An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Mat Kendall (co-founder and president) of Aledade, which was honored in our:
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Maryland
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Maryland
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Bethesda
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Maryland
- 2018 Best Tech Startups in Maryland
Tell us the origin story of Aledade – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Our CEO Farzad Mostashari and I had worked together for 15 years, trying to find ways to use health information technology to improve health. Under Mayor Bloomberg, in New York, that meant trying to find ways to infuse public health messaging throughout our work, and ensuring it got to the people who needed it. At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it was mostly finding ways to get information to the people delivering care on the front lines, so they could improve health among populations. For that decade and a half, we had set the table, but we kept running up against a market failure – people didn’t know how to engage the primary care providers all across this country who are the trusted sources of care in their communities. We saw an opportunity. If we could empower these front line physicians, help them improve public health, and thrive as small businesses, we could set our health care system on a new and better trajectory. That’s why we created Aledade.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
As any health care entrepreneur will tell you, implementing anything new in health care is difficult. You’re confronted with lots of players, who all bring lots of competing priorities. On top of all that, the people who often need the most help have the fewest resources. So our first challenge was getting the attention of primary care practices and helping them understand that we had their best interest at heart and were aligned with them. Our next challenge was the technical challenge of connecting systems across health care, so these doctors had a comprehensive view of what’s happening with their patients. All too often in health care, data exists in different places, it’s siloed, and just pulling those pieces together is daunting. The final challenge is making sure that the payers are aligned. Medicare does a phenomenal job of emphasizing value, but unfortunately, most of a physician’s patients aren’t on Medicare. We’ve found that helping physicians care for their patients regardless of payer is a big challenge, but one that a large number of commercial health insurers are starting to solve.
What does the future hold for Aledade?
The future is very bright, because we’ve proven that this type of health care works. We have now demonstrated that it is possible for primary care practices to get the data and in-person support they need to meet the needs of their patients and keep them healthy by reducing expensive care like avoidable hospitalizations and visits to the emergency room. We can ensure everyone gets the care they need. We’ve also proven that the financial model works. When people focus on prevention and health, it provides just as much benefit as, if not more than, the traditional fee for service system. The physicians we work with are receiving just as many benefits by keeping patients healthy as they would caring for them when they get sick. Finally, the future’s bright because we can bring those lessons across the nation. We’re currently in 31 states coast-to-coast, making sure that more physicians know that we’re aligned with them. When docs can focus on the best needs of their patients, that’s when Aledade wins.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Maryland?
There’s so much talent here in Maryland. We’re in close proximity to these massive acronyms like CMS, NSA, DOD, and that means there are so many people in this area, and so many companies, thinking deeply about how technology can be used for the greater good. This is a place to think about big problems and make things that scale, and the Maryland startup scene is attracting the talent to do just that.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Think big. Don’t nibble at the edges. Find a big challenge with lots of opportunity and go right at it. Health care is a great example of a sector where people are hesitant to take on reform. It seems daunting because there are so many established players. But there’s also a lot of opportunity in toppling an incumbent. Second, spend a lot of time and energy building a great team. Make sure you have team members that share your mission and your values, and don’t compromise. Finally, find your north star, and stay fixed on that. All too often, as the business grows, you’ll have distractions and side paths that can make you lose your way. Set clear, achievable milestones, and move clearly on that path fixed on your north star. That’s why we named our company Aledade – after a nautical tool that sailors used to find the north star. It’s how we make sure every day – through the good times and even through a global pandemic – that we’re doing everything we can to help our nation’s primary care heroes thrive.