To Adam Sabloff, it’s no coincidence that his company, VirtualHealth, derived from his experiences in creating Ritz Carlton’s residences product, which was the first population health management (PHM) program of its kind.
VirtualHealth offers a cloud-based platform that empowers those kinds of population health initiatives by allowing disparate data systems to connect with each other. This helps different healthcare providers keep track of different classes of medium and high-risk patients. But the connection between Ritz Carlton and VirtualHealth goes beyond technology and population health. Sabloff credits VIrtualHealth’s growth (100% year over year in the last four years) to adhering to Ritz Carlton’s world renowned customer service mentality.
“I think our special sauces is that Ritz Carlton ‘White Glove Service.’ I mean, I have been to the Ritz Carlton Training Program. I did oversee a Ritz project. I was on multiple Ritz Carlton development teams. I’m a hospitality guy. It’s in my blood, my family comes from that background and I always believe that the client is always right and even when they’re wrong, they’re right and you have to make sure that they recognize that they’re the most important person,” Sabloff says.
Sabloff spoke with Chief Executive to talk about how he is trying to bring that customer service mentality to a healthcare company, why he emphasizes a diverse leadership team and more. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
Why has customer service been so overlooked in healthcare?
Healthcare has traditionally been behind the IT adoption curve when compared to other industries. And it went through an interesting transition where it went from servers in the basements with huge IT forces and in-house assets, to all of a sudden starting to try and get comfortable with some of these custom built products. But I feel like a lot of products are to spec, an IT shop basically comes in and is asked to build a certain product for spec and then that product works. So then they go out and they market and they sell it to other companies. But to me that’s more of a dev shop. I always make the argument that we’re not a health IT company, we’re a health tech company and I think that we value the things that are much different.
I think we value user experience way beyond any of our competitors. We value customer support and customer service models and simple pricing. We want to make sure that their experience is extraordinary. I’m not afraid to lose money if it means making a client happy and that’s the Ritz Carlton mentality. Right? I’ll give you the stay for free if you walk away a happy customer and I’ll have a customer for life. I think that’s served us extremely well. I mean what we do is we have an entire team called our client services team under our chief client officer, which is very unique in our industry. It’s a large team. It’s a very professional, well-educated and refined team. A lot of them have degrees in health policy and it’s more like a consulting group.
When you meet our people, we don’t look like traditional healthcare people. Not to hate, but just in the sense that we look more like more out of that hospitality mode. Yes you’re working with engineers and technologists who have to be brilliant and what they do, but you also can have a forward facing organization is excellent communication in oratory skills and I think we’ve really excelled there.
What are the big challenges you’re facing in the market?
The biggest problem for us historically has been that care management is not something you wake up one day and go into. Looking back, if I’d known what I was getting into, I might have thought twice. I’m glad I did it, but it’s just I thought this would be two years. We turned everything upside down. I’m doing this seven years later, we’re still making our moves and it’s just the nature of healthcare.
It’s just very, very complex. As someone once said to me, I’m safer using a product from 1985 made by GE than trying to experiment with new products, right? Because no one will ever question me on that. And in healthcare, you’re dealing with lives. You’re dealing with people’s health and there’s a big downside to messing up. The liability is enormous, the effect on people lives is enormous.
Providers want to know where have you been, whose used you, etc. And for us, we had to build our reputation going from a 40-person health plan, and then we got to 700 people and then we got that to 1,500…eventually it went up to 80,000 and then we had to kind of build that and it took years.
I know you are a big proponent of diversity in the workplace. Talk to me about why this is so important for you?
Well, 60 percent of our management team is female. Fifty percent of our C-Suite is female. We also have a large number of first generation Americans, naturalized immigrants. We have a lot of different people across the spectrum in terms of backgrounds and religions and all that kind of stuff. We have 30 percent minorities. I’d like to say that it was something that we set out to do, but we have a strong perspective here, a very strong belief that you always hire the best person for the job. We go through the process.
When we look at resumes, we try to balance it out. We want to make sure that we’re looking at women and men for every position, but as they go through the process we make sure we go with the best person for that position. I look back at the company and I look how diverse it is and I’m really proud of that. But what I’m really proud of is I think it shows that we really were just looking for excellence, right?