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Tips for Identifying the Best Funding Partner for Health Systems

April 05, 2020

php logoDavid Coppins, CEO of IntelyCare, explains how funding helped him build his company when they were literally days away from needing to shut down, and provides tips for health systems seeking funding.   

Podcast Transcript:

Welcome back to "Pop Health Perspectives," a podcast hosted by the Population Health Learning Network where we provide expert commentary and exclusive insight into key issues in population health management and more. Today we are joined by David Coppins, CEO of IntelyCare.

My name is David Coppins, I'm the co‑founder and chief executive officer of IntelyCare. My background is not in health care, interestingly, I came to this from a different direction.

IntelyCare specifically, and we'll get into this, but being a two‑sided marketplace the success of something like that is really more driven by a deep understanding or a better understanding of what are the drivers of personal motivation, or engagement to achieve a certain behavior.

If you can get both sides of the marketplace to achieve that kind of level of action or behavior, then you've really achieved a successful company.

My background is building Upromise, Upromise was a very early two‑sided marketplace helping families save for college, as well as building Virgin Pulse. While not a classic two‑sided marketplace, we had millions of employees and thousands of the large employers that were trying to build wellness programs. We had to employ a lot of the elements associated with that behavioral science.

While I was co‑founder with a number of these companies and served in positions of executive levels, my background really comes from that direction. When I understood more about IntelyCare, it made a lot of sense to me and something that I knew that we could really make a great success of.

How IntelyCare came to be was really kind of an understanding that health care home care, and health care staffing were kind of inefficiently run industries in their traditional sense. Yet both kind of exhibited some of the characteristics or the fundamentals of what a on‑demand marketplace or two‑sided marketplace came to be.

A friend of mine, Ike Nnah, a co‑founder and chief technology officer had this idea to bring an Uber for home care concept. This was years before the variety of others that have attempted the same thing.

It started to build that company and then discovered that, and others have discovered this as well, that while the technology was brilliant and excellent for an efficient deployment of resources, and for the caregiver and clinician themselves, it wasn't as valuable for the end customer.

With the determination that we wanted the technology to be valuable for both sides, that's when the company pivoted more towards health care staffing. I had been advising Ike for about a year and a half on IntelyCare in the home care side, just helping him devise how to build the company. Then when the pivot occurred towards health care staffing, that's when it really started to make a lot of sense.

Health care staffing being an $18 billion industry is still mostly driven on fax, phone, and email, where the first level of technology hadn't even really come to play, got me pretty excited. We became a pretty obvious answer and had looked at many similarities to companies that I had just previously built. It looked like we could bring a lot to that world. That's effectively how it got started.

Now, one of the things that we also quickly realized is that it takes a lot of capital to operate, especially working capital as it does take some time for health care facilities to pay their bills, which I know a lot of people understand. We came close with a couple of times with a white‑knuckle moments, we referred to them as. We did come close to running out of funding at these different points.

One in particular, we were literally days away from needing to shut down. We went back and brought to the notion with our investors what was happening, but the fundamentals of the business were so strong, that the demand from our clients was really strong.

The demand or the value we were bringing to these nurses and being able to help them live their best life with the flexibility we were bringing, all of that became really extraordinarily valuable.

Both sides of this market, the supply and demand was so strong that investors said, you know what, we will continue to fund this despite the need for this growing capital. We were able to kind of get through that. Ultimately, while there was definitely some difficult moments, we were able to power through.

I think to just to kind of give a background on how the company operates, what we really found to be valuable or what our clients, these facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are our target clients, and then nurses, RN, LPN, and CNAs have also found it to be quite valuable.

If you can put them together in such a way that we can supply our client facilities at a very high rate, right now the typical health care staffing company can only supply per diem workers at about 20% of the demand. When a client is requesting 10 shifts to be filled, they're typically only filling 2 of them.

With our technology and data science, and understanding of the behavioral sciences behind it, we've been able to drive that up to 70% that we can fill of the demand. Immediately clients get really excited that we can truly fill most or almost all of the demand or the needs that they have.

Then on the other side where nurses and nurse assistants would love to be able to work extra hours, or be able to take on additional shifts, they typically only have been able to do so through the restrictions of what an agency might impose on them.

In order for them to work for a traditional agency, they would need to work certain two to three weekend days a month, and so many hours per month to stay active in their system. We don't require that of anyone, and as a result, we're able to be attractive to a much larger universe of nurses and nurse assistants out there.

In fact, I would suggest that a large part of the success that we've been able to bear in this market is that we're not bringing new nurses and nurse assistants to the market, but we are much more efficiently deploying the resources that are out there.

According to the math that others and us have come up with, that we've been able to expand the actual supply by nearly 25% because of just a more efficient deployment of the resources that are already out there and matching the needs that they really have.

One of the things that is quite vital, I think, in this industry as we mentioned because there is such a significant nursing shortage out there, and only compounded right now. We're seeing a massive increase in demand and decrease of supply due to COVID‑19, that it's become even more important that there is a smarter way to bring these nurses into the ability to work how and when they can possibly work.

The technology that we bring to bear, and it is heavily driven by data science and behavioral science, that allows us to kind of reach an unparalleled matching technology to make sure that we can provide the right shift to the right person at the right time, and do it in such a way that's very attractive to them.

I'm going to get into this in a minute, but I don't think you can underestimate the value of the data science and the behavioral science that comes to play here. Just to answer your question about the importance and the significance of the funding in this, we were the earliest in this market and we are by far the leaders now in tech‑enabled health care staffing. It is making a massive impact.

We've recently just passed our two‑million‑hour mark, where we've provided two million hours of service. We now have nearly 12,000 nurses and nursing assistants that are actively working with us across nine states. We are actively adding more and more states and geographies across the country.

The funding of this is very important, because the learning that we're bringing to the market around how to provide the appropriate incentives makes a significant amount of difference. The studies that we've done in behavioral science and data science together, as I said, don't think can be underestimated here.

Let's just take, for example, one of the key components, one of the key drivers is recognition. We understand this basically, but it always breaks my heart when we talk to a nurse that says, "You know, I just never felt appreciated in my last job." I hear this over, and over, and over again. It's to that one person, the most important driver of engagement or motivation is really that of recognition.

You build that into the system. We don't have a lot of one‑on‑one or human interaction in this, because we're really the technology and the system that puts these facilities and the nurses together. We call our nurses IntelyPros. You can build in a warm feeling of recognition into the whole system. That's a key component.

Another one is that of belonging. If I joined a team that is kind of working towards something that is doing something great, something better, and are you part of that winning team? Do you feel like you're connected to that? Clearly also, just competition elements that are also fun. Achieving different levels or different elements of excitement and the rewards associated with it.

I could go into these, each one of them has different components to it that are kind of built‑in to it based on the behavioral and data science that we've been working towards. That is foundation.

That is, I think, one of the values of this significant investment that has been made into our company. It's not only that we're able to geographically expand, but we're able to continue to expand that investment in better understanding what is it that our nurses and nurse assistants, these nursing professionals need in their life to really feel like they are fully motivated to give their all and to really participate in a more full way.

Some of the lessons that I think are applicable that we have learned, and this kind of goes back to this notion of everybody is living ‑‑ when I talk about nurses specifically, or nursing professionals ‑‑ they have different life circumstances. The most important element that we learned early on was you need to start with where somebody is in their life.

We've managed to come up with a way to address it from a technology standpoint, from an app‑based standpoint, and those kinds of communications. The idea is to understand where they are and what it is that they want from their life.

One of the things that we found so exciting is that a nurse has certainly chosen that career and chosen that profession because they love helping others, but they do have lives outside of nursing.

It really gets me very excited, and I feel very fulfilled when I can talk to a group of nurses that's been working for us and said, "I'm a nurse, but I also am helping my husband run a property management company and because of what you do allows me to have the flexibility to choose when I can work as a nurse, and then also assist in my husband's business."

Another one is a competitive triathlete, she likes to travel around the country and compete. That same flexibility of her schedule is so vital that she can do both. Many of course are mothers, and need to be able to really be there for their children when they feel most important to be part of that and be part of their lives.

Another one that was doing advanced degrees, and another one that is a musician, she actually writes her own music and wants to go on various gigs and then she also teaching music. It's just on and on of how we've been able to help our nurses kind of live their best life. Really kind of do what they love in their chosen profession, but give them the flexibility to kind of work in these other environments.

From a learning standpoint, and I know this may be difficult, but if other health systems can really understand how important flexibility is to their lives, that they can actually get even greater engagement, and retention, and even great kind of commitment to the health system. To us, that was quite valuable.

To that end, again, with the nursing shortage, I understand there is a nursing shortage, but I believe that it can be more overcome if we can allow them to kind of match the schedule that they have.

For example, we have lots of clients who have a 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM shift, and lots of our IntelyPros would love to work daytime shifts, but they have to drop their kids off at school and can't get to work until 8:30. We were able to adapt for many of our clients a start time at 8:30 and it opened up a wide number of new people that could actually go to work.

We're addressing the nursing shortage, but making sure that the appropriate motivations are there and that the flexibility is there, and then that has substantially impacted that with our clients. We've been able to really fill in where the needs are.

Health care is so exciting, and yet massive and goes in so many, many different directions. I think that there is a lot of interest. In fact, I think I constantly keep hearing now every week of a fund that is either a new fund that is dedicated to health care only, or a large fund that is carving off a large portion and dedicating to health care only.

But we're at this exciting point in the evolution of health care where the large groups that really control whether or not they use these innovations are now more actively interested in the new innovations and how they can truly impact both the quality of care and the cost of care.

I would encourage anyone who is out seeking for funding now to continue to drive down to the level of really understanding do you have a market? Are there people that really want what you envision and what you can build? Will it really make an impact either on the quality or the cost of care?

Then there's going to be people that will want to fund that. There are, they say, countless funds right now that are out seeking the latest, greatest innovations in all aspects across the care continuum. It's the best time ever, really, to seek to raise funds at this point.

We're very excited about the significant round of funding that we've been able to bring in. It is the largest nursing technology funding around ever. I think this goes back to just the success that our clients are seeing and our nurses are seeing by coming together using this technology to really achieve that notion of filling the true need of care.

There's too many facilities and too many people that are not getting enough of their schedules filled where there's just not enough caregivers out there to provide the care. We've found a way, and really have hit a nerve in the market through heavy usage of the behavioral and data science.

This element of the technology and flexibility that has truly made that impact and we're excited to be part of this and look forward to being able to really impact that across the country.

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