Anil Kottoor is president and CEO of MedHOK, Inc., one of the healthcare industry’s fastest-growing software companies. With more than 17 years of IT experience, including leadership roles at four national health plans, Kottoor is a healthcare industry leader.
As a visionary and passionate innovator, Mr. Kottoor has an extraordinary series of unparalleled success to his credit. Over the years, he has accrued an impressive array of accomplishments for his prestigious Fortune 500 employers and their respective clients – accomplishments that earned him national recognition in 2005 as one of CIO magazine’s CIO 100, an annual award that recognizes top CIOs for their innovative use of IT to deliver a competitive advantage and enable growth.
How did you get into the medical industry?
I’m the only son of Indian physicians, who between them have six siblings who are also physicians, so I was destined for a career in medicine. Although it didn’t turn out quite the way my parents envisioned. I was in the 8th grade when I decided I wanted to focus on the business and technology aspects of healthcare. I moved to the U.S. and worked my way through college, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees before launching my career with several of the county’s leading health plans.
Tell us about MedHOK. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
I like to say that MedHOK was born on a Starbucks napkin and grew into a leading provider of paradigm-busting cloud-based healthcare software. I first got the idea for the company in 2002 when I was part of the leadership team of a major health plan. We had commissioned a market survey that revealed two significant changes on healthcare’s horizon. First, government spending on healthcare would nearly double within the decade. Second, the healthcare paradigm would shift away from reimbursements for services and transactions and instead link them to outcomes and quality. It would move from a provider-centric model to one that is patient-centric.
I recognized immediately that clinical workflows would need comprehensive re-engineering to enable coordination of care across the continuum. That would, in turn, require the elimination of data silos so that a care team could view all of a patient’s information when making care management decisions.
Initial efforts to create the technology infrastructure were only moderately successful, but I knew we were headed in the right direction. Eventually, I met up with my long-time technology partner, Vig Ponnusamy, at a Tampa Starbucks. It was there that I sketched out the framework of a new software platform that would put the patient in the middle of the healthcare system. It took another two years before Vig and I established proof-of-concept and MedHOK hit the market.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to MedHOK's success?
Our marketing philosophy centers on providing quality technology, fast and relatively painless implementations and outstanding customer service to generate meaningful references and word-of-mouth referrals. This peer-to-peer approach is the most powerful marketing channel there is, especially in healthcare. It may be a big business, but healthcare is still a small community and companies like MedHOK live and die by the grapevine. So our marketing strategy is and always well be to continuously evolve our technology to address our customers’ pain points and to always deliver on our promises.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
The shifting reimbursement model is one. Reimbursements are increasingly tied quality of care, which is one of MedHOK’s central theses. But they are also being linked more closely to the quality of outcomes. It’s an important distinction that holds great promise for transforming the healthcare system. Another emerging trend is consumer-based care. This is very futuristic, but I firmly believe that this is where everyone is headed. In fact, we’re seeing small steps now in the form of the insurance marketplaces. Under this model, each consumer will have a pot of money, perhaps from their employer or the government, that they can spend on healthcare. It will be up to each individual to manage how that money is spent, whether that’s by paying insurance premiums or paying doctors and hospitals directly. Some may even opt to pay another third party that acts like an insurance company to help mitigate risks. Regardless of the approach, consumers will be taking the lead on their healthcare.
Work hard—harder than anyone else—but not so hard that you can’t enjoy life.
Happy customers require happy employees.
Your greatest success as Founder of MedHOK?
My greatest success has been nurturing MedHOK from a start-up with no employees to a thriving, leading-edge healthcare technology company with 130 well-paid, highly engaged professionals who have risen to the complex challenge of changing the way healthcare organizations use technology. It is particularly gratifying to have accomplished this in just four very short years.
Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
There were many difficult moments early on, moments when we really didn’t think we were going to make it. Prospects would back out or customers would get angry about an issue that couldn’t be resolved fast enough. One such event that really stands out happened early on. Vig and I had been tireless in our efforts to convey to the value of integrating care, quality and compliance and it finally seemed that the message had finally begun hitting the mark. MedHOK’s largest prospect to date was ready to sign on the dotted line, and had scheduled a call for 5 p.m. on a Friday. Or so we thought. That call was really to convey their decision not to move forward. It was a crushing blow that forced us to re-examine everything we had spent years developing. But we quickly realized that failure was not an option. Smaller companies had already placed their trust in MedHOK, and we could not let them down. This goes back to always delivering on promises. So we pushed past the disappointment and re-committed to our vision. Today, that prospect is back with MedHOK on even more favorable terms. That always seemed to happen when the days were dark; something came along that gave us a new outlook and the strength to persevere.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
If you believe in what you’re doing, don’t ever give up. The saying is that ‘tough times never last, but tough people do.’ Nowhere is that more true than in the world of entrepreneurship. You have to outlast those tough times.
How do you motivate your employees?
Employee motivation comes in several forms. First is to hire the right people for the MedHOK culture. We use behavioral assessments that focus on identifying those candidates who are self-motivated. Once in place, you have to give employees the tools and flexibility to make decisions and empower them to actually do so. The second form of motivation comes from the experiences employees can have at MedHOK. They learn a lot on this job, more than they will anywhere else. If you can shine at a high-growth company like MedHOK, and roll with the rapid changes that come with that growth, nothing the future throws at you will be daunting. We prepare you for the challenges you’ll face in life both during and after MedHOK. Finally, motivation requires aligning incentives. Empowering employees, but also providing the kind of compensation that demonstrates you view them as partners in the company’s future.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Food would be my mom’s lentils, rice and chicken. My drink choice would be an Indian chai tea from a dhaba, which is India’s version of a street food vendor or roadside café.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Good to Great by Jim Collins, The How of WOW! by John J. Murphy, FAQMe by Philip Kaplan and The Age of the Customer by Jim Blasingame
Role model - business and personal?
My business role model is Steve Wynn. On the personal side of life, my role model is my mother.
I have two passions; my kids and MedHOK. But my kids will always be first.
What's next for MedHOK?
We’ll continue ensuring that customers who have committed to MedHOK for the long-term realize continuous value from that commitment. Our priority is to make sure customers are happy with our performance and with the technology we provide. We also plan to continue to grow and expand MedHOK in a very strategic way, in part by identifying the right partners to help make that happen. We want to continue setting up strategic partnerships as well as strengthening the MedHOK brand to reflect our focus on quality customer service and leading-edge technologies.