Eric Fisherman with EHRtv speaking with Betty Otter-Nickerson, President of Sage Healthcare
Eric Fishman: This is Eric Fisherman with EHRTV and we have the pleasure today of speaking with Betty Otter-Nickerson, President of Sage Healthcare. We are joined by Richard Jonas. Betty, thank you for taking your time here at MGMA 2010 in the beautiful city of New Orleans. You have had a rather eclectic career and maybe you could start by telling us the theme of your career, if you will, going through a number of stages.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Well, one of the things is I do describe it as eclectic because I started on my professional life as a social worker and then I actually moved into information technology from that after working with both abused children and geriatric patients, and I spent almost 30 years in IT across many different industries and ran two start-ups and then I had the opportunity for the last five years to spend in the world of oncology; I was the Chief Operating Officer for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as Livestrong, and it was during that process that I got exposed to healthcare market much more up close and personal and found that I really wanted to do something to help transform healthcare.
Eric Fishman: And if you care to talk about some of the personal issues that happened to you, it’s related to some of the pink that I see here today.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Well, some of it is related to the pink. I will give you two examples, quite honestly. One is related to the city. Back when Katrina hit here in this town, at that time I was living in Austin, Texas and both Houston and Austin had many people who actually moved to the city and lived in our convention center for months on end; and of those who are effected by cancer, the foundation did things to help across the whole southeast, but there are many people who were living in the convention center who needed cancer treatment and who had no access to their medical records any longer, they didn’t know what type of cancer they had or how they were being treated. So, that goes to the importance of us as providers and vendors to really make sure that there is an electronic health record that is portable and that is interoperable and it spans across the ecosystem. The other part of that aspect is while at the foundation, I lost my mother to cancer, not from breast cancer but from cancer of unknown origin, eight days after she was diagnosed; and during that time period, she was under the care of three different physicians, but I think that none of them picked up the problems and I think that goes to show that right now in the healthcare system, we focus on disease and sickness, we don’t really focus on the patient; and so one of the things that we are trying to do is just to really be patient centric in the offerings that we bring to the market so that physicians can look at people not only financially and clinically but they can look at the whole person across everything that touches from health and wellness all the way through the delivery of care.
Eric Fishman: And as President of Sage you say physicians will be able to touch probably tens of millions of patients. Can you give some examples of the specific methods that your products can improve patient care at the point of care?
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Well, I think one of the things – one, we are meaningful use certified…
Eric Fishman: Congratulations on that.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Thank you. And I think that’s an important step but I think that’s just really the first step in the journey because it’s really about providing accountable care and we have solutions and many different specialty practices, one of them actually being OB-GYN which is one of the reasons why during the month of October, we decided to put a philanthropic bent to some of the things that we do here at MGMA – Think Pink – and…
Eric Fishman: There is a lot of pink here in the booth today.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: There is a lot of pink here in the booth, yeah, but really to put some focus to the fact that health issues are important for all gender or races; but during the month of October, breast cancer is an important part that we need to raise awareness about. So, we do have a specific focus on, besides ortho and pediatrics and a few others, some focus on OB-GYN. In fact, while here at MGMA, one of our customers in Miami, <<inaudible>> Vital MD is speaking about the partnership and the way that they use Sage products to really improve their practice and improve their ROI for the physicians in that practice.
Richard Jonas: Let’s talk about that physician base for a minute. I heard there is a huge following of Sage customers over the years and Sage has enjoyed a wonderful reputation. There are some older products the company has. Is there anything specific that Sage is doing to help those customers transition from some of the older generation products to the newer applications that you have?
Betty Otter-Nickerson: We are actually. We just recently introduced something we call our Customer Appreciation Program and that program is really focused on rewarding those people who have had a lifelong relationship, however long that life may be, with us to really help them move to whatever offering that they would like to move within the Sage family to support them. It’s a comprehensive program to help them move as well as convert their historical data as part of that movement. So, for all of those medical manager customers out there who may be Sage customers now or no longer Sage customers, feel free to give us a call and we would love to talk to you about our Customer Appreciation Program.
Richard Jonas: Let’s sort of clarify that. My understanding is that previously you didn’t have what we call a line item transaction conversion for the old practice management, and I understand that you now successfully have one so they cannot lose – excuse the expression, but – a heartbeat moving from an older generation system to a new. Is that correct?
Betty Otter-Nickerson: That’s correct. We have actually…depending on the complexity of the data and what they want to migrate over, we have three different tiers of migration for medical manager and we have done one in as quick as three days. So, it really depends on what they are trying to do. So, a really good way for us to continue the partnership between those medical manager customers and Sage by helping them meet their meaningful use requirements.
Richard Jonas: And is there any specific that the company is doing to encourage physicians to move or to take advantage of meaningful use? Are there any incentive programs that the company is involved in?
Betty Otter-Nickerson: We have actually been quite proactive over the last few months trying to really help physicians understand what meaningful use means to them and how they can capitalize on that. We have done multiple webinars and we have had tremendous response to those webinars. We have done some educational sessions. We have some training sessions for our customers on our CPT or computer-based program training. So, we have really tried to help them understand what it means; and what’s really surprising with the first webinar that we actually ran is that we had over 850 questions that came through the audience during the 90 minutes of the program. So, I think that that alone says that people have a lot of questions and they just need to talk to somebody about it. It’s really not confusing but it is different. So, we are more than willing to help people make sure that they can maximize their meaningful use incentives and we are the place to go to get those answers.
Eric Fishman: I understand you have been very successful as it relates to the regional extension centers and maybe if you could share a few moments talking about how you have done that and how that has been helpful for Sage.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Well, we have a team that’s focused on really reaching out to the regional extension centers and it is interesting because there are 62 of them across the country and it’s an interesting process – every state is different. So, by really focusing on each individual REC and how they are planning to do business, we have been able to be quite successful in terms of the number of RECs that we have been able to get on to their list as a preferred vendor; and even some that were not preferred vendor, we find them because of our Sage customer base wanting to work with us on top of that.
Eric Fishman: Have you found that the regional extension centers themselves are helpful in providing the advice and the implementation skills that they are assigned to?
Betty Otter-Nickerson: I think they are going to be very helpful in the long run. I think for them they are all in the planning stages right now. So, I think they are really looking at the people in the vendor community to help them get established and to help; and with the number of physicians that have to be touched, the RECs will be an important factor for us to really transform the healthcare system of the United States.
Richard Jonas: So, along those lines, how do you gear up in a short period of time as those physicians that have adopted them, they are the late comers, the procrastinators – how do you gear up for what we all anticipate in the industry as a huge volume over the next several years to be able to help those practices make the transition?
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Well, you know, part of it is education but the other part of it is sort of logistics, supply chain problem. So, for us it’s a matter of acute planning and making sure that we have got the right people, the right resources and are prepared to handle that. So, it’s a matter of capacity planning on our end and for everybody else in the market, especially with 50,000 shortage of IT workers, yeah. Last week, I was actually in Austin, Texas at the University of Texas at their program where they were certifying new healthcare IT workers and it’s pretty phenomenal what they have been able to do; they have graduated 58 people in their first program and ourselves along with five other vendors are helping them with that program. So, it’s interesting to see that we are being able to pull people, educate them quickly, and bring them back into an employment situation to help with this capacity issue.
Richard Jonas: We have thought about that a lot being in the video business and we think that we should be able to assist in the training of this health IT works using videos and to me it seems to make sense.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: That’s a great idea. We should talk about that.
Eric Fishman: Betty, is there anything that you would like to talk to us about Sage Healthcare.
Betty Otter-Nickerson: Well, I just want to say I am delighted to be a part of Sage and I am delighted to be in this market. With not a deep grounding in health IT, I think one of the things that I have enjoyed is bringing a fresh approach to how we look at our business and I just want to thank all of our customers out there for their business. We wouldn’t be where we are without them and I want them to look at us as their trusted advisor to make sure that they can meet their health goals for their patients because that’s what we are all about. So, thank you for the time.
Eric Fishman: Betty, thank you very much. This is Eric Fishman with EHRTV. Thank you very much.