Allscripts CEO Paul Black On Navigating Healthcare’s Major Changes

Paul Black, CEO of Allscripts
Paul Black, CEO of Allscripts

In his first few months on the job, Allscripts CEO Paul Black made a few big splash acquisitions and set the company on the path towards single product integration.

“We spent a lot of money on research and development for internal growth that yielded us several applications [within our main electronic health record product] around ambulatory, emergency room, patient accounting, records management, and radiology uses. In the first part of this decade, all those things weren’t necessarily sourced from Allscripts and now they are. We have a single platform capability that didn’t exist [when he first got to Allscripts],” says Black, who was brought onto the Chicago-based health IT company in late 2012.

More than that though, Black understood that the tide shifts in the healthcare industry meant that patient encounters weren’t necessarily going to be limited within the four walls of a hospital or doctor’s office. The company developed and invested in software platforms around population health, consumer, and precision medicine—to create a fuller picture of the patient’s health.

As healthcare providers get paid for their outcomes—rather than the number of times they see a patient—this kind of data will be integral to improving someone’s health. “From a leadership standpoint…the number one thing for us is to have a bold and accurate vision about not only what we need to do to be relevant, but also how to help our clients get to where they are today to where they need to be in the future,” he says.

Consumer focus

A big part of this future is consumer-driven healthcare. When Black came to Allscripts in late 2012, the health IT industry was very much focused on meaningful use compliance, as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009. In that sense, “consumer health” was simply a matter of getting patients to be able to view, download and transmit their patient record.

A lot has changed since then. Whether its traditional health IT companies like Allscripts or consumer tech companies like Amazon, there is a movement to connect patients to different data points at all times. This goes beyond the Fitbit and steps trend, but includes tracking data around physical AND behavioral health, nutrition, diet and exercise.

“All the things that have to deal with the mind, body and soul of a human,” Black says. In a sense people are adopting these data points anyway. One research report indicates the mobile health app market was valued at $28 billion last year and will grow to $102 billion by 2023.

But even more than just tracking data, Black says his vision is an easier experience for the patient, to be able to access this information in one set place, rather than logging into “15 different apps that do and say the same thing.”

“It may have started with meaningful use and connecting to the patient record, but to me it’s a broader idea of once you get that information, what else can you do to provide more efficient and effective care for the patient?”

Collaborations and trust

In an industry suddenly flush with large-scale collaboration from non-traditional players, Allscripts announced at least one major partnership with a consumer tech company this year. In January, Allscripts and Microsoft agreed to work together to help connect patients with clinical trials at the point of care.

As an industry insider looking at some of these high-profile collaborations, such as CVS-Aetna, Black says companies are repurposing the assets they already possess to extend their networks and capabilities. It’s not uncommon to see this kind of collaboration in other industries, he notes. But Black says these new companies have to scale, while still being able to maintain a close connection with consumers. This will be no easy task.

For CEOs trying to navigate this changing landscape, Black offers a few pieces of advice. “I think it’s important to be agile, it’s important to be entrepreneurial. You have to have an environment and culture where you innovate. You have to have an eye for what’s going to happen in the future. Not just a vision for your company, but in the context of where healthcare is going and how you can have a longstanding imprint.”

He also says it’s important to have an element of trust with the teams you’re working with—not just internally and with clients, but with those outside collaborators. “That’s been one of the things about our company, if you’ve talked with people who’ve worked with us…that’s something we stress a lot…I asked my people to hire trustworthy people and we have a culture that rewards that.”

Read more: Former Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini on the CVS Deal, Yoga and Employee Wellness