We’re excited to kick-off our new Experts in Access series with an interview with co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Julie Yoo. Julie was recently recognized by MedTech Boston as one of their 40 Healthcare Innovators Under 40 and World Economic Forum as a member of their 2016 Young Global Leaders list, alongside Sam Altman, Amal Clooney, and other young civic-minded innovators.
What compelled you to start Kyruus?
There were a number of market conditions in 2010 that set the stage for the “moneyball” idea. One was the tremendous amount of data liquidity that was all of a sudden becoming real with meaningful use and the HITECH Act, and the fact that medical records were becoming digitized for the first time. Second was the Affordable Care Act, which was forcing health systems to change their business model from fee-for-service to fee-for-value and to push for operational efficiency and transparency. Third was the move from independent physician practices to an employed and affiliate network model.
I was excited because I came from the data world. I used data and analytics to create information efficiencies for other industries, and I saw the same opportunity to do that within healthcare. Patient Access was one of the first areas that had a buyer who was looking to solve those problems.
Tell us about your background and how your previous experience contributed to your work at Kyruus.
I grew up wanting to be a doctor, but I happened to be in school during the late ‘90s dotcom boom when everyone was going off to Silicon Valley. Being at an engineering school, I decided to try my hand at computer science and ended up loving it, so I earned degrees in both computer science and biology and wanted to build a career at the intersection of those two areas. I worked as a software engineer but migrated to more and more customer-facing roles. I ultimately focused on healthcare, which has historically struggled to adopt technologies. I always felt that there was such underleveraged opportunity within healthcare around technology.
I’ve always been a product person, both as an engineer building a product and as a product manager designing and taking products to market. I’ve always been in start-ups and had the very fortunate experience of being at companies that grew very successfully and ultimately had great exits. After the experience of working for great entrepreneurs, I decided that I wanted to try my own hand at entrepreneurship, which led me to start Kyruus.
What have you learned about our customers and the challenges they face in delivering care to patients?
Oh, that there are so many! Healthcare is particularly unique because there is not a direct buyer-seller relationship. The person buying the service is not the person delivering the service or receiving the service, and that creates complexities around incentive alignment and creating efficient marketplaces. Also the regulatory frameworks - there is so much that is mandated top-down that makes it hard for people to innovate. So our customers tend to be - for very good reason - much more risk averse.
Tell me about the evolution of our products over the past five years.
Our products have evolved quite a bit, but we’ve always had a basis in data. Vinay [CTO and co-founder of Kyruus] and I knew that information can be translated into high value business applications. The very first manifestation of our product was a data management system that took advantage of the increasing liquidity in physician data - whether publically available or customer data assets - and we built a first-in-class data management system that became the basis of all of our applications.
We’ve evolved to much more of a product orientation, so it’s not just about data and technology but what application are we providing, to whom, and for what type of job. We’re now serving very specific user personas - contact center agents who are helping patients get matched to the right doctor, physicians who are trying to facilitate referrals, and patients who are trying to self-navigate through complex industry constructs.
We’ve evolved to focus around 3 central themes. First is enabling systems to better manage physician networks that serve their patient populations and to coordinate care among those patients. Second is enabling organizations who are centralizing their operations to realize efficiency gains. The third is consumerization and creating a modern, digital customer experience for patients.
What is key to building a good product?
Finding a good problem to solve. Don’t build a problem in a vacuum, don’t build it on an anecdote. The stories of, “I personally had this problem” as an anecdotal experience is great as an inspiration point, but in and of itself does not always make a big enough problem for a new product.
Product management, what it boils down to, is a strategy job. You have to understand the intersection between who is the end user, who is the buyer, and who are the other stakeholders that are involved in making the product successful.
And then you have to have a great engineering team, which we have here at Kyruus. If you have good ideas, they’re only as good as your team’s ability to build them and deploy them effectively and then iterate with the market.
What’s one of your most important leadership lessons?
Humility - especially in this market where you are dealing with such human problems and human challenges. I always advise to not be cavalier with what technology can do or what any team can do around patient care. I have a deep respect for clinicians and what they do - their person to person contact - and I try to instill that philosophy among my team. We have phenomenally talented people here who have every right to be extremely confident in what they’re doing, but at the end of the day we have to remember that the people that we serve have extreme amounts of training and empathy for the people that they’re serving.
What excites you about the future of Patient Access?
The future is just beginning. Kyruus was early to the market and now we’re in the middle of one of the most exciting market evolutions in healthcare, both evidenced by the traction of market adoption that we’re seeing and the fact that there are so many other companies entering this space.
I certainly view healthcare as a market in which partnership is extremely important. I am very excited not just about us as a company but how we can interface with other companies and make 1+1=3.
Initially we focused on helping health systems manage their internal operations, in the past year we’ve expanded to helping patients as another stakeholder set. We’re now starting to engage with health plans and insurance companies to bridge the gap between the provider space and the payer space. There’s a tremendous amount of untapped opportunity.
What do you love most about your job?
Other than “everything!”, I love giving customers something that they’ve tried to build on their own. I liked to use the famous line from Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” We see people using duct tape and stilts to make faster horses, but we have the opportunity to build a car. The look in their eyes of, “Gosh, this is what I’ve been dreaming about the last five years.” Those special moments are what make my job awesome.