Ribbon Health’s Nate Maslak on data integrity, simplifying care navigation, and borscht in Brighton Beach

By
Stephanie Diaz
January 26, 2021

Read some highlights from their discussion

Nate Maslak, CEO and Co-founder of Ribbon Health, recently appeared on the Health Tech Spotlight podcast, hosted by Carlo Rich and Pat Dunn, to discuss Ribbon’s mission, the early days of building the business, and the innovations in healthcare tech he finds exciting. Listen to the podcast here.

From day one, Ribbon Health’s goal is to simplify care decisions across the healthcare continuum

Ribbon is undertaking an enormous challenge: transforming the patient journey by giving individuals the accurate, real-time information they need to find the right provider and take charge of their healthcare choices. That means not only building a platform to distribute accurate, comprehensive data on doctors, the insurance plans they accept, and the cost of care they deliver, but making that data available across the healthcare ecosystem.

“Basically, anywhere care decisions are being made, we want to make sure that Ribbon is helping enable those care decisions with accurate information,” Nate said. “The information available in the average health plan provider directory is 50 percent accurate or less. So Ribbon’s role in this is to help improve that information. Ribbon has the most accurate and comprehensive data asset in the ecosystem, so we’ll work with health plans to ingest their directories and then provide them back with more valid information.”

It’s easy to see the critical need for a better healthcare GPS to guide patients on their journey. Something as seemingly straightforward as finding a doctor can be complicated right away by inaccuracies in provider directories. And that statistic Nate mentioned regarding directory accuracy is staggering: A 2018 report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that 52 percent of the information listed in physician directories contain at least one inaccuracy. Add to the mix other challenges like accidentally going out-of-network (which happens to 40 percent of patients every year) and the fact that 77 percent of healthcare providers have no quality information available online, and it’s clear that simplifying healthcare is a steep mountain to climb.

Every day, the quality of Ribbon’s data improves — with help from our customers

But how does this all work? How does Ribbon collect and refine data? “Our methodology begins with aggregating as much data as possible. We see information coming from over 1,000 different data sources — from the open web to existing partnerships, data licenses, open government data sets, you name it,” Nate said.

“If there’s a piece of information out there on a doctor, we want that data hitting our systems, even if it’s incorrect. Then we need to figure out what is right and what is wrong. That’s where the analytics come in.”

Taking listeners on a deep dive into Ribbon’s unique methodology would’ve been challenging with only a few minutes left, but Nate did give credit where it’s due: In addition to Ribbon’s in-house expertise, our customers play a vital role in the process.  

“[They’re] editing data all the time,” Maslak said. “Every customer has access to our data, so they can update a phone number or confirm that a piece of information is true. They might even leave a note about how friendly the front-desk assistant is on a Tuesday or Thursday, so they know when to call. Every customer, every single moment, every single care decision that we power makes our product better.”

Innovations in healthcare on the horizon

As podcasters honing in on innovation in the healthcare technology and digital health arenas, Rich and Dunn were eager to pick Nate’s brain on the industry’s future and what it means for Ribbon.

“I get really excited about the movement towards data interoperability in healthcare,” Maslak quickly replied. “Obviously, I’m a biased party here because we’ve spent our lives working on this problem on the provider data side — but I think this stands far beyond provider data. I get excited that each patient will get to take their healthcare records with them wherever they go, and I think it’s critical for us as patients to own this information, to be able to move it from doctor to doctor. People are very transient in their medical care, and I think a lot of waste happens because of that.”

And the future of Ribbon? Doing the work that continues to set new standards for the healthcare industry regarding data integrity and care navigation, and looking forward to the day that accurate and comprehensive provider data becomes the norm.

“We also get excited about a world in which it’s not revolutionary to have an accurate provider directory, but instead, it’s how things work — like in any other industry out there.”

Be sure to listen to the most recent episode of Health Tech Spotlight with Carlo Rich and Pat Dunn to hear more about Ribbon’s approach, Nate’s perspective on healthcare trends, and his hot takes on New York City’s Eastern European food scene! Stay tuned for the end to hear about his favorite spot in Brighton Beach.

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