I am very excited to announce that Saurabha Bhatnagar, MD, has joined Commure as our Chief Health Officer. Dr. Bhatnagar’s unique experience and commitment to improving the healthcare experience for patients and providers, make him the ideal person to take on this new role.
Dr. Bhatnagar joins us from UnitedHealthcare, where he most recently served as the Chief Medical Officer, Head of Digital & Technology. Originally a software engineer with deep experience in human centered design, Dr. Bhatnagar is also a talented physician, educator, and business executive. We worked together at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where he built the enterprise change-management strategy as Deputy Chief Medical Officer and served as the Chief Medical Information Officer modernizing the enterprise digital health systems. He also has a deep understanding on the challenges of large scale healthcare operations having served as the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary in charge of Quality, Safety and Value enterprise operations for the 1250+ VA hospital systems and clinics. He also has a deep passion for improving healthcare through idea sharing and education, and has taught as faculty at Harvard Medical School in many global executive education courses for several years.
He brings a mix of technology, clinical, and business experience that spans from an executive in government to a Fortune 6 company. I’m excited to partner with him to serve our customers and partners on our platform.
Dr. Bhatnagar and I recently discussed his background, his role here, and why he chose the title of Chief Health Officer over Chief Medical Officer:
AZ: You trained as a physician and a software engineer. How does that experience help you in your role?
SB: Commure is about connecting best practices from two massive industries, technology and medicine, to simplify and enable every step of the complex healthcare delivery system. While there has been a lot of great work started in this space, the knowledge gap often is having a deep enough understanding of both industries to really enable what patients and providers are hoping for, a simpler and easier to use healthcare ecosystem. A superficial knowledge in either space will result in many subpar efforts and often has even had counterproductive effects of adding complexity. What is exciting about the team we have at Commure and the partners we are working with, is a laser focus on reducing that complexity. We are not looking to disrupt, but instead enable radical collaboration.
AZ: You chose the title “Chief Health Officer” over Chief Medical Officer. Why was that important to you?
SB: Commure Co-Founder Hemant Taneja’s aspirations for Health Assurance deeply resonated with me when I spoke with him. Like Hemant, I believe we need to fundamentally rethink the way to provide, experience, and pay for care. And when most people think of the word “medical”, they often think of illness and where to go when they or a loved one is sick. “Health” on the other hand is more holistic and signals the way we prioritize keeping people well over just caring for someone when they are ill. Commure is focused on providing solutions that enable overall health, which involves combining what happens inside and outside the walls of hospitals and clinics. This new and missing infrastructure is how we enable an unrelenting focus on the health of populations.
AZ: 2021 has seen a huge amount of investment come into companies that want to help improve aspects of both sick care and wellness. What do you think are the biggest ingredients for success for these new digital health initiatives?
SB: I have seen and built a lot of new digital health offerings for patients, for providers, and for payers and we really saw an acceleration this past year. The healthcare technology solutions that found success shared a few things in common:
They have great industry partnerships. Healthcare is not a sector where new companies can expect to come in, disrupt the market, and most importantly innovate on their own. Healthcare is a collaborative process and very complex and the best digital health companies know that they need to work closely with the traditional health ecosystem to provide the best total care for their members. The larger and more complex the system, the faster the learnings for innovative companies.
They are laser focused on providing a great experience for not just the patient, but all of their users in a holistic way. For lots of reasons, navigating the healthcare ecosystem is hard. It’s hard for patients, it’s hard for providers to provide great care, and it’s hard for innovative new companies to easily come in and navigate the complexity while also working on the problem they want to solve. Companies that understand and can execute on these various points of view through an ecosystem approach are the ones who will have lasting, transformational success.
They have an understanding of the complexities of scale and have experience in how to manage the challenges that arise. I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of two organizations that operate at the largest scale in their health verticals with over 300,000 employees serving millions of patients and members. Things that work in small pilots or MVPs break down without a clear understanding of how healthcare operates at scale. Many efficiencies and truly improving healthcare outcomes, arise with a proactive approach to scale early enough in the design and development process of creating great products.
What’s so exciting about Commure is that we have a clear understanding and roadmap of all three of these ingredients, and we are bringing this diligent mindset in creating our novel products and solutions. We are bridging the gap between innovators, traditional health systems, and emerging models of health delivery.