Software systems to innovate and grow

Episode 43

Taking Advantage of Technology in the Healthcare Industry: Peyton Reaves with WellVia

Show Details

As the CTO of WellVia, Peyton Reaves advocates behind his company’s moto, that most medical reasons can be handled online. Listen further to discover how bringing doctors visits online is revolutionizing the healthcare industry by making simple needs accessible and gasp, convenient. Further, we discuss why more companies should implement technology into their business and make it work for them. In Peyton’s words, “Why not take advantage of the things technology can do for your company?”

Show Transcript

Carlos: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of Tech People. Today, we have Peyton Reeves from WellVia on the show. This is a very interesting episode because we touch on a somewhat undiscussed topic, and it’s the philosophical differences amongst companies, where one company thinks of itself as a tech company even if widgets, or the product, or the service that it sells is not technology and how that plays a role in the culture of the company and the way that the company works. So this is a very interesting episode. We will talk about what WellVia does, how the product, and it is a very technical solution but again the result is not a technical thing. You’ll see once you start listening to it and then also how engineering play a role within delivering that result. But at the end, well as the name says, WellVia, it’s a healthcare company in the technology space. I’m extremely excited about this episode in particular because I know that there is a ton of you guys out there that are leading engineering organizations within the companies that don’t see themselves as a technology company whereas maybe view were not there delivering your work, the company would not make any revenue, wouldn’t make its profits etc.
So it’s an interesting topic to explore and see how we turn more of our companies into tech companies and it’s going to sound cheesy, prepare you for this, but that way we get more tech people to interview. Alright, so without further ado let’s welcome Peyton.

Peyton my friend, thank you so much for joining the show, how have you been?

Peyton: I’ve been great. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Carlos: You know, after we spoke a couple of weeks ago in our pre-interview. I actually did checkout your system; we’ll get into it in a second for people to know exactly what you guys do. In fact, one of my business partners, he is our Head of Engineering. He was actually here in Miami. He had a bit of a cold and I think he use your system to get a prescription, so that was pretty cool.

Peyton: Hey, that’s fantastic to hear.

Carlos: I know that I am telling as soon as we hit record instead of telling you before we did but I just wanted to kind of start it back.

Peyton: Oh, that’s great.

Carlos: So introduce yourself to our audience. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background and how did you get into tech?

Peyton: Sure, so I am the Chief Technology Officer here at WellVia. As far as my background, I’ve been in healthcare tech specifically over 10 years now. Everything from hospitals, to pharmacies and emergency room situations, from the business side of hospitals to where we are now and that’s directly impacting the treatment of patients between doctors and patients. That’s far as how I got into tech. I started as a software engineer, straight out of college, jumped right into the healthcare space and ever since then I’ve been writing code and leading teams building great products.

Carlos: I’m curious about, this is something that we as a company are doing in general strokes where we are identifying ourselves as or let’s say a lot of the clients that we worked with are in the, I don’t want to say healthcare specifically, but it’s more in the bioinformatics, so a lot of bioinformatics systems whether it’s like this big data analysis. For example, one of our clients, just to bring up an example they are doing genetic testing so we are managing all those procedures from where the specimen comes in to the lab all the way out and all the data and analytics surrounding that, so I’m curious what drew you to healthcare and bridging the bridge between technology and healthcare?

Peyton: Sure, so I actually stumbled into healthcare by half a stance, graduating at school, a company here in Dallas, Texas made a great offer so I jumped on board. I didn’t know much about healthcare at all prior to that and outside I was going to the doctor’s office once a year for a checkup that was about the extent of it. And ever since then with exposure to insurance, and the provider side, and the pharmacy side you realize quickly, “Ok yeah, there is a reason the healthcare is 20% of the US GDP.”

So coming out as a software developer the opportunity of healthcare was a myth. The healthcare is still behind in a lot of ways especially regards to technology. Especially with what we’re doing here at WellVia, right? We are virtually connecting a patient to a doctor. We’ll get a little bit into that in a moment. But the opportunity in technology has to solve so many problems in healthcare space is extremely exciting and that’s why I’ve stuck around.

Carlos: Alright, so I found that to be interesting sort of story that I’ve heard a few times when engineers pick a vertical or specifically the health vertical as probably the most general term I can give in. There is a mission behind it, right, improving healthcare, improving the quality of life from health perspective. So, that brings me into WellVia, so tell me a little bit about WellVia. What is WellVia and what do you guys do?

Peyton: Sure, at a very high level, we connect patients with U.S. physicians 24/7/365 through phone and video. So what that means is, few years ago American Medical Association came out and said, 70% of the reason people go to see a doctor can actually be handled over the phone. So WellVia and TeleMedicine is really virtual urgent care, so for your allergies, you got to call for flue, cold, your kid got an ear infection at 3AM, whatever the case may be all of the we can treat virtually. And so that saves you from having to drive down to an urgent care or the emergency room sitting right a whole bunch of even more sick people and you wait there for a couple of hours. Instead, you can request a consult online and under 10 minutes throughout the country you will be speaking with a doctor. That’s what we do.

Carlos: So talk a little bit about your experience kind of delivering this kind of product what WellVia delivers. Tell me a little bit about, at WellVia, what is the CTO do? Tell me what is your role as a CTO? Give me a glimpse as to how do you support the delivery of the product to connect patient and provider.

Peyton: Absolutely, so my average day is if you will is split…

Carlos: Is there such a thing as an average day in our field?

Peyton: Right, exactly. Anyone working for a startup can definitely laugh at the, “What do you do every day?” “Well, it depends. Ask me later, I’ll tell you.” So it’s everything from working with leading our engineering team, that’s building all of our products are built in-house and so all our mobile apps, web apps, behind the scene software processes we develop and maintain all of that as well as interfacing on the business side. So that could be either interdepartmental within the company or that could be external. You know, we work with a lot of large players in the space and insurance companies that we sit down with and we solve problems. So my day is usually split between the business side and the engineering side.

Carlos: So you alluded to this a second ago, right, you have multiple systems and web apps and I’m sure that’s how the interaction happens, and just backtracking there for a second, if I look at the healthcare delivery mechanisms, we have to go to a medic, to hospital, to actual doctor, setup an appointment and all these different things. You know, one of the benefits I see is that there is this skipping in the line type of mechanism or scheduling a call with a provider at a certain time instead of waiting four hours because you have a cold at a hospital. But how does that work?

Tell me a little bit about the inners from a technical perspective, right? How does that work? Is there a web application, are there any workers? How do you route which doctor send a request to? I am curious a little bit about without releasing any IP, right? I know the delivery mechanism works when I go to a doctor, right? I get in line, I put my name in a thing or I get a little number, and then they help me. How does this work at a digital level?

Peyton: Great question. So, what we’ve done is kind of two-fold. The initial experience for the patient and the physician is we want to make it as simple as possible. So it’s literally just a couple of clicks, a couple of questions, you answer and boom it’s done. As far as the patient is concerned they just request a to visit with a doctor, right? Now, following that on the backend what happens is that request goes out and our system is a distributed system and so your request will be dropped in a queue and based on dozens of different parameters as where you’re currently located, so if you are in the State of Florida for instance where you are now we will legally tie you with a doctor that is licensed in the State of Florida. And there are dozens of these different rules that all happen on the backend and near real time, gets processed, we then reach out to all of our physicians. We have a national network of physicians that belong to WellVia and all the qualified physicians will receive your request and it is first come first serve, so their first decision is, “Yes, I am available. I’ll take it.” We immediately assign that consultation and then the doc will reach out to you.

Carlos: So providers can prescribe via the web app or the mobile app.

Peyton: Absolutely. So what will happen is after your doctor treats you, they’ll determine if a prescription is necessary or not just like if you were to go see your doctor in person. And if they do deem it necessary then the physician will electronically prescribe to your local pharmacy. So when you eventually request your consult, they will say, “Hey, this is my local pharmacy.” And the doctor will send a script there just as if you were to go on the care across the street.

Carlos: And you said there is a mobile application, what are other mechanisms are there or patients to access the service?

Peyton: Sure, so we have mobile apps on iPhone and Android as well as a desktop browser I should say, and also to our 24/7/365 call center. You can call 855-WELLVIA and we’ll be happy to help you. And no matter what the process you go through it the experience is the exact same. You will be asked the same questions pretty much in the same order and your request will get send off.

Carlos: So we spoke a little bit about the product and the company. Now, I have a couple more questions with regards to engineering. So, you use a CTL right? This might be that you’re kind of biased to answer is WellVia a medical company first or a technology company first? There is something interesting about that kind of difference.

Peyton: Right, fantastic question. That’s a really unique perspective I like to look at. So typically I would ask you the same thing, is Uber a technology company or are they transportation company? Is AirBnB a technology company or hospitality company? I’d venture most people would look at Uber and say, “Oh, they are technology company.” But at the end of the day, the service are providing this transportation, so I think looking at approach at WellVia. Early on we said technology is going to be a dragging force behind everything that we do. And while we are providing healthcare we’re going to use technology to make that healthcare more affordable, more accessible to everybody. So that’s an easy example. Another that I like to give is Starbucks, right? Most people would think, “Well, Starbucks is a coffee company.” They would be asked, they will be right about that. But behind the scenes they are still a very technology forward leaning organization from everything from their kitchen, for instance their ovens are all Internet of Things connected to devices. So whenever they launch a new product they don’t have to train anybody on how long to heat up this new breakfast sandwich, right? That morning the barista will look at the screen and there is a new product there, they click it and they’re done. They are good to do. Now, their mobile apps, they are one of the first large companies to really bring forward mobile payments and using their app for mobile ordering. Things like that regardless of whether you’re clearly a technology company from the consumer side or on the backend that’s a really important view that we have at WellVia. And what occurs in any organization have is to take advantage of the things technology can do for your company.

Carlos: The way I kind of see it, actually based on something you said a second ago about the Starbucks example. Imagine if every Starbucks had to had a trained barista or a trained person, it would have them how many stores as they do or let say that they went to the tech route. And by the way I’m getting to some of the issues of being a tech company. The first one was more like in the comparison between being a tech company and not, like you don’t have to do that manually. But let’s say you ended becoming a technical company in the case of Starbucks. They have this IOT devices, the oven is an IOT device, the coffee machine is IOT device.

I actually have an interview later with a person that is doing some work in the IOT world and especially in the laboratory world. They design lab machines. But I imagine that Starbucks will be having these issues so imagine if you had to upgrade the oven using a flashdrive or upgrade the firmware plugging it in to a Windows computer to upload the file etc. That’s potentially an issue like issues that can be solved at that level because maybe there are no laws that prohibit Starbucks from doing that upgrade over the internet or getting that oven to be online.

So I’m just trying to find a common issue. Now, I bring that as a positioning point. I am curious about what are some common issues now for technology first company that is in this consumer facing because you are consumer facing healthcare technology world, right? It’s different than an EMR provider that sits behind in a hospital only doctors are suppose to touch that EMR, only the practitioners maybe. You know, you guys are consumer facing so it’s a different world. Are there any common issues you guys have to deal with in terms of laws? I know that HIPAA compliance is a thing. I’m not sure as to what level it is to you. But I’m curious are there any kind of red flags or things that are crucial for WellVia to be great.

Peyton: Absolutely. I mean you nail one of them with HIPAA. As far as security compliance we meet or exceed given all the healthcare requirement. So the same thing a doctor would be required doing a doctor’s office or any healthcare technology company that’s housing healthcare data. We have to adhere those same things, so that’s HIPAA High Tech. You can include SAC2 in there, PCI compliance or credit cards. All those things we do have to adhere to as well. So it’s certainly is, I mean every project we attack and that security is the number one topic raised when we dive into something. So it’s like, “Ok, let’s make sure that everyone is on the same page here. We’re meeting all the requirements to ensure that everything is secure.”

Carlos: So, as any other potential technology company and I’m thinking of even a SaaS company that is running a web based product. I am curious about the processes you follow to improve the product, again, in the same way that any typical web or tech company would have to have feedback and learn from client experience. In your case, patient experience and also provider experience. What are you particular feedback mechanisms? Are you talking directly to clients? I am curious about how that goes back to you guys?

Peyton: Absolutely, so I would say it’s two-fold. The first thing is on our end. We have analytics, we can see through the process of requesting a consultation, opening your medical history whatever the case may be, we can kind of track. Is there a point where people are getting lost? But I think the number one feedback mechanism that we have was actually a project that we recently released within past 6 months that’s hearing directly back from the patients themselves. And what we started doing was instead of email we started sending now a text message campaign or survey I should say to any patient that uses the service. So after you had your consultation went pick up your prescription, you have the ability to say, “Yes, send me text messages for status updates, notifications”, stuff like that. And what we’ll do is after your consult we’ll send you a brief text message conversation to get that information. And what we’re amazed at is almost half, a little over 40% of people that had a consultation filled out the survey, so 40% of people we reached out to said, “Yes, I’ll take your survey”, and responded to via text message.

Carlos: 40% is a huge number for that sort of thing.

Peyton: 40% is an absolutely huge number. Anywhere that’s in the customer service space knows that you’re hoping to get single digits. And so to have 40% of your people respond back is the testament to how excited they are about the service they just received. I’ve never seen that kind of number in my life. Not all the different healthier spaces, nothing has either comes close to that. And what’s even more amazing is out of that 40%, half of them elected to take the additional time and write out a few sentences to about their WellVia experience. Just everything from, “Hey, this was just absolute God sent. You know my kid was sick by the near it get 3AM, within 10 minutes I am talking to a doctor and now I’m already picking my prescription.” So that’s everything from the good stuff to, “Hey, I was playing with your app and I think adding this feature, moving this button would make a big difference.” It has been absolutely amazing to see that response come through.

Carlos: So the interesting part of being a tech first company is that I’m sure you have other leadership people that also want things done for the business, right? And I am talking, you use an example, but I am also thinking of just any other company has maybe Board of Directors, and investors and people that they have to respond to, “You know we are in a business for a mission”, but a company also has to make revenue in order to be able to fulfill that mission. So again, there are other priorities in businesses than the ones that we have as a tech company. In many cases you can consider yourself a tech company and because you’re are the CTO you might be bias towards that but if your COO could care less about some of the technical feedback or actually technical debt that you have. What they want is more delivery of more stuff and move faster because if we move faster we’re going to hit our goals. So again, now that you see that that company and when I say you, WellVia as a company sees itself as a tech company, how do you prioritize for such things as technical debt, and new products, features. In your case, I know you have multiple different portals. In the recording we haven’t spoken about your team size but it will be good to get an idea of that team size and how you are able to kind of wiggle through all the priorities. And this is essentially a two part question, how would you answer that to somebody who needs to respond to a Board of Directors who doesn’t care about the technical debt, right? They care about the new, new, new, push, push. How do you keep a balance between those two things?

Peyton: So two questions, I’ll answer the first one first. I’ll say it kinds of touch back to our earlier conversation about viewing yourself as a tech company, right? When WellVia was founded, we sat down and we said, “Our IT Department is going to be something different.” In fact, we even scrapped the word IT Department. And no one was allowed to say the word IT because it paints an image of email and printers and as a support department. We called our department Technology Innovation and we looked at technology as the driving force behind a business. That was a culture change. It was an adjustment of IT or tech is not going to be in a full support role. Well, at the end of the day every department is responsible for meeting the needs of the business and making it successful.

The way we view it though is technology is just as much a voice in that decision as anybody else. So when it comes to things like technical debt, when you address the priorities and needs of a business, technical debt is something that’s important that we have to take care of. And part of this company’s culture is understanding that if we’re going to be a technology leaning company we need to be on the forefront of a lot of these things and technology debt is something we need to address. So while to everyone in technology understands the to-do list is never ending and technology and things like that always seem to fall the way side. Certainly, that’s how we’ve addressed at here at WellVia in our culture. Is because technology is not viewed as a support mechanism, it’s more of a this is how we can get out and do better in the marketplace. We have a lot more leeway in prioritizing those things.

To your second question, we’re a small lean team here at WellVia. There’s 7 Software Engineers, so we were talking actually a little bit before this recording about the challenges of hiring the right people but, especially just as we just talk about as the technology leaning company your software engineers have an enormous impact at your organization. Hiring the right people is absolutely key so we are extremely proud of the technology that we built here and the level of impact ever single person has and the people we go up to battle against every day and we are winning business everyday with a much smaller leaner team that’s very exciting.

Carlos: You know, I think that if anything be heart of this episode is really about embracing, being a technology company when you are a technology company you will be able to really identify yourself as a tech company even if, let’s say you’re a bookkeeping company and I’m just going off here now tangent but that bookkeeping company will not grow unless it thinks if itself as a tech company. What they sell, the service is “widget”, right, the delivery of the process of being that tech company.

Without that foundation, you’re not going to be able to succeed or grow to a different level if those processes are not put in place. You know, I think of these warehouses where they do the bottling of Coca-Cola. Nowadays, that stuff is digital. We don’t need to have physical machines to do this stuff and we can use sort of the same mechanism to deliver sort of work we deliver whether it’s in healthcare, whether you’re improving healthcare, whether you’re delivering bookkeeping solutions. It kind of all boils down to the fact that technology fuels this sort of business.

And I think that your ideas, and in particular this whole thing of not calling engineering IT is key because especially, and I don’t mean to say older in a negative light, but more senior that did not grow with technology or the ones that did not embrace technology see technology as this servant thing, as this support. Almost like the janitor, and no offense to the janitors, but IT is not at the level of cleaning up room or the office. The business depends on IT for revenue. If IT, or engineering, or software, or technology doesn’t perform the company goes out of business.

And I wish I could share this with more people so I am really excited about this episode and actually being able to share this episode with couple of folks that I know that have had issues where the higher up is very senior. They are in the technology side and their junior, their younger, had a really hard time convincing upper management. You know, how do you treat this company as a tech company, so I think this is a very interesting topic that should go everywhere. I’m glad that you’re being able to share this stuff at us.

Peyton: I appreciate the opportunity.

Carlos: So My friend, Peyton, this brings us to unfortunately the last two questions of our interview. This has been an amazing topic. I wish we could go on forever. But what’s been the most fun part of your role? This is a new question I am asking because I want to know what do you define as fun, what do you love about your job and what makes you wake up every day? Outside of having to pay bills of course, but what gives you the most joy at work.

Peyton: Sure. So I think what has been the most fun about WellVia is the extremely rare opportunity to get to create something from scratch. Very rarely even on a startup world you get to walk in on something and they say, “If you were to do this, how would you do it?” So building a great team and together we’ve created some amazing technology, that amazing space as making a big difference really b building a culture as our team grows and we get to set that tone so that is by far been my favorite part at WellVia.

Carlos: Do you have any resources, any books, blogs that you would recommend? I’d love to share some of those even if you send them after this recording just to see if there’s anything we could share with the audience so they can kind of take note.

Peyton: Absolutely, so it’s little off topic but I recently finished a book called Never Split the Difference. It was written by former lead hostage FBI negotiator, so there was Chris Voss. He took his experiences at the FBI and now he is consulting in the business world and what he learned there that can be applied here. And initially, I read a lot of tech books, podcasts, blog articles, etc. And so this was a little coming from right field but it was actually a phenomenal read. And there is some characteristic and tricks of the trade. You will be amazed at how often you actually negotiate everyday especially as a tech leader, right? We have to prioritize work every single day, so whether it’s negotiating projects or an acquisition your company is purchasing, or just the day to day meeting and getting everybody the same page. It was a very unique read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think our audience here would too.

Carlos: Well, that’s the first time I heard that book, so Never Split the Difference?

Peyton: Yup.

Carlos: Perfect. We’ll have that on our show notes and I’ll also check it out, seems very interesting. Well, Peyton man, thank you so so much for coming on the show, taking time to participate and share your experience with us. Ultimately, this is a selfish thing I do. I get to talk to people like you and I am honored to be able to chat with you and learn from you. So thank you so much for taking the time.

Peyton: I really appreciate it.

Carlos: Alright, that’s it for this episode. We’ll see everybody on another episode of Tech People.