Interview with John Bardis, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, MedAssets, Inc.
ATLANTA (September 8, 2015) —
Intro: John Bardis founded MedAssets in June 1999 and served as its chairman and chief executive officer since its inception in August 1999 until his retirement in February 2015. He also served as president of the company since its inception until December 2014.
Today, as a consultant and trusted advisor, Bardis works closely with the company’s executive team and remains engaged in valued client relationships, and in communicating the company’s unique value proposition as a performance improvement company to healthcare organizations.
What does MedAssets do?
We are an Alpharetta-based healthcare performance improvement company focused on helping providers realize financial and operational gains so that they can sustainably serve the needs of their community.
We’re one of the largest health provider claims management and group purchasing companies in the country. We develop software solutions that sit atop of claims management systems to make them more efficient. We provide group purchasing for health systems, including Grady and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. We streamline processes and measure performance for institutions for what we believe to be best practice. We have 18 offices across the country with 3,400 employees, including 500 in Atlanta.
What are the biggest trends in health IT today?
We’re moving from closed, platform-process applications to digital platforms that engage consumers through health information and health data. We’ve gone from a large investment in meaningful use —with Epic, McKesson and Cerner — to building digital platforms to allow consumers, health systems and payers to engage. Retail strategies are now taking root.
How we pay for healthcare is changing dramatically. More people, including millennials, have high-deductible health plans — if you have a $7,000 deductible for a family, you will think carefully how to spend those dollars. Digital platforms will connect to services that may not be hospital-based. Take Theranos, for instance a Silicon Valley lab testing company started by Elizabeth Holmes – a $9 billion valued business that provides any test for $50 or less. These tests will be available through Walgreens.
What are the challenges and opportunities for health IT?
Health systems are grappling with tremendous disruption – how they’re getting paid, who’s paying them and how much. They have an overwhelming cost-reduction requirement —unit utilization is going up, while price is going down. At the same time, health systems have to engage consumers with different technologies and strategies than those they have deployed in the past.
We now have 67 million people on Medicare and 67 million on Medicaid. Medicaid alone is going to increase to 85 million – that’s a lot of people covered, but at the lowest possible payment rate. How will health systems respond? There will be a need for digital platforms to assist consumers in how to best manage their health and find the best value for their plan.
Why is Atlanta a good place to set up shop and grow? How is Atlanta uniquely positioned as a healthcare IT capital?
With Georgia Tech and other accelerators, it’s helpful to have the incubation capabilities that research environments create. They also attract talent for companies looking to do business here. In the area of innovation, Georgia Tech and cities like Alpharetta have attracted technology incubators.
As an Atlanta healthcare IT entrepreneur at heart, how is Georgia addressing the healthcare IT entrepreneur scene and future challenges?
The broader issues in healthcare are prevalent and present in every part of the US, including Georgia. Georgia is fiscally sound compared to states like Illinois, for instance, where there are enormous deficits based on entitlement costs.
I do think Georgia is a state that has made a major effort to invest in health IT. David Hartnett (vice president of Economic Development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber) and the Metro Atlanta Chamber are doing a great job in attracting health IT companies and making sure that different forms of capital are available to provide infrastructure support.
What will your Health IT Leadership Summit keynote speech be about? Can you give us a preview?
The role of technological advancement and investment and the changing role of healthcare. In energy, the fracking boom in the last decade was good for consumers – it helped create jobs and increased manufacturing. Consumers benefited from energy savings through lower gas prices; manufacturers benefited financially from a lower cost of electricity. In healthcare, the consumer has to be the target audience. Information will need to be delivered through mobile devices with a direct benefit to include lower costs because that’s the way consumers will make purchasing decisions.
What’s the key to leadership and success for health IT CEOs? How would you describe your leadership style while you were CEO of MedAssets?
I don’t pretend to have the secret sauce. For me personally, it was very important to remain highly focused on the welfare of people. Our culture had to reflect a certain level of values consistent with my personal value system. It’s about creating value well past share price and earnings, while doing what you can to engage a culture of service that has authenticity.
Any advice to women health IT CEOs, as studies have shown that women are less likely to get funded by venture firms than men?
Many miles of road have been paved, but we have many more miles to go to solve the workplace equality issue. At MedAssets, we have a model leadership program to select the next generation of leaders; there are many women in that group. Our last couple of promotions put two women in charge of our revenue cycle business, and they’re running a pretty big part of the company. It’s a reflection of the recognition of talent that is now emerging, the reality of reacting to that and the need to promote women and put them in leadership roles that they have so well earned and deserved.
Who are your mentors and influencers?
I wrestled in college and had wonderful coaches. They were fantastic men with humility, and wrestling gave me discipline. My family were hard-working people — from my Lithuanian grandfather who worked in the coal mines in Liverpool, served in World War I, barely escaping death, and winding up immigrating to the southside of Chicago — to my mother, the daughter of Russian immigrants, who went back to school to get her master’s degree in her 40s.
Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., are two extraordinary examples for us to follow. Both have had a profound influence on my own hopes and commitment to serve others.
What are you doing these days, now that you’re retired?
I just got back from Africa two weeks ago. My wife, Judy, and I are producing a documentary on Charles Mully of Mully Children’s Family Charitable Foundation and subject of the book, Father to the Fatherless. He has adopted 10,900 orphans in Kenya. He feeds and educates them – providing a high school education and pathway to college.
We are finishing the movie, working with (Academy Award-winning film director and producer) James Moll and (film score composer) Benjamin Wallfisch. I’m also involved in boards of companies, non-profits and in helping a few startups. I‘m enjoying a new form of engagement.
Note: Bardis has a long history of philanthropy and community involvement. He founded the MedAssets Norman Borlaug Humanitarian Award, which each year provides the recipient with $100,000 in financial aid for their charitable mission. In addition to regular and ongoing support for multiple non-profit organizations, Bardis was instrumental in establishing MedAssets corporate charity status for Mully Children’s Family Charitable Foundation, Heart for Africa and MedShare International.
He also is the Founder and Chairman of Hire Heroes USA, the nation’s largest veteran employment integration and veteran training organization. Bardis’ leadership resulted in MedAssets support of U.S. troops overseas through the Marine Staff Sgt. Oscar Canon Military Care Package Program, which sends care packages each quarter to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About Wendy Alpine
Wendy Alpine is president of Alpine Communications, a public relations firm that helps healthcare and technology businesses build brand awareness and thought leadership. For more information, visit www.alpinepr.com.