Imprivata CEO On Healthcare’s Need For A Digital Patient Identifier

Gus Malezis, CEO of Imprivata

Gus Malezis came to Imprivata in September of 2016 at a make-or-break time for the company.

“We were spending more money than we were making. We had to put in some initiatives to make it a self-sustaining business but do it in a way that wouldn’t compromise the customers’ value and our relationship with customers,” he says.

The veteran tech executive was coming off 11-plus years at nCircle and Tripwire when he came over to the Lexington, Massachusetts-based security software company, which creates identity technology for provider organizations. Imprivata’s customers, employees and stakeholders were all concerned that if it continued at the same rate, the company wouldn’t be around much longer. Malezis and his team went straight to the customers to figure out how they could add value.

The strategy has been a success—the company has grown at 27% annually and more importantly, it’s profitable, self-sustaining and re-investing in the business. Chief Executive spoke to Malezis about the evolution of the company and why healthcare needs a digital patient identifier.. Below are excerpts from this interview.

How has Imprivata evolved over the three years you’ve been at the helm?

The first goal was to really look at the business and see how we’re servicing customers and where we can do a better job of servicing customers. We knew that our technology meant—and continues to mean—a great deal for them. That was the first objective to really maintain and improve the service to customers. We measure ourselves on the NPS, the net promoter score. On that objective, we’ve gone from the mid-30s back two-and-a-half years ago to high 50s. We measure ourselves twice a year, the front half of the year and the back half of the year. We just got the results this week. We were 57. 57 is a terrific place to be. We were 52 last year. We’rereally delighted that we’ve been able to maintain that objective.

The second objective is to be self-sustaining. We really wanted to give our customers and our employees the knowledge and the comfort that we’re going to be around for the long term and helping them solve problems. Customers were concerned. [They were saying], “Hey, Imprivata is not profitable. Are you going to be around? I can’t make strategic decisions with a vendor that’s just not going be around and is not making money and doesn’t have a plan to get there.”

When I came in, that was a loud message I got from the customers as well as our employees. Our employees care about us being self-sustaining.  They didn’t want that surprise of being out of a job. They love what they do, and they are committed. So, we really [spent our] dollars wisely and were able to accomplish profitability in the first year in 2017. We made some money and we’re able to invest it appropriately in the business in a way that paid dividends. We made money last year in 2018 and we invested more in people and in innovation products. We’re on that same track in probably doing better this year. All this is really making more employees a little more comfortable and feeling a little bit more secure, which in turn allows us to focus on our customers and not worry, “do I have a job tomorrow?”

That’s the second objective. The third objective was to figure out how we could continue to grow as a business. Is our value to our customers consistent with our strengths, our skills and our people? Our focus really expanded from being a technical company to a digital identity company. [A few years ago] we were marketing our “tap and go” security software heavily.  As I came in, myself and a lot of others at the company said, “Wait there’s a lot of things we can do with digital identity. I mean, let’s be smart about it and start to do some more.”

Let me give you an example. Tap and go only worked on Windows workstations, and you have many providers using mobile technology. They want to take notes on their smartphone or a tablet as they do their rounds so their data can be at their fingertips instead of having to bounce back and forth to the nursing station. So, we released the technology on tablets. The same badge works on the nursing station, a desktop, a shared or private desktop, and also works on an Android tablets and smartphones, Zebra devices and Samsung smartphones and tablets. And our customers are just so delighted with this.

Our goal is to make our technology work everywhere. In the clinical environment. On any device. When they are at home. Healthcare is no longer just the hospital and the ER. It’s being done in all sorts of areas and we want to support all those areas.

The House just overturned a ban on funding for a patient identifier. What would that kind of legislation mean for Imprivata?

That’s right, the lower chamber has removed that restriction. We’re excited about this. You need a trusted digital identity for providers…everyone who touches a medical record needs to have a digital identity that’s trusted so we know who they are and what they’re doing. That’s the care giving side. The care receiving side, the patient side, has been such a foggy, dark area where there just is no trust on who the patient is. There’s no identity there.

We are firm believers that digital identity on the patient side is an important thing. As you know in this country, there are all kinds of regulatory measures and incentives for getting this done. We think that it’s probably going to take a little bit more time to [get that legislation passed], but we’re watching it. We’re providing input. We think there are more pros than cons. We think that’s going to come around. We have to resolve this.

Doctors don’t have an identity on the patient. They don’t know what the record is telling them or about who. And they carry liability.  They carry risk about providing an incorrect diagnosis and the wrong kind of treatment. So they run these tests over and over. It’s an incredible waste of time and resources. There is a lot of opportunity for improvement in healthcare delivery and it starts with digital identity.

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