RamaOnHealthcare June 27, 2019

ICYMI, Providence St. Joseph Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems, announced today it has signed an agreement to acquire Bluetree.

On Thursday, June 27th, 2019, RamaOnHealthcare sat down with our CEO, Jeremy Schwach, to discuss the acquisition, the new healthcare economy, and what he’s up to outside of healthcare.

RAMA: So obviously some big news has come out today. Tell us about Bluetree and what these past few months have looked like for you.

JEREMY: We’re a group of more than 300 healthcare experts with deep Epic and operational expertise. We help health systems maximize the use of their EHR via three main avenues: strategy, delivery, and support. We’ve worked with 140 health systems nationwide since 2012, including eight of the 10 organizations listed in the 2018-2019 US News and World Report Best Hospitals Honor Roll rankings.

The last few months have been crazy! As you noted, Providence St. Joseph Health signed an agreement to acquire Bluetree, and we’re excited for the opportunity to extend our customer reach and pursue additional growth and innovation opportunities.

You always read these horror stories about acquisitions, but the process has been surprisingly smooth. The fit between Bluetree and PSJH was natural. From day one, we focused on how our partnership would benefit healthcare, our employees and our clients. That collective focus was a clear indicator to me that we had found the right partner.

RAMA: What did you see as the biggest opportunity with or alongside Providence St. Joseph Health? What made you think, ‘This is really cool and an extremely unique opportunity?’

JEREMY: I’ve spoken with hundreds of potential partners over the years, so I knew this was a “unicorn” opportunity, and the right home for Bluetree long term. Providence St. Joseph Health has a vision to alter the healthcare landscape – a vision we share.

Bluetree has always focused on helping health care organizations provide better care for their patients. By tapping into the PSJH platform and its thousands of dedicated providers, we can increase the speed by which we bring new innovations to our clients.

At the same time, the relationship between PSJH and Bluetree will be unique by design. Bluetree will maintain all that makes us, us, including our unique culture. As a separate subsidiary, we will have a strategic partner to help us build an even stronger business and work toward reshaping health care.

RAMA: We noticed you offer a Managed Services solution. What sets you apart and where do you see the industry moving? Where does this fit in with your partnership with PSJH?

JEREMY: We’ve built a robust Epic Managed Services offering. We focus on delivering value through efficiency, rather than by reducing the experience of our staff. Our team members have on average over 9 years of experience and more than 4 1/2 Epic certifications. Nobody does it like we do because our competitors don’t think they can make money while keeping the quality bar high.

It turns out that healthcare IT is hard, and you can’t skimp on experience. You need people who understand healthcare, the nuances of Epic, and the complexities of the delivery touch points. For that reason, we kept the bar high knowing we could deliver value in ways others couldn’t. Now we have over 25 Managed Services clients.

In addition to Epic application support, we recently stood up an Epic Smart Tier 1 Service Center with Johns Hopkins Health System as our first partner. We’ve maintained a 91% Net First Call Resolution. By combining end-user and application support, we now offer partial or full outsourcing. We can do everything from taking on the day-to-day maintenance of Epic or owning the release cycle, to total management of Epic applications for affiliates or full IT organizations. At the end of the day, we’re doing this to help our clients do more with less.

Our partnership with PSJH won’t change our strategy, but it does give us the backing of a much larger organization who understands both healthcare and Epic. PSJH is one of Epic’s largest clients, and that’s going to enable us to scale and help more organizations.

RAMA: The Digital Transformation frontier is here – further digitization, automation. How will this impact your service lines? How are you embracing this change?

JEREMY: To succeed in healthcare, you need to be agile. The new rules of healthcare are being written as we go. Healthcare organizations are trying to stay competitive while pointing their compasses towards a new value-centric model and we’re all in experimentation mode as we wrestle with rising costs.

We believe that the key is to trial new models while remaining agile enough to react to new competitors and the changing landscape. Bluetree works in this space today. We deliver value in traditional ways by improving administrative functions and increasing IT efficiency. We also deliver value in novel ways by leveraging our blend of Epic and healthcare expertise to change the strategy altogether.

One example, we are helping organizations stand up advanced Patient Access Centers. With this foundation in place, our clients are building a more consumer-centric version of healthcare and layering on technology that truly makes the patient experience better (i.e., modern CRM tools, two-way texting, etc.). We’ve discovered efficiencies that have created extra patient capacity that in some cases enable our clients to take-on up to 20% more patients. It’s an amazing thing to help make the providers’ lives better while also making patients happier and returning real ROI. This type of creativity is part of the future.

And unlike yesterday, today Bluetree has an innovative partner with a robust platform to dramatically increase the volume and speed of this experimentation. It’s hard to overstate the significance here. This is a huge opportunity to experiment at a pace that would be hard to replicate in the traditional services model and I think it gives us a competitive edge while enabling us to do more for our clients.

RAMA: If you were to have a coffee with any healthcare CEO what one piece of advice would you give them regarding Epic or healthcare IT?

JEREMY: Oh, man. Well, first I’d immediately connect him or her with my far smarter colleagues. But if you pushed me on it, I’d probably tell them that our most successful clients are those that have figured out how to turn their Epic platform into the foundation for scale.

A CEO shouldn’t be hearing about upgrades, connect programs, or integration. Those things must become second nature. Only then can they fully leverage IT and focus on priorities like allowing providers to work at the top of their license, deploying AI applications that make their systems smarter, or leveraging tools that patients want to use.

If you never have to talk about IT, that probably means you’re agile enough to leverage it. If you are not at that point, well, you should be talking to Bluetree more regularly (laughs).

RAMA: If not healthcare, what are you doing?

JEREMY: During Bluetree’s 1st Annual Give Auction last summer, I auctioned off a kid’s magic show. I know it’s weird. I used to do magic in middle school… you know, before I started dating. Well, I lost a bet, dusted off all my old material, and picked it back up for this auction. The winner basically threw a charity block party and somehow, I ended up performing for 150 people in Madison. It was terrifying.

We’ve kept it going and we just had our 2nd Annual Give Auction two weeks agoand raised over $15,000 in one night for local charities… so it was well worth the embarrassment. And I guess now I’m somewhat of an amateur kids’ magician.

If not magic, I’d probably be back doing startups. I stay close to the entrepreneurs in the various cities in which we operate, and I’m always amazed by the creativity, vision, and hustle in those circles. Honestly, it feels like we’re back in startup mode as we start work with Providence St. Joseph Health. So, I don’t think there is a “if not healthcare” future for me, and I’m pretty happy about that.

Topics: EMR / EHR, Health IT, Health System / Hospital, HIE (Interoperability), Market Research, Mergers & Acquisitions / JV, Physician, Provider, Technology, Trends
Change Healthcare shareholders approve $13B UnitedHealth deal
COVID-19 spurs rise in hospital mega mergers, finds Kaufman Hall
Microsoft doubles down on healthcare and conversational AI with purchase of Nuance
Change Healthcare Announces Stockholder Approval for the Combination With OptumInsight, Part of UnitedHealth Group
How Microsoft’s new $16B acquisition could bring AI to your doctor’s office