Can you explain exactly what your company does and what problem it solves?
Accolade has reinvented consumer engagement in healthcare to provide a single, easy-to-use solution that combines the power of 1-to-1 human relationships with advanced technology & analytics. This helps people navigate the complex healthcare system and get the right care the first time. Our professional Accolade Health Assistants interact with each person as an individual to build trust-based relationships and deliver a better healthcare experience.
Accolade has effectively tackled two of the biggest issues in healthcare by addressing fragmentation of healthcare delivery and programs, and reducing the 30-40% waste in the system caused by unnecessary or unproductive care. The result for large employers, payers and value- based health providers is lower costs, happier employees/patients and better health outcomes.
How did Accolade get started?
A small group of veteran executives and entrepreneurs wanted to do something to fix what was at the heart of the broken healthcare system: complexity and confusion for consumers and financial waste for payers. We hypothesized that a significant portion of healthcare expenses could be saved if we created a service from the consumer perspective. This service would allow them to better navigate the system and make choices appropriate for them. In 2007, I left a long-term senior executive position at Accenture, where I was running the Health and Life Sciences business, to become the founding CEO of Accolade. I believed then, and still do, that what we’re doing matters and will transform healthcare in this country. Every American should have the opportunity to have a trusted person on their side to help them with their healthcare decisions – from understanding their benefits, to finding providers, to getting appropriate and well-coordinated care.
What are some of the specific challenges you’ve faced as the company has grown and how have you successfully addressed them?
Overcoming complexity is a big challenge in healthcare. Early on, we thought we should focus on doing a few things really well by concentrating on specific conditions and diseases. We soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Ultimately it came down to supporting our personalized service approach with superior technology and analytics. By asking a wide array of clinical and contextual questions, and collecting nightly data from health plans and other employer services, we’re able to maintain a robust, real-time picture of every person that we leverage every day in our service delivery. And because consumers trust us, they’re sharing information with us that no one else has – information about motivators, life circumstances, family, finances, and emotions. You can imagine how powerful those insights are.
Our approach has been so successful that now we face the flattering challenge of competitors imitating Accolade. Other companies claim they can do what we do by relying almost exclusively on siloed technology, but they aren’t achieving anywhere close to our health results or cost savings. The difference is that Accolade prioritized the human element — the personalized attention and service, the trust. We asked consumers what they wanted and then built it. Our approach is to layer technology on top of that human experience to improve the accuracy of our insights, deliver rapid innovations and ensure that we’re constantly learning and getting better.
Tell us about your decision to bring in an equity partner.
Accolade was looking for more capital to invest in our accelerated growth, but the company was well-funded and growing successfully so additional funding was not crucial. Our interest was more about maintaining an existing, long-standing relationship with Carrick. Co- founder Jim Madden was already on our board, and we knew how much value Carrick delivered. Carrick understood the importance of the technology platform that sits under our business and has provided valuable strategic input as we’ve matured as a technology-enabled services company. As a partner, Carrick also has put tremendous time and effort into helping Accolade with the expansion of our board and our senior team, as well as the financial modeling of the business and helping to price and determine profitably around customer contracts.
What are the benefits of working with a group like Carrick Capital Partners?
The folks at Carrick have been in my seat before so it’s like having a professional coach. Making the transition to CEO, it has been very helpful to have direct access to individuals who have grown a company and successfully managed a board. Their expertise in operations, and their financial and transaction support have been particularly valuable. They have extensive networks and have been proactive in making very useful introductions.
What are the lessons you have learned from the private equity relationship?
It is important that your private equity partner understands your business and that you are strategically aligned. They need to bring relevant knowledge and experience to the table. What’s your advice for other growing businesses considering private equity? Do the reference checking and pick somebody you trust. This is a long- term commitment and you want a partner who creates new value and makes you a better company.
What are you most excited about at Accolade and what’s next?
Unbelievable growth. Accolade is the leader and an innovator in technology-enabled health engagement services. We’re expanding into new markets while continuing to grow our core market of large employer customers. We also are entering into novel new collaborations with other technology and analytics companies to enrich our solution and curate innovative new tools on behalf of the individuals we serve. Our challenge will be to make sure we can scale the business and our culture to match the market opportunity.