Nathan Pelzer, CEO of Clinify Health, credits his drive as an entrepreneur in the health system to his mom. “Watching my mom bust her butt as a nurse to take care of two boys, I saw the passion health care providers have for their jobs. She instilled in me the character of helping others.”
He also reflects on some of the challenges he faced with the health care system while growing up. “We didn’t have the Cadillac of health insurance plans, so when we were feeling a little sick or under the weather, we didn’t make a doctor’s appointment. It was, ‘Hey, let’s see if you get better before we go to the doctor.’”
Nathan says his experience is reflective of broader trends around the country. He says that delaying doctor’s visits is common — and understandable — for the people and communities living on lower incomes who are served by Medicaid. However, the risk is that if people don’t visit the doctor, they go to the emergency room and face higher-cost services.
“The system works for those who have a good plan in place to cover their medical needs, but for those who don’t, there are a lot of gaps that can take place.”
Nathan eventually came to see these gaps as potential opportunities.
After working in investment banking, then for VillageMD, Nathan saw firsthand how effective some clinical care strategies could be for lowering costs and improving outcomes for patients. These value-based care strategies included a focus on preventative medicine, like ensuring annual check-ups that catch issues before they become hospital visits, and proactive strategies for improving community health, like care coordination for follow-up visits and social service referrals.
Nathan said that starting Clinify Health, which unlike VillageMD specializes in supporting providers at community health centers, had its challenges. “Being a Black founder, I didn’t necessarily get the same opportunities as other people. I don’t have a family member that I can go ask for $200,000 to get my idea off the ground. The people I had to ask for money didn’t necessarily look like me.”
He faced a lot of noes before getting his first yeses. “I started Clinify with nothing more than an idea. I put the idea on a pitch deck and printed out a bunch of PDFs. I rented a car, threw my printouts in the trunk, and drove to South Side hospitals in Chicago.”
The people Nathan met on that first roadshow said it was a great idea, but that it was just an idea. “I had to persevere through the noes and take their feedback while staying true to the mission. Eventually, the noes became yeses. If you persevere knowing that your north star remains your north star, I firmly believe that eventually you’ll come out on the other side successful.”
Clinify Health now supports five health center organizations at 35 sites with their transition to value-based care, helping these clinics save money they can then use to provide better patient care. Nathan sees this as just the beginning. The California Health Care Foundation, which invested in Clinify Health through their Innovation Fund, hopes to see the company use this investment to expand its services to providers and payers in California.
“Clinify Health has proven itself as an effective model to reduce costs and improve patient health outcomes in Chicago. We look forward to sharing the model with our network of providers in California so that this solution can help an expanding group of Medi-Cal patients,” said Melissa Buckley, Director of the Innovation Fund at the California Health Care Foundation. The Innovation Fund co-invested in Clinify in a seed round led by Seae Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses on health care ventures led by women and people of color. Better Ventures, Acumen America, and Chicago’s Impact Engine also co-invested.
Ultimately, the thing Nathan loves most about his work is his sense of purpose. “Black people and minorities can do this stuff. We are doing it. For the longest time, people said it was impossible to improve Medicaid. But look at us — together with the amazing health care providers with whom we are partnering—we are doing it.”
About the company
Clinify Health partners with providers to address all aspects of improving population health at the individual patient level. Clinify Health allows providers to maximize financial performance under value-based contracts so that if population health is improved, financial opportunities improve as well. Providers realize the value that they’re already creating today, increasing their revenues, which they can then use to provide more and better care.
Clinify Health is not just a telehealth solution, or just a one-fix solution. For example, one clinic has used Clinify Health to focus on preventative screenings, increasing breast cancer screenings by double digits among primarily Black women living on low incomes. By helping these women get screenings early on, Clinify Health is helping providers stop some cancers from progressing to the need for chemotherapy or end-of-life treatments. Another clinic is now hiring community health workers to use the Clinify Health platform to conduct outreach and treat less complex health issues before they become bigger issues. This approach also allows physicians to prioritize their time for the patients with the highest needs, improving patient outcomes across the community.
Get in touch to learn more: www.CHCF.org | www.ClinifyHealth.com