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Managing Complementary Healthcare with Innovative Tech

October 20, 2023
Health Tech World

Interview on HealthTechWorld with Gordon Stribling

Tina Hsiao is COO of Soundry Health, a startup helping complementary healthcare providers to manage their businesses more efficiently and better communicate with patients.

After finishing business school, Tina worked for QuickBooks and TurboTax developer, Intuit, before ‘catching the startup bug’ and joining WePay.

Tina talks to Health Tech World about the challenges and opportunities of developing tech for integrative healthcare businesses.

Hi Tina. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your path to working with Soundry Health?

I was approached by a former Intuit colleague Barry [Saik] who had built TurboTax and ran it for a long time.

Together, we have a background in helping small businesses and consumers be more effective, with things like compliance and insurance payments.

Barry also had quite a bit of experience in healthcare and had worked for a company called Health Tap for a couple of years. So it all came together.

How would you describe the Soundry Health mission?

We are all passionate about the complementary integrative healthcare space.

Many of us use the services of chiropractors and acupuncturists, and we feel that, as small practitioners, nobody’s paying attention to them in the same way that they are to the larger medical practices.

We felt that we could help them take advantage of modern technology tools, streamline their processes and overlay our abilities from fintech payments and compliance.

It must be a little bit different working in these complementary spaces.

Do these small businesses face unique challenges that they wouldn’t necessarily come up against in more mainsteam healthcare?

The biggest difference, which is where our backgrounds really come in, is that they’re small practitioners who’ve qualified and then had to figure out their own chiropractic or acupuncture practice.

But they’re not usually part of large companies, right?

They can be financially successful, but not on the level of an orthopaedic surgeon, for example. So they’re trying to manage all of these different aspects of their business.

For us, they look a lot like the small businesses that we ran into at Intuit.

You have to figure out your marketing, payments, insurance, hiring and so on. Our vision is to provide them with business-in-a-box software for all aspects of their business.

For most medical and healthcare practitioners, insurance is still a big deal.

The coverage is there, around 50 to 80 per cent, depending on the specialty. But it can be trickier to navigate, especially when you’re a small practice.

You don’t have like the oomph of larger medical facilities so you have to navigate it all on your own.

That’s where we come in as an all-in-one, inclusive of the billing service.

It’s software plus service, which is the unique part. We’re not just giving them a software platform, but the expertise on top of that.

What kinds of challenges do practitioners face when billing for their services? Lots of chasing stuff up and navigating regulations presumably?

Every single payer is a little bit different. So if you’re in network with four or five, you have different slightly different contracts with each.

You have to know which codes you’re allowed to bill to each and what fees apply.

And these are big organisations you’re dealing with, so if you don’t do it right, they can deny you and you’re left having to chase it down and get the right information from your patient.

It’s a lot of administrative hassle that these folks don’t have the time or expertise to undertake.

The data shows that 15 per cent of claims are denied. And if you don’t chase after it, you leave money on the table.

So you can imagine that, for a sole proprietor who’s only got a couple of employees to help,  it can be hard to run all this down.

Are you the only people working in this space exclusively servicing integrative and complementary healthcare companies?

There are some folks who do medical billing, where they can hire somebody off the street.

But hiring and firing is difficult as a small business, and not everybody understands the nuances of their specialties.

The thing with these specialties is that you hit certain caps on how many sessions [are funded].

Sometimes only particular diagnoses apply, depending on  the patient’s insurance plan. This makes it a lot more tricky and nuanced to navigate.

Such is the American medical system!

Given that it’s such a minefield, did you work with insurance companies to get an understanding of what it is they want so you could simplify it for people?

One of the first things we did was hire some billing experts who had expertise in these specialties.

Because it’s not like the insurance providers publicise all this information. You can find some of it online but it can be very trial and error.

My chiropractor will tell you that United Healthcare is one company.

But depending on the patient’s plan and region, it’s as if United Healthcare offers 100 different products. So you have to know how to bill against those 100 different products.

You need a team with the right expertise and that’s what we built up. Now we have the data to automate that and build the AI behind it.

So you’ve got an app as well. Does that have all the functionality of the software?

Yeah, we have. Our service works in conjunction with our software which is focused very much on these specialty practitioners.

At first we started by asking, who could we partner with in more traditional EHR practice management?

But we found that a lot of those products were developed for larger practices and networks, so they’re a little bit bloated for our practitioners’ needs.

They’re not easy to use and they are expensive.

So we decided to develop something that targeted [the kind of companies we work with.]

They don’t have to input tonnes of irrelevant codes. This allows us to build automation and AI focused on them that is easy to digest and use.

So the AI is very much under development. What else have you got coming up for the remainder of this year and into next year?

We’ve got all the pieces of an EHR. So things like scheduling, documentation and note taking and the capacity to input the coding and the billing.

But we’re doing in deeper.

With the scheduling and calendaring, for example, we’re [going to get] a lot more nuanced. So multi-room, multi-location… a more sophisticated patient portal.

Given our background, we will be adding more full-fledged payment capability as well.

Okay, great. So building on what you’ve got and connecting stuff up, basically.

Yes. And over time, we want to build in clear communication tools as well. For example, tools that allow practitioners to remind patients to join a patient plan so they continue to come in.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We have a vision to help many more complementary integrative practitioners.

We’re starting with chiropractors, acupuncturists, dieticians, nutritionists and massage therapists.

But we believe that in the future, we’ll be able to help anybody that complements or is integrative around core medical practices.

Whether you’re new to accepting insurance or are a seasoned pro, Soundry is here to help. We offer billing services and an EHR built from the ground-up for integrative practitioners. Learn more about Soundry's here, or sign up for a consultation to discuss your practice’s specific needs in depth.

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