Jamie Carlyle is the Senior Manager of Strategic Growth for WellPath Health. In her role, she is directly responsible for evaluating site selection and feasibility based on system requests and strategy. We were curious to know what her first impression was when she was introduced to RES and STRATUS, as well as how it has changed her daily work and the way her team operates within the organization. We wanted to better understand the challenges that her team faced–especially considering that these are the individuals that we consider our “super users”. It has often been analysts like Jamie would have helped RES evolve STRATUS into a better, more useful tool for our clients.
Before STRATUS, how were you facilitating ambulatory planning?
Well, that was a long road and we went a couple of directions. Early on, we would look at demographics and our past experience to try to narrow down sites. We would get a map out and plot all the locations and estimate the population—you know the drill. We also relied heavily on insights and correlations from the inpatient world, which isn’t always apples to apples with ambulatory. We were doing the work, but it was very manual and took a lot of time. On top of that, there was a lot of discussion with the team and various stakeholders…but it’s difficult to make a decision that you feel confident in.
Through the years we also worked with a retail analytics firm that provided some level of healthcare analytics—but what we got were mainly reports with site scores, customer profiling, etc.that we struggled to translate into a business case. We spent more time than we cared to trying to translate those metrics into a financial, staffing and development perspective, and even then it confused our decision makers. It just didn’t give us actionable market opportunities.
And yet, you said that you continued to work with this firm. Why was that?
I would say there were two reasons. The first was that we didn’t know there was another option. I mean, at that point, it was clear we needed a more efficient way to bring more meaningful data together but we couldn’t find the right tool that was already built or that really brought value for the price. So, we built something ourselves that partially worked but with serious limitations. For example, you couldn’t update it on the fly so every time there was a change we were back to square one.
The second reason, and this came into play even after we had discovered STRATUS, was price. The retail analytics firm was cheaper. The team who dealt with this everyday understood that what RES provided was a game-changer…but there were some people who were really resistant to it because it was more expensive than what we had been doing up to that point. The reality though is that the consultant was never going to get us where we needed to be—it was just retail analytics dressed up as healthcare—and what we could both save in terms of avoiding bad decisions and gain by being in the right locations would pay for STRATUS a hundred times over. In fact, we achieved payback on our subscription with the first major decision we made using it!
So price was a concern at first. Was there other pushback from the team?
I think that at first there were some reservations with the analysts. There was pushback within the team from those feeling either threatened or resistant to change. A few wanted to stick with the old way of doing things. I think one or two were a little wary that something like this would make them replaceable. But the RES team did a great job of addressing these unspoken concerns. And, although there was a learning curve to understand what was really packed into this, once we got past that we all saw fairly quickly that this was going to completely change the nature of our work. It’s a powerful tool for us to leverage and in case like Dr. Shelton…we kind of get to look like heroes…without needing a degree in advanced spatial analytics. So, we’ll take that!
What are some of the things you are seeing with STRATUS that you haven’t been able to before with your prior methods and tools?
Well, for starters, with the whitespace analysis that RES did at the beginning of the project we had a starting template for growth and optimization for the entire market. And the resolution that Stratus provided changed the way we look at service lines and patient access. We aren’t using zip codes anymore…it’s at the street and neighborhood level. We can also narrow down payer mix and financial aspects of certain streets, neighborhoods, and even submarkets and understand where our competitors are now, and where they may go in the future.
How were these insights more actionable that what you had before?
Instead of the sites scores or “fuzzy” metrics that we were using before, RES gave us a list of recommendations with opportunities ranked first to last, allowing us to focus our time and energy on the best opportunities first and then work our way down the list. The metrics STRATUS match what our decision makers are specifically looking for in terms of volumes, FTEs, sizing, payer mix, etc. RES told us that they built the tool from the business case backwards and so far the output shows that.
You say that STRATUS has changed the nature of your daily work. Can you elaborate?
Beyond the Whitespace analysis, having ongoing access to the data via STRATUS allows us to turn on and off various layers and create scenarios to model the impact of changes in strategy. For example, this week one of our analysts ran what would happen if we added a new location in one of our Western submarkets where new residential development is going. Within a few minutes, we had a clear answer. Being able to model those “what if’s” as they arise is huge for us.
How would you say this has changed how your team works with the organization?
The first thing we noticed is that it has changed the way opportunities are viewed and debated within the system. Instead of being reactive, we can be proactive by having a vetted short, medium and long term plan with an accompanying pipeline. Because we now also have consensus on the analytics at all decision levels we can confidently make decisions and get approvals quickly.
What do you think this will mean for WellPath in the next 3-5 years?
Several of our markets are in an extreme growth phase and our success or failure will be decided within the next 1-2 years…not 5. We need the first mover advantage in these markets and need to establish a reach with those new patients with attractive, convenient and accessible sites. Healthcare is extremely competitive right now and the moves we make, what we build and acquire, and our speed will determine our survival and ongoing success. STRATUS helps us hit the mark on all of these critical points.
Are there things that you would like to see that STRATUS doesn’t currently provide?
Yes, there are some areas that the tool doesn’t cover that would be great—our leadership has been leaning toward adding some ASC’s and imaging sites…but currently STRATUS doesn’t have this data. The good news is that our team has been working closely with the RES guys to make this a reality. It’s good to know that as we identify ways to improve the tool, RES is willing to listen and make changes.