Episode 67

Communication is the Cornerstone

with Eric Demers
Episode hosted by: Nathan Bays

May 2, 2023

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Eric Demers
CEO, Madaket Health

Eric Demers is the CEO of Madaket Health. He believes we can transform healthcare delivery through the power of data and interoperability. With more than 25 years of global healthcare experience, Eric has built and scaled leading technology and service companies, from early stage to Fortune 100.



Small companies tend to be much more innovative in terms of their ability to try new ideas.



Nathan Bays: Welcome everyone to Day Zero a Think Medium Show. We’re focused on innovation and talking about companies that are doing very innovative things. I’m joined today by Eric Demers, who’s the CEO of Madaket Health. Eric, great to be with you.

Eric Demers: Great. Thanks for having me.

Nathan Bays: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got an interesting story, very interesting company and an interesting story as well about timing when you joined and some of the challenges and opportunities. But but before we jump into that, tell us just a little bit, Eric, about yourself. Where did you grow up and where did you go to school, and a little bit of your personal background.

Eric Demers: Yeah, I’d be happy to. Thanks for having me on the show. I grew up in Massachusetts born and raised up here. Just north of Boston. Went to graduate school in Washington, DC at Georges Washington to get a Master’s Health Administration. Did my undergrad at Verandas University just outside of Boston. I’ve been in the healthcare field pretty much since leaving graduate school my whole career traversing my way through payer provider tech companies, finance and a whole bunch of everything in between including national, international health. Spent my whole career, chased it. I really have a passion for it. Always trying to improve the system. Look for ways we can do things a little better or can we take some, cues from other countries and do something here. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to how do we improve the healthcare system as we move forward.

Nathan Bays: Yeah, so you know, Madaket is a, an innovative venture backed company. With your background also, you’ve worked at large companies such as IBM earlier. Your career. What were some of the learnings that you had from your experiences with kind of larger, global companies and how did you take those experiences and how, transition into working for a smaller, more innovative company and as a leader, as a CEO.

Eric Demers: Yeah, it’s it’s definitely apples and orange. We need to talk about, those types of organizations. One the largest in the world to, more a small, innovative startup. When I was, IBM was a great company. The workforce, be candid, I really enjoyed my time there. They have so many resources and their reach is really, beyond what most organizations can touch. So you’re exposed to so many op awesome opportunities, whether it be within the US system or outside the us. And it gives you a different perspective, right? You get to, you walk in and spend a lot of time with executives, whether it be large health systems, large payers heads of countries, from a healthcare perspective, and really, understand their day-to-day problems and how they pull those things together. So the reach was terrific. The downside with some of the large companies is that because they’re so big, there’s a lot of structure. Things move slow. It’s hard to make changes as fast as you would like. Personally, not organizationally, especially when you’re working with a client on something. Can you, do you have the flexibility to go outside the dorm and do something totally different? Maybe not. It’s a little harder from my perspective. And when you come down to, smaller organizations, it’s definitely very different. I think one of the biggest challenges for a lot of, or a lot of folks who come from, they come to small. Is the fact that just don’t have any resources. Or as many resources. You don’t have a whole market, the parking of the whole legal apartment of compliance, depart level, massive sales team. You wear a lot of hats, right? You are basically all those things at different times. You bring folks on to your organization to help expand and move forward. So from that perspective you have a lot of accountability. You have the ability to implement the things you want to implement, whether it’s good or bad. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. You learn from your failings. So if you have ’em and you move forward, but on the flip side, you, when small companies, like we can turn it, we can innovate quickly. If someone needs to make a change, we can implement in the days, weeks, months, depending on what the opportunity is. And that’s not, that’s really hard for large organizations.

Nathan Bays: So tell us just a little bit more on, on leadership, and this, the, this show and this audience is really focused on, founders, early stage venture companies and the, those who, who lead. Those companies a little bit about your journey into leadership. When did you know that you wanted to be, a CEO and, what are some of the characteristics and traits that you know, you think are important for being a CEO of an early stage growth, growth, minded company.

Eric Demers: All right, so I learned early on that not everyone thinks the same. Not everyone reacts to same. So you have to understand, Make sure you understand their viewpoints. That could be your employees viewpoints, your partners ships, viewpoints. It could be your client’s viewpoints. And how do they, coming at that perspective, trying to put yourself in their shoes permit and really understand what they are conveying and are they hearing what you’re actually saying? Are they hearing you say something totally different? And I’ve seen all those scenarios play out over time. Under, the communication piece is really important. Then there’s, that’s like a foundational block. And then, Really understanding, more empathy for your, for the folks you work with and trying to understand them from that perspective. Appreciate that. So those are two cornerstones, ones for me, but then being very clear about when our objectives are and making sure that everyone’s on the same page with what we need, where we need to go, why we need to go there, why the organization is moving in a certain direction. And then, understanding that in small organizations we all wear a lot of hats. So I have to empower our folks to make those decisions. Not everyone, not every decision should come. And me, candidly, if we’re all on the same page and we know what we’re doing by even very comfortable people, making those decisions, holding that and moving forward might stand behind it. So you have to be comfortable allowing people to take risks and hopefully you trust the folks that you’re working with enough that you. Will know that they’re gonna take the risks that they think are best and the org and have the organization in mind and you stand behind it.

Nathan Bays: Yeah. Did Covid change any of your perspective or maybe add to the list or what were some learnings or kind of some points of reemphasis? During during covid.

Eric Demers: Definitely Communication was a critical one, but I think, beyond that was how do you. How do you maintain your culture is hard. How do you create that same sense? You can’t make the, create the same culture sense as being in the office, but how do you make sure people are connected? What do you do to make sure that we stay connected and engaged? Overcommunicating, in many ways, we will do, yeah, we basically do a all, all fans meeting every Monday, right? We wanna make sure everyone in the organization has a chance to hear what, say what else is doing on the same page. We have a lot of other meetings, but Once a week on which everyone and say on the same page, right? So that’s all. We have folks from the west coast, east coast, north south. We have folks all over the place. So there’s the communication piece. So then, really understanding where people are at from a, from a covid in this time was Covid Health perspective. How they feel about it, what their concerns are what can we do to support them. And everyone’s very different individual. They have different things going with their families. And it was making sure we have a keen appreciation for what that is in the moment and how we can be supportive of what they need. Katie, from that perspective and I think that’s a very different time. Now, if I like think back pre covid, right? I was on a plane every week, come running around the country, know, running the outside the country, I’m going everywhere, right? And I just kept to screeching co. And I then, I hadn’t traveled the problems two years or at one point. I can’t say I miss it candidly. I liked travel, but not that much. I traveled way too much and I realized I. I don’t need to travel there. So I don’t need to be, all in those places all the time. I was, I thought I had to be, I think a lot of us thought to be, it was what we did and our clients would’ve didn’t expect us to be there. Even your employees expected to go do things. So I think everyone’s mindset shifted over time. And then now it’s with how it’s about learning, how do we find the right path forward.

Nathan Bays: Let’s talk about Madaket and Before we talk about the company, I’ve got to ask you about the, the name and the origin of the name. I’m imagining, someone sitting on the beach, off the coast of Massachusetts and Nantucket. And and just envisioning this idea and naming the company. But tell me if that’s a correct assumption or or not.

Eric Demers: It’s not too far off. Fuffing is definitely named after Vatican Beach on the Nantucket. And the. The reason is the founder of the organization, Jim Doherty his wife’s family was like an original family on the Mayflower way back to the early days, and their family settled and the in that area when they, so Madaket in Madaket Beach had a, like a special place and their family’s history in his heart. And when they followed the company, he thought it’d be cool to bring that forward and you that they just love it. History for him and the family.

Nathan Bays: All things in healthcare over the last 20 years has created some really unique opportunities to. Or increase, data flow between payers and providers to create better opportunity for patients, for physicians to have access to data and the, at least to date the realization of those opportunities have not matched the opportunities. Good progress but what can be done when we think about the future is, Has probably less than has been done to date. And Madaket is a company that’s looking to bridge that gap in many ways. But tell us a little bit about the company and a little bit about how you operate within that construct of, helping, payers and providers, access data and, use it, interchangeably together.

Eric Demers: Yeah, definitely. We have a strong belief about eliminating how unnecessary items, tasks, work, whatever you wanna call it, from an industry perspective, that takes away time from care, any care setting. I don’t care what that setting is, but it’s making sure we, allow folks to do what they intend and want to do, which is spend more time with. With patients and moving that side of the business forward. Unfortunately, for, and especially in the US healthcare system, we have a lot of checks and balances. Maybe sometimes we check our checks and balances too many times. And it creates a lot of redundancy, a lot of odorous work on all sides. So the, one of our core founding lease was how can we, create a platform that allows. Providers and payers to exchange information more seamlessly in an organized fashion without having to repeat that for every instance that they do going forward. As an example of your provider organization and you’re working with, a bunch of insurance companies, on behalf of the patients that you’re seeing you might work with 20 or 25 different insurance companies. That’s not uncommon. In order to do that, a lot of providers must off to go through a lot of business requirements in order to be enrolled with those payers to be fee schedule with those payers to be eligible to make sure that. Payer have to make sure that they are in good standing, that they’re credentialing mistakes, that they have the proper licensing to do what they’re supposed to do, that they offer. They say they’re in a very simplistic way. And then once they iron in all those pieces out, then they can go forth and do the work they all require. It’s just to see patients and over time you have to continue to check on those things on all sides, make sure nothing has changed and everyone’s in, in good step. And as you would imagine, there’s a lot of work involved. It takes a hefty amount of time for all sides to come together and exchange that data. And the challenge with modern data is it’s, historically it’s not organized in an electronic fashion. Particularly on the providers side. They would’ve had a. Files, literally files of Excel spreadsheets, emails, all kinds of stuff with all this information, the mul, they could be multiple locations if they have multiple practices. So how do you pull all that data together and then be able to automate that sending to the payers and like communication, enable that communication back and forth with the payers. So that was the ethos of where we started the business. We got into that business, creating a platform that would allow. The providers to ingest and put all their information into a single place. We would then store, keep that, up to date for them, and then be able to create those linkages to all the payers that they need to work with to do enrollments or financial transactions. It could be just to be enrolled in the practice. It could be a whole myriad of different things that they would need to do. Exchange information that we have so much data in our system. We work with pretty much every single payer in the country we’ve worked with. We could probably, automate a lot of this or auto adjudicate a lot of this information. Say it that way. It’s really, if we know the rules on both sides and what they’re looking for, and there’s really no reason that the system can’t, make sure that those are next. And if they’re met, they’ll just move forward. So we believe in the future that’ll be the opportunity for us too.

Nathan Bays: Tell me a little bit more about Just from a company perspective, but also from a leader, a leader perspective CEO perspective, you’re not ibm, you’re a small company. In Madaket, some of the challenges and quite frankly the opportunities, I know you’ve referenced for, one of the advantages of being small is being nimble and being able to pivot quickly. But what are some of the challenges and opportunities when you go out and make your pitch to a provider system or a payer system? What, how do you think about that and how do you convince them of the, of a value problem?

Eric Demers: Yeah, there’s there’s def. Being small is not always an advantage when making healthcare. I know this, I’m working with a lot of large companies, right? And we would actually win a lot of work off the back of what you sure you wanna go with that small company? They might be in business in the year, they might get bought. There’s all those things that people say are come up. And then, large company has that stability factor, then they’re done that stand behind, bigger street of success. So how do you sell against those challenges? On the flip side though, Our small companies tend to be much more innovative in terms of their ability to try new ideas, bring things forward that others wouldn’t have gotten to yet and then be able to move and be really reactive with those customers. We go with the mindset of trying to help them understand that, we’ve been around for actually a long time. We been growing consistently over time. We actually have a lot of very large customers and a lot of medium customers, small customers. So we have a history of success. Now we can point to where those things are. And I think that actually makes a big difference, especially you’re talking to organizations where you, that new, some of the big challenges for us is just being known Kayleigh. When you’re a small company, everyone knows who Rob, IBM have, is hardly anyone knows who Madaket is until they, until you introduce it to them, until they get to understand the concept, right? And you have to truly on you to be out there and pushing that forward so they understand all the great things that you’re doing. Until you become more of a unknown entity in that business. So it’s there’s definitely challenges on both sides of that. But we find that once we get in, they really enjoy the working relationship because it’s a, we, we need them, want them to be super successful and we spend a lot of time making sure that happens.

Nathan Bays: Looking ahead you sit at a very interesting perch in kind of a, the growth area, growth company, intersection of payer and provider. When you look out five, 10 years, what excites you the most about how, the potential, I should say of payers and providers working together and just the ability of, effectively the digitization of healthier information and the ability to actually use that digitization, use the technology that’s being created behind it, companies like Madaket to enhance the way care is delivered and reduce friction costs. What excites you the most?

Eric Demers: We’ve barely scratched the surface candidly. And I think what excites me is what you can do with the all data that’s will be available in the future. And it’s. It’s more than most people can even comprehend cuz they don’t think about it on a daily basis. But, the, at the core of healthcare is the, and our system anyways is the relationship between a provider and payer needs to work before they can go re do anything with a patient in most cases, right? So unless you’re paying fee for service or cash, which is very few in the United States, you really need that relationship to be working optimally. And it, I can’t say it has historically. And I think the challenge is with, how do we know we don’t have the data in many cases to, to support what’s going on. And when I think five or 10 years, we’re gonna have so much data, we’re gonna be automate some of these things. We’re gonna be able to use so much more technology around. It could be ai, ml or just other, related technologies in order to move the needle forward significantly, and it’ll speed out faster, and faster. So we should be able to, identify where buyers are practicing instantaneously, what their fee schedules are, what they charge for various items. What does that mean for a consumer? Where should I go get my chair? What’s the best spot for me? Where should I tailor that? What’s the closest product being to my house like, We can do that with somes every other industry technology. Now we, we can log on and and really help us or iron out what we need instantaneously and make a good decision. We help, we’re working that. I think this information will help consumers make much faster, better decisions about their chair, what’s best for them. It’s more personalized from that perspective. It’ll allow the exchange of information with different government entities, which will better their. They care with locally and make sure that the regions are served effectively, especially if they’re disproportionately served. We have a lot of, disparities there with, especially within cities, rural areas. Make sure we can iron that out and the data will help us there and whether also, if you, we can get by Second Pharma, like CO’s a good example of, how we sped up certain things in order to be able to, produce drugs faster. There’s a lot of research that goes on. There’s lot of efficacy around that. How do we align patients and providers with those right organizations to move those things faster through the system? A lot of that requires data and be able to support that information. So there’s so many different angles you can take with it and that, and every year we’re gonna be producing significantly more and more digitized information. And then, so how we can take our, get our arms around that in five plus years, 10 years. It’d be very difficult. This say this will be much faster than has.

Nathan Bays: It’s exciting. It’s exciting. And you personally and. Company are right in the middle of it. It’ll be a really fun time. Yeah, it’s awesome. Eric, thanks so much for joining us today. Really appreciate your time and and thanks for being a guest on Day Zero.

Eric Demers: No, I loved it. And thanks for bringing me on. Gimme a chance to talk minutes.

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