Ambulatory surgery centers represent a future for healthcare where people can have the option to have their elective surgical procedures done outside of the hospital. A few market disruptors have been developing this business model for many years, but COVID-19 has really become a catalyst for hyper-growth in this space. Right at the forefront of one of the market disruptors is Ryan Aldridge, the VP for Business Development at Atlas Healthcare Partners. Starting out as a medical assistant, Ryan was catapulted into progressively higher positions throughout his career. The longest phase in his career is more than nine years in a number of responsibilities in the medical device company, Medtronic. He joins Samuel Gbadebo in this episode to talk about his expansive career and the place of ASCs in the future of medicine.
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Ambulatory Surgery Centers – Taking Surgery Out Of The Operating Room With Ryan Aldridge
We have with us a very interesting guest because of the way he rose the ranks from starting off as a medical assistant all the way to becoming the VP of Business Development for Atlas Healthcare Partners. In that process, having experience, a Master’s degree and a tenured time as a medical device sales rep, his name is Ryan Aldridge. Another reason why this episode is insightful to read is that we don’t just talk about how Ryan got to where he was and what he experienced throughout his career. We also get into what he has seen in his role and how the future of healthcare is moving towards ASCs, Ambulatory Surgery Centers, where a provider can perform procedures outside of the hospital. It’s something that providers are looking to do and something that patients want to avoid having to go to hospitals. It is the future of healthcare. We even talk about how the pandemic has been a catalyst for more growth within this space. It’s another great episode. Thank you again for reading and I hope you enjoy the interview.
Ryan, how are you?
I’m well. How are you doing, Samuel?
I’m good. It is another month in the interesting year of 2020. We’re all trying to make sense and make things work. We have with us, Ryan Aldridge. He is the Vice President of Business Development for Atlas Healthcare Partners. Ryan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m the Vice President of Business Development for Atlas Healthcare Partners. It is a management and development company for ambulatory surgery centers. In my role, my team does business development, where we specifically recruit new physicians to these centers. We provide strong customer service to the existing physician utilizers that utilize the centers. I’m the direct link and liaison between healthcare systems. I work with the healthcare system that leverages the surgery center company and bridge the gap between that system and the physicians, and try to deliver value to the community.
Who’s your typical customer then? What is the profile of the typical customer?
We work with specialists, so it’s an outpatient surgery. A typical customer is a physician or a surgeon that is super high quality. All of the physicians that we work with are high quality, who take good care of patients, but they’re looking for a home or a good place where they can do their outpatient elective procedures, whether it’s eye procedures, ophthalmologist, orthopedic, and surgery, whatever it might be. We provide an OR space with a good culture and a good team that serves as a secondary home for them to do these procedures out.
With this type of sale, how do you typically acquire new customers? Are your sales reps out there cold calling? Is this from a relationship with other parts of the business? How does it work within Atlas?
We have a marketing team as well that creates some awareness and gets us in touch with different groups and entities throughout the state and in the other states that we serve. Our team is divided into two buckets. We have a Director of Business Development that’s responsible for new business acquisition. Those team members’ jobs are by service line. Service line being the specialty service line. We have twelve unique service lines or specialties in each one of these centers. The idea is that we market. We look at all the players in the market. We look at where alliances or allegiances with either existing ASCs or other healthcare systems and they come up with a strategic plan to execute and find unique physicians that would fit into what we’re doing and be able to participate in our centers. The other bucket is our Manager of Business Development. For all of their existing medical staff, we have over 400 to 500 physicians utilizing our centers across the market. Their job is to maximize the experience and make it strong as a physician’s experience as possible because our whole job is to provide service to physicians.
I can imagine that this is a rapidly growing field. Would you agree?
I would. There’s a lot of data on that. ASCs are blowing up. They’re expanding that market. Becker Seminar has had an article where they released the five-year CAGR through 2025. I think it was somewhere in the realm of 21% year over year.
With this industry, would you say that it’s getting to a place where surgeons are actively trying to find companies like yours to get a part of this growth?
Absolutely. We’re a system leverage company. If surgeons have outpatient elective cases and they want to serve those patients, there are a lot of mechanics in the market through payer payment systems. That’s being the primary driver of if they’re just looking for a surgery center strategy. Whether it’s a system like ours, we’re working in partnership with a healthcare system or they’re trying to build or install it on their own. There are even out of network plays that are out there. There are many different ways to do a surgery center. It’s in the structure of the partnership. There is a lot on the table.
What has it been like to provide this opportunity for surgeons and surgeons taking advantage of it during this COVID time? How has it affected the business?
With COVID, everybody is trying to survive and thrive here. We shut down. As part of the mandate back in April and May, all elective procedures, except for urgent or essential elective surgery was shut down in the State of Arizona or at least Phoenix. We had to adapt. As you can imagine, that was an interesting time for the growth of the organization, but we found two things. We found that overall page traffic and patient visits were down, but the patient’s delay in care was up. What we heard in the market was anywhere between 30% to 40% foot traffic and clinic visits down overall in our specialists’ office. Over that time period, when we rebounded May through June, we had more new physicians start in our surgery centers than any other time in the last two years. We set records. We saw a new explosion and new starts. New customers are entering the business, but all those customers were down. The leading indicator is good for growth, although our revenue looked like it was flat.
With fewer elective procedures to do with patients delaying care, what explained this new explosion of new customers in light of all that?
I think across all industries, not just in healthcare, but if you look at what COVID is doing in the technology and you look at the stock price at Amazon, you look at all these other companies. COVID is forcing companies to re-adapt their strategy to go virtual, to go from home and to do all these different things. We’re seeing changes in the market across the board that accelerate ten years in the timeline. You’re seeing other companies fall out. They just can’t survive and other companies do survive and thrive. In my opinion, ASCs are one of those models that the future of healthcare that is starting to thrive. The key drivers are that it’s been happening for a long time. CMS released a new rule. Every year they do the new rule announcing that they were going to eliminate the inpatient-only list for the hospital and orthopedics across multiple other service lines. It is a huge deal.
They’ve also continued to drive payment incentives towards outpatient surgery. That’s been happening for a while. COVID compounds that. Before you go out to the hospital because it seems like the safest place to go. There’s care there. Now, if you’re a patient looking at the same situation, you go, “The hospital is where sick people go. I’m a healthy person. I just want to get my ACL repaired or something like that. Why would I go where sick people go when I can have the same procedure done in a safe setting and go home the same day? It’s driving patient preference across the board and the adoption of this type of model.
The market itself is moving in the direction of, “Can we provide the same quality of care at a lower cost?” As healthcare is becoming more consumer-driven with higher deductibles, patients are looking for that value. This is a value-based care play. It’s difficult on hospitals and it’s simultaneously helpful for payers, but the reason they’re both moving this direction is as the United States and as the world, as the population grows, all of the health systems and all of the payers are struggling with the same type of concept. How do we provide population-based healthcare? We have this insurance company now that we’ve got all of these patients, so why is it the right thing to do to provide a low-cost alternative and take care of the entire population’s healthcare across the continuum?
I heard one of your members on a different call that talked about incentives in healthcare and what drives health. We talked about it from the insurance perspective. I think there is a place for the end game for healthcare to try and take care of as many patients as possible, even if those patients put their selves in different risk profiles. There is a place for basic healthcare of some type of insurance where we ensure people that have heart attacks. We ensure people that have cancer and other things like that to take care of basic and emerging medical needs.
Aside from that, if you start going away from preventative care, education, behavioral health and the fee for service types of different models, whether it’s pain or orthopedics or whatever it may be. Based on patient’s or consumer’s choices, whether they’re healthy or not, the more not healthy patients are going to end up paying more. At a certain point, those patients are going to be uninsurable. They’re going to fall out of a different bucket. That’s going to decrease the overall welfare of society and the population at large. If you’re a healthcare system, there’s a fine balance between, do we want the individual to take all the accountability for their own actions? There’s an argument for that. There’s also the social responsibility of, do we take care of the population at large to make sure that we contribute to the entirety of the welfare of everybody across the market so the economy continues, nothing’s interrupted and people are taken care of.
Hospitals and payers know that in the future of medicine is whether it’s single-payer or not, whatever happens on Capitol Hill, they need to take care of large populations of patients in order to promote the entire well-being of society. That’s what everybody is structuring this to do. The surgery centers are one component of that delivery network, hospitals are the other. Research all the other ancillaries. Everything else across the board as a piece of it. How do you unite and connect all the dots to provide the most care at the most affordable price and still have patients do the right thing?
That makes me think of another question. Let’s say this ambulatory surgery center growth maxes out. What ultimately is going to start happening with the hospitals?
There are discussions that happen every single day about that. The hospitals are an acute resource where, as the population continues to grow, there will always be high acuity procedures that the right place to do those surgeries and procedures is in the hospital like transplants, heart and cancer. All of these things that cause patients to be sick, need to be done. Patients are going to need places to stay. The overall trend and the strategy are as population growth continues to move forward, more of those procedures are going to happen in the hospital, as this transition occurs over the next years, decade or whatever it might be.
Ultimately, as we see in movies, those procedures that moved to an ASC may not be the last stop. years from now. We might be looking at some type of outpatient hub where you walk into a box and get your treatment or you get your surgery, whether it’s an office-based setting or some other types of a crazy robotic device that these vendors are producing that can do it all for you. It’s an evolution of healthcare that hospitals will continue to remain a vital piece of that delivery network. Surgery centers are going to emerge as another vital piece of it. Further down the line, there are going to be more dots that come into play different business models and healthcare models that emerge got it.
You established that hospitals are moving in this direction. They are in alignment with this ASC growth, but what is the challenge for hospitals as ASCs continuing to grow? What are they challenged by?
Hospitals are challenged because while we sit internally as part of our partnership with a large hospital system, is we’re helping a large integrated hospital system become a large integrated delivery network. What we mean by that, the challenges for the hospital are based on the different payment mechanisms that happen at the Medicare level and then all the private payer level. The incentives to do elective surgery or provide care are based on the hospital-based delivery system. The amount of cost savings with simultaneous redistribution of revenue in the healthcare system has never been larger with the prospect of moving outpatient elective procedures outside of the hospital into a lower-cost ASC side of service.
If you’re a large integrated healthcare network, that directly impacts your bottom line and your financials. That’s one of the reasons that we think we have a sustainable model and a great partnership for the future. I can almost guarantee you that every hospital system, especially the not-for-profit hospital systems are struggling with this concept across the market and its entirety now. I think we can help them solve it or at least bridge the gap.
Does this do anything to the smaller hospitals?
It depends on where the smaller hospital is located. Rural hospitals are essential and there are several rural hospitals are still here in the State of Arizona that practices and support the community. As these communities continue to expand and grow and the geography lines blend, we’re seeing more consolidation. Within the last few years, there’s been more consolidation of hospitals and healthcare systems in healthcare than any other point in history. COVID is ushering in an acceleration of that consolidation and big healthcare systems and rural hospitals buying other hospital systems. I also look at the surgery center opportunity in the next 5 or 10 years as an opportunity for consolidation of the surgery center market.
There are over 5,000 surgery centers in the United States, but less than 15% of those are owned by either the healthcare system or one of the big 4 or 5 ambulatory surgery center companies. We are talking about 80% of the market plus, being conservative, being physician-owned, or in some type of different relationship. On the opposite of that, the hospital systems are growing larger and larger by the day. I don’t know what the market holds, but we’re placing our bet on healthcare systems, continuing to form tight partnerships with physicians and consolidate the ASC environment.
Eventually, all these ASCs, a lot of these smaller hospitals are going to be under few umbrellas.
I don’t know how long and many years that’s going to take, but if you look at some of the for-profits systems, tenants and HCAs are a big one. The not-for-profits are regionally distributed. If you look at any other industry like in technology and medical device, aside from physician practices and hospitals, you’ve got large national and multinational companies. I’m not saying that healthcare and hospital delivery networks have to get there but I think the market and history have proven that non-disruptive markets or non-disruptive sectors like healthcare continues to be as much comparatively as a technology sector, move that direction over time. I think it’s only inevitable.
You see that as a great thing. I know a number of people that would see that as not such a great thing, but from where you stand, it’s a great thing.Ambulatory surgery centers are the future of healthcare. Click To Tweet
I’m not going to commit to the idea. I’m going to say that I see that’s what’s coming. Large physicians don’t see that as the right thing. I’m a huge advocate for independent physician practice. I want to make that completely clear. Independent physicians and helping them build. That’s what we try and partner to do is help independent physicians flourish in a relationship with the healthcare system. They’re going to have to adapt business models similar to the way that the hospital systems are adapting business models and maybe their evolution of those types of practices, they can be the leaders in developing new sites of service.
Physicians were the leaders in developing the ASC side of service. This is the first surgery center ever in the United States was founded here in Phoenix, Arizona. We shut it down and moved it back to a different site. The physician group is responsible for developing that. What does evolution look like? I don’t know that there’s going to be a day that we see orthopedic surgeries happening in an office-based side of service in the near future. Through partnerships with a device company where we have these robots that can continue to be self-sustainable in the future and partnership with strong surgeon groups, you develop new sites of service. New ways of doing surgery, new applications and new models. That’s where it’s got to go.
It seems pretty inevitable, whether you like it or not.
Let’s take it back to you, Ryan. You’ve had quite a career and everyone’s curious to understand how you got to where you are now. I’m going to take it to the beginning, though and take you back to college. Right before college, what were you planning to do? What did you want to be and what did you pursue right out of college?
You’re taking me back before college, which is high school. I was a four-sport athlete in high school. I did wrestling, football, track, and baseball. I was too short or too slow. I’m Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I heard somebody say that before. I ended up not being a master of any of them. I went to college and I went to the best school that I got into at the time. I had a passion for biology, chemistry, human science and humans in general. I had all this free time from where I used to practice and I chose to focus it on my academic passion was I never explored that in biochemistry. I dedicated my time to that. It was a rough beginning. I was always an athlete in high school. I had to transform into this more cerebral academic minded person.
I took Biochemistry. I remember how rough that was. You graduated with Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Coming out of that, what was your first position?
My first position was with a company called Wei Laboratories. I was a Regional Account Manager. I had the option when I left college to go through the academic track and do more research, but the principal investigators and people that I was working with within the lab at that time had more nervous ticks than a clock. I thought that I didn’t want to follow that track and enjoy working with people and the human science element of it. I wanted to explore what it looked like, so I found this position as a Regional Account Manager. I was inside sales and making phone calls all day in multiple states from inside a cubicle. It was a holistic pharmaceutical company. It was some traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic type of stuff, chiropractors and other types of physicians.
Eventually, you worked for Medtronic and you got deep into medical device sales. What turns you on to that from the position you ran with this holistic function of it?
I would say the intent is important in your life, in general. The one with that is I didn’t have a clear vision of what I necessarily wanted to do at that time. I knew I wanted to be in healthcare. I didn’t know what that looked like. At some point or another, I got a buddy 12, 18 months into that position, I decided I want to go into healthcare. I want to be either going to medicine as a physician. I did want to get into the device. I didn’t understand it that well, though when I was 23, 24, but the decision that I made at that time was if I want to do that to get from here to there, I got to immerse myself in the industry. Sitting here in a cubicle making them calls isn’t going to cut it.
I quit that job without another job. My father broke his collarbone. I followed him into the orthopedic surgeon’s office and asked a surgeon that came in, “Thanks for the post-op. Do you guys have any jobs open? I have to work as a medical assistant.” They hired me as a medical assistant. They let me do some job shadowing in the operating room. I saw an ACL repair. It was the first case that I ever witnessed. They did some meniscus repair as well through arthroscopic. It was cool to see that sports medicine stuff. That’s what I do. Being in the operating room, that’s when I knew I wanted to do two things. I wanted to work with patients and I want to be in the OR.
For about a year there, I explored being in that physician’s office thinking I was going to apply to medical school. I admired physicians. I realized that it is a long road that I was unprepared to take on, but I found that I could get the same value out of being a medical device rep in pain neuromodulation. These reps spend a ton of time working with patients and spend a lot of time in the operating room. When one of the reps walked into that office and told me that, I followed him out and tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I want to do what you do. How do I get in contact with people?” The short story is he gave me his black book. He had a list of recruiters and other people in the industry.
I went back to the old school cold calling, which I learned as a regional account manager. I called the list. I got a lot of noes. I’m somewhere into that. I was on my way home from work and I was frustrated. I got a call back from a recruiter and he was like, “I like your story, but you’re pretty light on experience. Why would somebody want to talk to you?” That was either frustration or me being bold, but I was like, “Your job as a recruiter manager is to get me in front of somebody and have the interview. Once you do that, I’ll take care of the rest for both of us. Don’t worry.” There was a pause and then the next thing I know, he’s like, “Can you do an interview tomorrow at 3:00?” I was like, “Whoever it is, I don’t care. I’ll be there. Let’s do this.” That was my first interview with Medtronic. I was with a gentleman named Dave Meyer and I had several interviews after that. I was 25 years old and July 27th of 2009 was my first day.
I want to take it back a little bit. You quit your job because you were clear that you knew you wanted to be in healthcare, whether it be as a rep of some sort or as a physician. You have the confidence to say, “I believe enough in myself and what I’m capable of. I know I want to be in this industry, so I’m leaving.” Is that accurate?
That is accurate. Steve Jobs said in a speech one time, “If you wake up enough days in a row and you don’t like what you’re doing, change what you’re doing.” That was the mentality. Being there and realizing that I’m not going to get to point B if I’m starting at point A and it is inaccessible. Anywhere in your career, if you’re not getting what you need, figure out a way to fast wire a short circuit so you can accelerate that timeline to the next step as much as possible. Maybe that involves a different direction, maybe involves a different pay cut, maybe involves being very humble and moving back into your mother’s house.
When you became a medical assistant, you moved back into your mother’s house?
I did for a year.
It’s because you were that clear.
I was living alone and I moved back to be a medical assistant. It also was a way to save money. I need to go back to fundamentals. That’s one thing. I went to the research track in college. I was set up to go and go on to a Master’s program or a different type of academic program. I never explored what my passion was. If you have takeaways, if you’ve got a passion, that you want to be in healthcare or you want to work with people, or if you want to work with technology, whatever it may be, you’re not going to work in technology by working with by laying bricks or something like that. You got to start somewhere with experience to go on to the next level.
When you were a medical assistant, you’ve got to see enough procedures that turned you onto these reps that do this job or are you already doing some behind scenes and research to find out about this job that these reps have?
I knew about reps in general even back into college. It was always something I looked at that would be nice to get into. I was already intending to go down that road, but I had to connect a few dots before I got there.
You get to Medtronic and you had quite a career there. You were with Medtronic for about nine years. When I look at your profile, you had a number of roles, associate clinical specialists, clinical specialists, therapy consultant and then senior therapy consultant. Walk us through what that experience was like and what you were starting to discover as you continued your career while you were at Medtronic.
It’s humbling and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about yourself and your development. I don’t think of it or myself that way, but looking back on it, you never know what the next step looks like until you get there. Early on in my career, the way that I grew up, my father always told me hard work is always rewarded. I put my nose down and grind it out. That was one thing I’m still good at and looking for the next step. I had a manager that came to me. I told him that about 2 or 3 years in with Medtronic and he’s like, “That’s great and that’s true, but you also have to be strategic and you also have to plan your next steps and you have to help chart your own career.”
There’s a difference between advocating for oneself. If you don’t create an opportunity or advocate for yourself in the right ways, you’re not going to achieve what you want. That was a big shift for me of realizing that, and that’s when I started to have those conversations of, “What’s next? How do I get there? What are the criteria that I need to meet to get to that next level?” That’s where it began. The real next big step is the opportunity wasn’t going to be there for me in California. I was four years in with Medtronic. A lot of things in my life intersected, but an opportunity that I wanted for the next step up came open in Phoenix. I was in the right place and was able to make a move. Being open to make a move and move in geography to accelerate your career is an essential step a lot of times, especially in medical devices these days. You find that people are more open to moving, ultimately they move up a lot quicker than those aren’t.
Location is key when you want to truly advance your career. In Medtronic, generally speaking, who is your customer base? What types of devices were you selling?
It was pain neuromodulation. It was spinal cord stimulators and intrathecal drug delivery systems for either opioid, morphine or intrathecal baclofen.
The reason why I make it a point for you to mention that is because what all interests me about you is you were a medical device sales rep and you transitioned into getting into business development within healthcare systems, with your first role being Banner Health. In addition to that, you went ahead and furthered your education through that transition. I want to know, where was your mind towards the end of your career with Medtronic? When you were a senior therapy consultant, you’re selling these types of devices, what were you starting to notice that made you say, “It’s time to make a new move?”
There are a lot of factors that go into that. Maybe I’ll answer it a different way, but if you go back and even back to college, I can talk about biochemistry, going into business, sales, and going through Medtronic. The thing that I firmly believe in is whether it’s a product and more importantly, your personal brand in your career track or your career arc, you’ve got to radically differentiate. Whether it means being a biochemist and going into sales and then going into being a medical assistant, and then going back into a medical device, finding the pathway to success is a big part of it. The more differentiation you know that you have in your development when you sit and you’re able to tell your story in front of that next person that’s going to be either the recruiter are going to be the manager, you can tell a different story about your brand and what you bring to the table.
That’s what I tried to do with my career. In my time with Medtronic, at every step, there’s the value that you bring in your day-to-day job for both your company and your customers. There’s the value that you bring outside of the job. Always be more relevant than the person next to you or the person you’re selling against. It’s the same thing in the corporate environment as well. What value can you bring to the organization that projects somebody to think about the business in a different light? At every step, I was always trying to frame my brand in that way. Towards the end there, I came to the decision point of, “I’m in a mature territory doing medical device sales. The salaries in medical device sales, depending on what you get into, there are still some lucrative salaries out there.”
For me, it was that decision point of, “Do I remain here and then let my career be dictated about environmental changes and make money for as long as I can? Do I challenge myself and take all that differentiation that I’ve created through self-development, by going back to school and get an MBA?” While I was in those last few years of Medtronic and package that and do something cool, they say that opportunity is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.
I prepared myself for the opportunity and achieved locker success. Going back to it, I always wanted, from the time I was young, for some reason, I looked at the future of medicine. It seemed like the independent providers that were thriving were the ones form themselves in multi-specialty clinics are multi-specialty medical office buildings. The surgery center that was co-located, they all partnered and got together and these things. In my first year with Medtronic, I recognize that I always wanted to be in the surgery center space. A vision of mine was to have my own surgery center company someday. I need for this to come full circle and find a startup opportunity with a group of gentlemen that are founding a surgery center company. Now, I can put that out into the world and years later, it comes back. It was neat.
A couple of things, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Early on in your career with Medtronic, you discovered that there’s a trend here. Is it that the trend drove you to get that education or was it a vague idea and you felt you needed education for differentiation and then within the education, you’ve got clear? Which one was it more of?
When I graduated from college, I was wanting to get a Master’s. I looked at the market and said, “This is the key differentiating factor.” That was all in my mind. I’m not a 10X-er necessarily. I’m not sure what the 10X law is and all that stuff. I haven’t heard as much. I’m a firm believer that you have to be more. In order to be more, you got to do more than the competitors around you. You are looking at all of your peers at space, I want to be an entrepreneur. I looked down the road. In my first year with Medtronic surgery centers, everybody that’s thriving. These operating surgery centers have these ecosystems and partnerships they formed. This looks sustainable. In California, it’s either a healthcare system or this, but as far as moving up, I always wanted to go back and get my Master’s. I figured that an MBA with a Biochemistry background would be a radical differentiation of my personal brand. I found the time and created the opportunity for myself through conversations with my manager to do that.
You had it all going for you. You were seeing the opportunity, you already wanted the education, put it all together and it clearly worked out for you. That’s excellent. Talk to us about what helped you make the actual transition. You went from Medtronics to Banner Health, what happened?If you don't create an opportunity or advocate for yourself in the right ways, you're not going to achieve what you want. Click To Tweet
I graduated with my MBA in Healthcare Sector Management from the W. P. Carey School at ASU as an outstanding graduate and the top student in the class. That was not planned. That was just awesome. For the next few months, I was trying to plot the next course. What happened is I have all the time in the market. I was open to ideas and exploring things and connecting the dots. A friend of mine called me and said, “I’ve heard about this position. It’s something that you would like.” I was like, “That’s amazing,” because aside from me owning the company, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to get into for several years.
Tell us what he told you. How did he paint the picture of the opportunity?
A good friend of mine, and we’re still good friends, he was also looking for other opportunities and he had an interview. A recruiter contacted him, but I am not sure how they got connected. He interviewed for this position and just out of the blue, he’s like, “This seems like an awesome position.” He called me to tell me about it. At the end of it, it’s cool having good relationships. Having a good network is massively important because he told me all about the position he interviewed for that was an exciting opportunity. With my background, he thought I’d be interested and I would be excited about it. It is awesome that he shared that because it was a position he interviewed for. I went to tell him about the previous nine years and this vision that I had and something administrative I always wanted to be in.
I got even more excited. I asked him at the end if he’d be okay if I interviewed for it. He said, “Go ahead. Here’s the recruiter’s information.” We have a good relationship. He passed along the recruiter’s information. I reached out and through a recruiter completely outside of healthcare, medical devices, she made the connection. I met the company’s founders and with everything that led up to that, all my preparation, I recognize what the opportunity was. From the outset, it was a young company. It was a company with founders that I needed somebody that could come in and provide the guidance from a physician relationship standpoint and then scale-out and build a physician sales/recruiting wing to help staff these outpatient centers. Everything that I learned, I looked at all the market trends and made sense.
This was the business development opportunity at Banner Health.
It’s the same founders. Banner Health was an Atlas incubator. What that means is they agreed to this company for a year as the founders built out their management team. When I was hired, I was first hired with Banner Health as the Senior Director for Ambulatory Surgery. That was in September of 2018, but in full intent, the whole time is on January 1, 2019. We rolled over, came out as healthcare partners. Knowing that I came in early and then over the next months, I had a chance to plan and build out this plan. Starting in January, I recruit a team. I put the team together and took off running and building simultaneously in that direction.
The timing was excellent for you. All your education, everything you prepared to do, and you jumped into a crazy time and were able to be explosive during it. That’s a beautiful thing. Once again, it’s interesting that you had this picture in your mind long before you got the opportunity. You can say that you’re living this entrepreneurial corporate position that’s allowing you to fulfill these dreams that you had going back to when you first started working.
I guess you could say that. Into your vision, that’s come to fruition.
Give us three things that you believe are essential if you want to have the explosive career that you’ve had. When you think of everything you’ve been working on, how you’ve been looking at things, what are three essential things that people are maybe in roles they’ve been in for a while and they’ve been wanting to make a move? Maybe they are new to the role and they don’t want to be in that role for long. What are the three things that they need to keep in mind to help them?
It’s hard to drill down on three things though. It’s important to continually invest and develop yourself. Some of the things for this position that was essential to making the transition is people get so narrowly focused on recruiting the next position and getting your widget or your product or your feature, your benefit into the next positions, office, and medical device. Start to learn about payment mechanisms and healthcare. Learn about the ACOs and ACNs. Learn about the differences if you’re a medical group versus an independent provider, how do they contract? When they contract with a payer, are they reimbursed differently? How does that structure look like? How has that off the efficiency look like? What’s the benefit to the hospital system or healthcare system to do that? How are integrated delivery networks, structured is not just the hospital?
It’s not just a medical group. What are all the other ancillaries and touchpoints that they bring up into that? Learn as much as you can. I would say learning outside of your day-to-day business is the same thing as self-development. Everything is a story that you tell in front of somebody. That’s not three things, but learning, self-development, just sales ask for what you want. If you’re not finding it, be open-minded to the point of making a change and exploring a different opportunity, even if it’s one you didn’t think about before. Lastly, going back to that concept of pick the path that may be more difficult, sometimes it’s not always easy to learn something new. Choose things that allow you to give your brand a different perspective, differentiate yourself, whether it’s learning something new, taking on something in your company that allows you to learn, the business development, VC side of things, whatever it may be and all those components.
Thank you for sharing that. That is an important thing for people to learn from someone experienced and as successful as you’ve been. You’re also in a hiring position. You’re responsible for building much more than a team. It sounds like you built multiple teams. For people that want to get into this role and get into health system development, what do you say you look for in candidates? Let’s say someone wants to be in your team and they are reading this and saying, “I would love to be on the growth of what Atlas is doing and work within expanding these ambulatory centers and grow things to a next level.” What would you say you look for in candidates? What do you need to see when you’re in an interview?
The best candidate I ever interviewed asked me more questions than I asked them. They interviewed me. When you do that, you prepare to that level to interview the person sitting across from you. It shows your strategic planning. It shows your grit. Grit is a key component. Everything that we’ve done the last years, there was no landscape here in front of us of what this division looked like or what we were going to have to go out to accomplish. It hasn’t always been easy. You got to dig down. When things don’t go according to plan, you got to have a good, positive mental attitude to adjust. It tells me how they’re going to be in front of customers. Ideally, I am looking for consultative reps that are able to do a lot of discovery and dig down into the most crucial pain points of the physicians that we work with or the other healthcare executives we work with. They can formulate comprehensive solutions that aren’t just, “Use our surgery center, use our medical device or use our form, whatever.” It may be an understanding of the comprehensive customer through asking questions, portray that to your interviewer. That’s how you’re going to go out and interact with our customer base.
For your team specifically, what type of qualifications should a person have? What should they have in their back pocket to even be considered to be on a team like yours?
For level positions that were here, in our first iteration of the team, we’ve all come from either background. In medical device or healthcare hospital system, business development, or manager level positions either come from a background in the medical device as well, but also medical imaging and laboratory diagnostics. Specifically, in healthcare, that’s the first iteration. What we’re working on getting better at now is building repeatable and scalable systems in-house. For the next iteration, whether outside of our healthcare system, we are positioned to go expand into another healthcare system. We need to duplicate what we did here. What I mean by that is we’re not necessarily going to need people with ten years of experience. We’re not going to be people with five years’ experience. We need people with good character, strong motivation and energy, super inquisitive that have that grit, and have 1 to 2 years of experience, whether it’s in healthcare or some other type of relatable sale that can come in and execute the plan.
Ryan, this has been so enlightening for many. I want to ask you a few questions. I always ask this for my guests and I’m going to ask you as well. Take us back to right before you started as a medical assistant and you can tell yourself anything. With all the information and wisdom that you’ve gained since then, what would you tell yourself right before you started?
Don’t stop, it’s going to pay off.
This was excellent. We could talk all day about this. I appreciate the time you took. We’re going to follow up though. Everyone wants to know where this future is going to take us and when it gets there, what are you guys going to be up to next? Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Samuel. I am looking forward to seeing you again.
That’s insightful, ambulatory surgery centers, where the future of procedures is headed and how the pandemic has been a catalyst for it. What are we going to talk about? We talked about corporate consolidation. From anyone’s vantage point, there’s a dark and bright side to that. You have the smaller companies or the smaller practices that are the independent providers that don’t want to see that. They’re not ready to give up the reins and be part of a network. They want to continue to control their own ship. You have what makes a lot of sense to provide more uniform care, not only for the patients but to allow providers to give this care in a more uniform way with the consolidation of these larger companies and health networks. Where does Ryan stand on it? He took a neutral position.
Where do I stand on it? I think consolidation is inevitable. I don’t even say one is bad or one is good. I just say the best way to manage it is to prepare them for what’s inevitable. If that’s the direction, then independent providers need to be ready for it, regardless of what they would like to see. They can be part of it in a big way, or they can bow out gracefully and let someone else take the reins. Ryan was a great guest to have. He has such an extensive career. I enjoy talking to him because to go from a medical assistant that wanted to be, or even before that, he wanted to be part of the patient care. He wants to be involved in the procedures and that took him to become a medical assistant. To catapult himself all the way to becoming a VP of Business Development because of his genuine interest and his care to understand how the industry works, including going to get a formal education to give him that further understanding.
He’s an example of what someone can do when they put their minds to it and exercise available resources. This was years ago. He started his journey back in 2006. Years later, he’s in a completely different space. What’s wonderful about the space we’re in, if you want to experience that same kind of journey, you have resources available to you at your fingertips that can you reach your highest potential, whatever that looks like for you. If you’re someone that wants to get into the industry, you need to make sure you visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and take the assessment. You can hit Attain a Medical Sales Role on the homepage and then take an assessment. That’s going to show you exactly what your gaps are and then give you the opportunity to be part of a program that helps professionals get the positions in healthcare sales and medical sales that they want.
If you’re a sales professional and you’re looking for a way to improve your performance, maybe the Winner’s Circle is something you’ve thought about. Maybe it’s a promotion you’ve been itching to go for that you want to be considered for. If you want to ramp up your performance again, visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and select Improve Sales Performance, and learn about a program that can get you to where you want to go. You’ll talk to one of us here at Evolve Your Success and we’ll show you exactly how you can change your complete trajectory and get to where you want to go. As always, thank you and make sure you tune in for another episode.
About Ryan Aldridge
I have always been passionate about health and human science. This led me to study Biochemistry in college where my dream was to solve the aids epidemic through molecular research. Along the way I discovered that my passion resided in helping individuals achieve health improvement one on one.
When my grandfather passed away of lung cancer in 2005, I chose to focus my energy into discovering new advancements in healthcare and medical technology.
As the Vice President of Business development for Atlas Healthcare Partners/Banner Health, I along with the team I serve, drive the growth of Ambulatory Surgery Centers in all states Banner operates with the mission to provide a lower cost surgical option and increased access to patients across multiple geography’s.
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