping and expecting a really great return on investment. So far, we are pretty excited and very optimistic.