Health care in the United States is a fragmented system. One patient can go on a journey from the emergency room to the lab for blood work, then to the pharmacy, and then back to the general practitioner for a follow-up, all for one problem. If you consider this pattern over a person’s lifetime, it adds up to a lot of health care-related information being stored in a lot of different places.
This siloed nature of health care often results in a suboptimal patient journey. Physicians aren’t getting the full picture, often lacking access to a common set of medical records, and too little is invested in preventative care.
It may seem that without a superhero, America’s healthcare system is doomed. Fortunately, there is hope. The future of health care is coming, and Bendcare’s CEO, Andrew Ripps, is bringing it.
“There are a lot of actors on the stage in the delivery and operations of health care. It’s very complex in North America,” Andrew says. “Bendcare is about healthier health care: helping the healthcare system function better for both patient and doctor. Recognizing health care is moving into consumerism, we have built tools for doctors and patients.”
Currently in the rheumatology specialty, Bendcare offers solutions to help rheumatologists standardize and simplify their practices. This infrastructure allows the care team to shift more focus to quality of care, improved patient satisfaction and optimized practice performance.
It’s changing the lives of the patients who struggle to cope with these lifelong chronic diseases, and it’s changing the face of health care. “The physician community needs to have 21st century service models and 21st century technology infrastructure. That’s what we’ve been able to deliver,” Andrew says with confidence.
Bendcare offers a suite of products, services and education, powering the United States’ largest supergroup of rheumatologists, American Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates. Founded in 2015, the company has already earned the reputation as the leading provider for rheumatology educational summits, where industry experts such as CuraScript SD convene and appreciate the value they provide.
“Data is the new currency of health care.”
“The only way to step into the future is to have a service, technology, education and purchase power model that can deliver predictable outcomes and control quality and cost,” Andrew shares. “You really need an ecosystem with these foundational pieces to compete in the evolution.”
Enter Bendcare’s proprietary Columbus technology platform. This revolutionary data analytics platform utilizes prospective real-world data, predictive analytics and decision support visualization tools to help providers and patients on their journey.
“We’ve been very successful with our Columbus technology platform in helping patients and providers work together around common expectations and common outcomes,” Andrew says. “It offers valuable insights into the patient journey: ‘Over time, is the patient getting better with the treatment plan?’ It’s undoubtedly one of the reasons we are seeing the biggest growth in our services and technology solutions today.”
However, the company’s other products and services are essential in helping providers simplify their practices and deliver top-notch care. For instance, Bendcare’s specialty pharmacy, WhiteGloveRx, addresses the chronic patient’s therapeutic needs by improving the delivery of medications and office supplies, thereby creating ‘just-in-time’ processes meant to reduce waste and optimize staff.
Further, its Oasis Health line provides 10 proprietary, physician-formulated products, ranging from nutritional supplements to highly demanded CBD oil. “At Bendcare, we’ve garnered trust as a data partner, a leader in education and a service provider to physicians, and with our infrastructure, we’ve been able to align all of the stakeholders in health care around truly advancing the patient journey,” Andrew says.
“Just like it takes a village to raise children, it’s taken that type of collaboration with my leadership team and with our employees to be able to execute and see the difference we’re making.”
Raising the healthcare bar takes a team of renegades on the same page with the same shared goals. It’s a special alignment that’s necessary to make a dent in today’s healthcare dysfunction.
“When you disrupt the market, even if it’s dysfunctional either from the absence of quality metrics or from escalating costs, it can pose a challenge. Some people like status quo,” Andrew explains. “It’s important to have everyone aligned on why we’re doing this: to make health care healthier. It takes time to help people understand what we’ve built. Values matter in the most successful companies. We’re injecting values and disrupting the status quo to heal health care.”
“Values matter in the most successful companies. We’re injecting values and disrupting the status quo to heal health care.”
With Bendcare’s shared ‘A+ values’ of accountability, adaptability, authenticity and appreciation, it becomes easier to solidify ideal partnerships. “That’s our first litmus test,” Andrew says. “Do we have common values? That’s important. When I use the word ‘accountable’, we’re truly accountable to the shared goals we have by joining together. We’re accountable for each other’s successes in the partnership.”
In his mind, authenticity is just as important. He’s not interested in replicating something in the market. It’s his mission to put the health back in health care, which requires disruption. “Not necessarily destruction though, because there are many things that are working well in our system,” he adds.
From there, appreciation comes in. Is there a mindset of collaboration by appreciating the core competencies a partner has? “By coming together, it’s important for both parties to be stronger. We’re better together and working towards a common goal of improving health care, one patient journey at a time,” Andrew explains.
“It’s important to have everyone aligned on why we’re doing this: to make health care healthier.”
Adaptability is also huge; failure’s not an option. “You go in with your best efforts, and even if you don’t obtain your desired outcomes, you support each other through it all and solve problems together.”
Beyond partnerships, Bendcare’s employees are also held to these same high, A+ standards, but luckily that’s not an issue. As it turns out, there is still a number of people in the world looking to make a difference.
“We hire people who bring these values in their DNA,” Andrew says. “One of the best moves I ever made for Bendcare was assembling a world-class leadership team. They are experts, both individually and historically, in their own right in their careers.”
Establishing those A+ values early on in the company’s history has paid off. As Bendcare continues to grow and scale, it’s been easier to stay true to its roots.
“It shows in our collaborations with partners, how we attract new talent in our company and how we conduct ourselves every day in the marketplace and in our community. It’s deeply ingrained in all that we do. For example, as a company, we raised thousands of dollars’ worth of hurricane relief supplies that we donated to those devastated by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas this past fall, including supplies for animals through Golden Retrievals Rescue, which was recognized on the covers of local newspapers,” he says.
While the company has completely shaken up the rheumatology market, Andrew says that they are just getting started. “We began here because of an aging population with an inflammatory disease affecting, in varying degrees, their ability to live a healthy and active lifestyle,” he explains.
“In our blueprint, we have the flexibility to take this infrastructure – whether it’s our service model, our technology model, our education or purchase power model – and pivot it to help other parts of our system deliver healthier health care. This is all pivotable, so stay tuned.”
Bendcare’s first step into the future will be continuing to build upon its accomplishments. The company wants to further educate patients, not only about their disease, but about their entire journey.
“We think we can build on computer-assisted information and some of our algorithms and the artificial intelligence we built so patients can benefit from what we call course correction. In other words, they won’t have to wait a month to find out what’s going on with their treatment plan,” he explains. “Both provider and soon patients will be able to see more quickly whether the treatment is working.”
Andrew is also focused on the employer side of the equation. “We think the employer needs a deeper understanding, not only of the cost, but also of how to make and keep their employees healthy,” he says.
“Many employers struggle with escalating costs. Our Columbus decision support platform coupled with our medical services can help them achieve predictable, cost-effective outcomes for their employees while widening access to our service model that benefits all stakeholders.”
Overall, Bendcare is dedicated to restoring the decision making back to the doctor and the patient because, according to Andrew, the payer system in North America has created artificial barriers. The company looks forward to breaking them down through an exciting collaboration with insurance companies.
“The right information at the right time can benefit the employer, improve patient care, and ensure appropriate cost controls. I look forward to being the leader in designing a model that moves the market from transaction costs when patients enter the system to holistic costs,” Andrew explains.
“We’re better together and working toward a common goal of improving health care, one patient journey at a time.”
“I want to continue building on those relationships to not only escalate our current success but also entice other specialties, embrace our infrastructure, and lead the way in reforming the quality-and-cost dilemma in North America.”
Andrew’s passion for change was ignited upon graduating pharmacy school. It was then when he decided to focus on the business side of health care. From that angle, he’d be able to have the most impact on patients’ lives.
His journey started at the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Here, he was on the frontline of scientific breakthroughs and life-changing innovation, even working as part of a team that built the first data repository for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or, more commonly, AIDS.
“I was very, very satisfied, feeling like I was truly helping patients,” he shares. “The theme for me in my three-plus decades of working in health care is that everything I have done has really been about helping the patient journey and making health care healthier.”
“The theme for me in my three-plus decades of working in health care was that everything I did was really about helping the patient journey and making health care healthier.”
Running with a belief that information is the new currency in health care and with the invention of the internet, Andrew knew he could make a difference with data.
“At Glaxo, I was part of the electronic medical record marketplace when it first started. We built our own medical record. Of course, back in 1990, we didn’t have all of these wireless phones and different apps,” he continues. “Collecting data and understanding how to use the information was really important. So, with the introduction of the internet, I thought I could improve health care by connecting different companies’ fiefdoms of data.”
After 12 years with GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew moved on to concierge medicine, focusing on primary care and the importance of prevention. Here, he helped patients invest in themselves with a doctor who had a limited number of patients versus a large volume.
Then, in 2014, when he had taken some time off to be with his family, he was approached by some special rheumatologists, Dr. Howard Busch and Dr. William Sunshine, who practice in Florida. “They were excited about making health care healthier on the specialty, chronic disease side,” he shares, “and that was the genesis of Bendcare.”
More than a career, Bendcare has been a meaningful passion project for Andrew. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy, but for him, it has been worthwhile. “The best decision I ever made for my career was to take my clinical and scientific background and focus on the societal approach instead of a one-patient approach,” he says.
“To sum it up, I combined my clinical knowledge and entrepreneurial experience throughout my career to dare to make the world a better place on a grander scale.”
The bold move wasn’t without hiccups, though. At one point, Bendcare was growing fast – too fast – leaving Andrew scrambling for a solution. “We were growing rapidly in one of our business units, and it wasn’t staffed properly. We didn’t have enough resources to stay on top of it,” he shares. “Up until then, I had never experienced an explosive growth opportunity in my career, although I had read about it before.”
Despite his familiarity with this common textbook case of rapid growth, Andrew had to experience it himself to truly learn from it. He’s a more proactive leader today as a result. “It’s been important to invest ahead of the growth with the key indicators,” he says.
“It’s been important to invest ahead of the growth with the key indicators.”
“In that particular case, we had to put contingencies in the business very quickly because we were at the cliff of either restoring the business or losing the faith of our customers. I’ve always been a cost-conscious, prudent and balanced leader, but now I know what the signs look like to get ahead of scaling a business.”
“We’re having fun making a difference.”
Knowledge is power when it comes to better health care, and everyone knows that with great power comes great responsibility. Now, Andrew may not be Thor swinging around a hammer, saving the world. But, as CEO of Bendcare, he’s rescuing sufferers of chronic illness from the woes of today’s flawed healthcare system.
“We have empowered physicians who work with us who are delivering superlative service and care for the patients with chronic disease. It’s wonderful to be a beacon for the effort to define how to collect data and use it for the good of the employer, the good of the provider and the good of the patient to get the best outcomes,” he says. “We’re having fun making a difference.”
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