A first-generation immigrant from China, CarePort Health Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Lissy Hu came to the United States when she was young—very much with the classic “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality seen in so many first-time founders. Hu said that this attitude came from her mother.
“My mom was a nurse in China, but when she came here, she worked as a housekeeper and a home health aide helping vulnerable populations,” she said. “I had always been interested in healthcare, and I always grew up with the mentality of working hard to succeed.”
Her mother’s experiences would plant the early seeds of CarePort Health, a booking engine and platform that helps patients get access to post-hospital care.
Hu would go to Columbia University for her pre-med, as well as a degree in sociology. The latter of which is where she learned about some of the more social aspects of healthcare. She explained that various social circumstances (where someone is born, what services he or she has access to) can have a significant impact on people’s lives—especially when it comes to their healthcare.
“You can prescribe the best medications to your patients, but if they don’t have access to those medications, or if they don’t have transportation to their doctor’s appointment, they aren’t really getting the help they need. There are many foundational aspects of healthcare that are systemic, and outside of the control of the patient or doctor.”
After Columbia, Hu did a healthcare fellowship where she worked with 3000 high-cost Medicare patients in the Bronx. It was here that she noticed a specific, problematic area of healthcare. Many patients would get great treatment in hospitals, but once they were out, Hu said, many patients went back home without any visibility on their situations whatsoever.
“I became interested in this area of post-acute care, broadly defined as what happens to a patient—and the care they receive—post-discharge. You’re not sick enough to be put in a hospital, but you’re also not well enough to just be home on your own. So it’s almost like this whole intermediate level of care.”
This includes services like nursing homes, rehab, and hospice treatment. Hu pointed out that the industry has doubled in Medicare spend over the last decade. “Medicare’s payments to the more than 29,000 PAC [post-acute care] providers totaled $59 billion in 2013, more than doubling since 2001,” the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said in a 2015 report.
When it came time to go to medical school, Hu decided to do a joint MD/MBA from Harvard. It was here that she started to formally develop the idea of her company. And in 2012, she founded CarePort (then known as eTransitions) and entered it into Harvard’s New Venture Competition.
“I entered without much of a plan or even an intent to win, really. I was just interested in getting some funding to put together a pilot, because I thought this was something that should exist in the world, but having never been an entrepreneur, I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I was starting a company.”
Hu won the competition’s Social Enterprise Track, got funding to start pilots, and went through Techstars Boston that fall.
She chose Techstars over other accelerators because, while she had the healthcare part down, she acknowledged that she needed help on building out the technical piece, like how to build a SaaS platform. It was thanks to Techstars mentorship, she says, that she got her early technical team in place. “Having never built a company before, it was probably the most daunting aspect of starting the business.”
From there, she connected with mentors, raised funding, built a small team (starting with a technical lead and VP of engineering), and developed the platform to what it is today.
CarePort’s platform comprises three solutions: CarePort Guide, CarePort Connect, and CarePort Insight. CarePort Guide helps patients choose the best post-hospital options for the care they need; CarePort Connect allows healthcare providers to actively manage post-acute patients using real-time data (so they don’t get lost in the system); CarePort Insight surfaces data to assess outcomes and identify opportunities for improvement on the provider’s end.
One use for gathered data is to determine whether a patient is getting the right level of care.
”Take a hip replacement patient, 72 years old, and they should be in this nursing home for seven days, versus someone who is 56 and maybe skied a little too hard, and maybe shouldn’t be there for seven days even though they have the same hip fracture. Maybe that patient should only be there two or three days,” Hu said. “We developed our own algorithms that guide that care pathway, and rather than having a nurse call every single one of these nursing hospitals to figure out what’s going on, we take all of this information from the EHR [electronic health records] in the background, and we actively alert care coordinators when things are going wrong so that they can focus on the patients that need help.”
CarePort’s primary customers are healthcare providers, ACOs, and payers. In addition to the evident humanitarian reasons to give patients better access to healthcare, these solutions also make sense from a business standpoint. Hu explained that both customer bases are looking for software that will help patients transition out of the hospital more effectively, while helping them across their various episodes of care. Better care, in many cases, will mean fewer readmissions, which will also result in lower costs to both providers and payers.
In 2016, CarePort Health was acquired by Allscripts, who offers EHR technology to providers. In making the decision about the acquisition, Hu calls it a “crossroads moment.”
“We decided that the acquisition path was best for the company because of how much leverage we saw in utilizing the network they had built. And so, when I thought about the vision I wanted to achieve and the fastest way to get impact across the greatest number of people, I thought the Allscripts acquisition could really get us there.”
Allscripts continues to invest in CarePort. The team has tripled since its acquisition, with approximately 160 working at the company today. Hu says that in the company’s continued growth, CarePort is currently hiring everyone from engineers to business development professionals, salespeople, and more. Moreover, they’re going to be moving into a new space that’s significantly larger than the space they currently hold in Downtown Boston, by “double or triple.”
When Hu looked back on the time spent building her company as a first-time founder, she told me about her experience as a doctor, and how she loved helping patients. But while it was difficult walking away from her passion, she saw an opportunity in CarePort not to start a company, but to help people on a larger scale.
“The reason that I did it was because I felt that the product I was building could really have a big impact on the patients I was taking care of on a day-to-day basis. If not me, who else is going to go out there and build this thing?”
Images provided by CarePort Health.