Podcast interview with Anvita Health CEO Rich Noffsinger (transcript)

This is a transcript of my recent podcast interview with Rich Noffsinger, CEO of Anvita Health, a leading clinical decision support and health care analytics company.

David Williams: This is David E. Williams, co-founder of MedPharma Partners and author of the Health Business Blog.  I’m speak today with Rich Noffsinger, CEO of Anvita Health.  Rich, thanks for your time today.

Rich Noffsinger:    David, thank you for the opportunity to chat with you.

David:    When we spoke last year your company was called SafeMed.  Since then you’ve changed the name to Anvita Health.  What’s the significance of the new name?

Rich:    Well we were finding, David that a lot of our prospects and the potential customer base was associating SafeMed just with drug safety. While we are very excited about what we do in drug safety, we do so much more that we did not want to be pigeon holed into that narrower band of capabilities.  So a little over a year ago we embarked on the process of looking at alternative names that would not give our customer base and prospect base that narrow perception.  Through the process of working with a team to look at the different options, we came up with Anvita Health.  I’ve got to tell you, it’s not a fun process –just about everything is copyrighted out there.  All the url’s are already owned and so it’s a pretty difficult process, but we couldn’t be more happy with the name change and the reception that it’s getting in the marketplace.

David:    Rich, the stimulus package has a number of provisions related to health care and health IT.  For example, there are incentives for “meaningful use” of electronic health records, and also money to fund comparative effectiveness research.  It seems to me there should be a role for Anvita Health in there.  What’s your impression?

Rich:    We are very excited about the investments and direction that the Obama administration is putting in place and has put in place with the stimulus package.  With regards to the stimulus package specifically, in  meaningful use, one of the the things that is a requirement is clinical decision support. That obviously falls into a sweet spot for us because we do that we think very, very well.  We do that at the point of care as well as in batch mode, so we can have meaningful discussions with EMR vendors and e-prescribing, lab orders and results, CPOE, anybody who is providing that kind of technology at the point of care. Our ability to do powerful and comprehensive analysis in subsecond time gives us a very exciting discussion and compelling value proposition in that regards.  Regarding comparative effectiveness, again it’s early on to know what that will mean from an automated perspective, but our algorithms and our ability to analyze data we feel is very compelling to providing value in analyzing the millions and millions of patients and gigabytes and terabytes of data that’s out there to provide an insight into what really delivers comparative effectiveness.

So our technology is something we’re excited about bringing to the forefront in these discussions.  All this effort to computerize patient records and patient information is very exciting, but at the end of the day if it’s just sitting there in a shoe box, albeit an electronic shoe box, that’s just the very first step.  What do you do with it?  How do you analyze for comparative effectiveness or many other different ways of leveraging that data in an intelligent and compelling way?  We think we have a very exciting value proposition to the marketplace as a whole.  All those things are areas for us to be excited about and for us to feel some of the potential that is brewing up in health care/IT as a whole.

David:    In terms of  clinical decision support, are you seeing any kind of a shift from batch processing toward real-time decision support at the point of care?

Rich:    You would anticipate or we might anticipate that.  We aren’t.  We are seeing a continued, heavy appetite for batch processing for those organizations that have large patient populations and want to analyze that in a batch mode –whether it’s hundreds of thousands of lives or even millions of lives at one time.  That market interest and market demand and appetite for that type of technology, we see right now just continuing to grow.  We see for the time being a very slow start in real-time,  point of care growth and interest. There may be some,  ‘Let’s see how this all shakes out’ kind of activity.  We are a little bit of a laggard in that we’re not the leading indicator in that whole discussion. The EHR, CPOE or e-prescribing solution has to be in place for us to engage.  We don’t have an end-to-end solution but are  providing technology and middleware to do clinical decision support, so we work with other companies in that regard for final delivery.

David:    Do you expect to see health care reform this year. If so, what are the implications for Anvita Health?

Rich:    I have my hands full in my corner of the world.  I try to keep in touch and aware of what’s going on, but I am certainly not the best prognosticator of what’s going to happen in Washington.  Putting on my very amateur hat, I would say that something will get passed, but my guess is it’s going to be watered down.  I’m doubtful it will be meaningful in the context of compelling or huge change.  Anvita Health is not dependent on it being passed or not being passed.  We see a huge need for better leveraging technology and better leveraging the data that’s out there.  So if it gets passed, obviously we hope that it gets passed in a smart way.  Just any change is not necessarily better, but clearly the system is broken as it is today and we can’t sustain the continued projections or trajectory that we’ve been on for the last 20 or 30 years in health care.

David:    I’d agree with you that comprehensive reform looks pretty unlikely at this point.  On the other hand, if I think back to Hillary Clinton’s health plan in the 90’s, even though no legislation was ultimately passed, it did get everybody going.  Just the talk of change got everybody thinking differently and moving forward.

Rich:    I think you’re right on the mark there.  The fact that the pot is being stirred, whether there is actual legislation or not, I do think will effect change. In particular we will see more intelligent application of what we’re doing in the health care area as a whole.  With the amount of time, effort, resources, and thought that’s gone into health care change or legislation in the last two or three months, I am strong believer that ultimately that’s all a good thing.  Get people talking and aware.

David:    Private health plans seem to be taking a beating in health care reform and it looks like they may have some restrictions on them like limitations on medical loss ratio or limitations on medical underwriting.  I wonder if that’s having any impact on the kinds of services that they’re seeking from you; the sorts of analytics that they need to be able to run and decisions they need to make to stay viable in the new era.

Rich:    I don’t know. I plead ignorance in that I don’t know what’s the motivating factor.  Is it potential legislation or is it something beyond that?  I don’t know.  But I can tell you that the private insurers have got a pretty strong appetite at least as far as it goes with Anvita Health of better leveraging of the data that they have to be smarter, to find out how to help patients be healthier, and find where gaps in coverage exist within their patient population to identify drug interactions and problems with medications.  Those are the types of things that we do so well. It’s in their data, but getting to it has proven to be very, very difficult in the past.  There is an appetite to be more proactive in lowering costs while improving the quality of care, keeping people healthy and helping identify who is at risk early on.  These are all things that Anvita Health does very, very well.

Health plans have data.  Their appetite to leverage that data with technology such as Anvita Health provides is very strong right now.  We saw it a year ago.  So I don’t know if it’s the recent discussion going on in Washington D.C. or other factors, but it’s very active right now.

David:    Are you seeing some of the larger provider organizations, I’m thinking about integrated delivery networks in particular, making use of Anvita Health services as opposed to just waiting for the health plans to provide them with information and the interpretation of it?  Are the provider organizations trying to take the bull by the horns?

Rich:    We are seeing some of that and I do think that there is some increased activity in that area.  One of the challenges that they have is deployment to hundreds of thousands of doctors, which is not an easy process.  So the whole cycle is longer, but is there increased activity?  Is there increased interest?  Absolutely.  And again, at the end of the day I think it’s focused on two things.  First and foremost is providing better care and patient outcomes.  Secondarily, but also important, is doing it at a lower cost.  These integrated systems clearly benefit from technology like Anvita Health.

David:    Last time we spoke some about personal health records. I’m thinking in particular about Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault that were getting launched and I know that you had a major partnership with Google Health.  Is that still a priority for Anvita and what sort of progress have you seen in that area?

Rich:    Well Google has been a great partner for us and we still work with them very closely.  I am a big believer in PHR’s.  I think that the ramp has been slower than anybody would have liked, but there continues to be investment in that area and I believe strongly that one of the key ways, not the only single path, but one of the key components of helping to refine and improve our overall health care system is personal responsibility.  I think personal health records are incredibly valuable in really helping the patient understand and deal with the complexity of health care. Google Health getting better all the time and growing their user base and I think that will just continue.  We’re very close to Google and what they’re doing and thrilled to have them as a partner and look forward to a very long relationship with them.

David:    We’ve covered a lot of ground today.  Anything that I’ve forgotten to ask?

Rich:    No, I think these are a great set of questions, David.  We’re excited about what’s going on in the health care community as a whole, the awareness and activity and certainly the role that health care technology can bring to delivering a better ecosystem.  At the end of the day, data is incredibly important to working smarter and providing better outcomes and identifying how to do it at a lower cost.  All of those things are areas that Anvita Health brings a lot to the table, a compelling value propostion.  So we think the future is very bright for the overall system and our role in it.

David:    I’ve been speaking today with Rich Noffsinger, CEO of Anvita Health.  Rich, thanks so much.

Rich:    Thank you very much, David.  I appreciate it.

September 1, 2009

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