With Chilmark Research approaching 12 years old, I sat down with our founder, John Moore, to discuss why he chose to do research in the health IT industry as well as what inspired him to start his own analyst firm.
(Answers have been edited for clarity and length.)
Why did you choose to focus on the health IT industry?
Before Chilmark, I’d been an industry analyst for close to 15 years in the manufacturing sector. I observed first-hand the dramatic improvements in product quality, manufacturing efficiency and supply chain as a result of the adoption and use of IT solutions. Over those 15 years, those advances moderated – the big problems had been solved.
So, I was looking for an industry that hadn’t really figured out how to leverage IT to improve operations. I was also looking for something where the research I would conduct provided a greater social contribution. After roughly a year of research in 2006, I narrowed it down to two vertical industries, education and healthcare.
I chose healthcare because as I started to talk to random people, everyone had a healthcare story – not all of them were pretty. My research also uncovered an industry with an abysmal track record of IT adoption. Knowing what I did of the transformation that occurred in the manufacturing sector, I had no doubt that the effective adoption, deployment, and use of IT had the potential to dramatically improve those stories.
What do you love about being an analyst in health IT specifically?
I’ve always been a bit of a researcher and an academic. I love to dig into gnarly problems and figure out potential solutions, particularly how IT can be leveraged to address some of those problems. What I find fascinating about the healthcare industry is that there are numerous stakeholders: patients/consumers, insurance companies (payers), employers, healthcare institutions and their clinicians (providers), pharma and med device, and then overlaying all that, you have government regulations. This creates some interesting market dynamics in technology adoption and use that is just fascinating to study.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in this industry, and I felt that it was my job as an analyst to remove the smoke and crack those mirrors so people would have a clearer view of those solutions that truly deliver value to the industry.
Why Chilmark specifically? Why not any other analyst firm’s research model?
When I did my initial research I looked closely at existing analyst firms serving the healthcare sector and was not terribly impressed by the research. The reports I read really didn’t perform a deep dive into the technology, its future market trajectory, and how it might transform the delivery of care.
When I started Chilmark Research in 2007, I started off VERY slowly since I had zero experience in healthcare. The only thing I knew was the phone number to my primary care physician who I rarely saw anyway. So, first I had to build credibility. I put up a simple website with the ability to post blogs, and I just started writing and posting something literally every day and following the industry very closely. Through that writing, I started to develop a following.
I modeled our first research project, focusing on personal health records, on looking at the vendor/solution landscape and determining who was really delivering value to the market. That report also led to me develop robust criteria for how we evaluate a vendor. Whenever there’s a hot topic in healthcare, whether it’s population health management, analytics, interoperability, or health information exchange or even patient/consumer engagement, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and claims that they have something, but what is it that they really have? There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in this industry, and I felt that it was my job as an analyst to remove the smoke and crack those mirrors so people would have a clearer view as to those solutions that are truly delivering value to the industry.
How did you settle on our specific research domains and the broader focus on solutions that directly impact care delivery as opposed to other important areas of IT, like RCM, which we are only just starting to address?
When I started Chilmark Research, my overarching mission for the company was to focus on those solutions that had the potential to transform the delivery of care and ultimately improve patient outcomes. We have stayed true to that mission which defines our research agenda to this day.
Over the years we have slowly built out the domains we cover beginning with patient engagement, which naturally led to interoperability then analytics then care management and ultimately population health management, which emerged in response to the transition from fee-for-service models of reimbursement to and value-based care and contracting. More recently we have begun taking a closer look at how payers and providers will converge to effectively and efficiently manage patient populations in a given region, an area ripe for transformation.
Our research really digs deep into the technology of what the vendors are actually providing to the market, how capable those solutions are in delivering value, and the potential to transform care delivery and improve patient outcomes.
Why did you decide to structure the reports with the strong focus on where the market is going, what providers should know as they evaluate solutions, and the evaluation and grading of individual products in chapter 3 of our Market Trends Reports?
I developed that report structure in the first report as a way to give readers an opportunity to understand our uniquely broad perspective of current market dynamics and map that forward to what we perceived as future market needs.
As analysts, our ability to talk to countless people in the industry (technology users, consultants, vendors, regulators, etc.), allows us to gain a better, objective perspective than most of the current market and where it is headed. For all technology markets we study, we formulate a number of criteria based on strong logic to ensure that logic supports our thesis of how the market will evolve over time. This rubric of sorts is used to evaluate vendors and their solutions not only to meet today’s market needs, but those of tomorrow as well.
Our model is unique because while most of the research today tends to be focused on just “How big is the market?” or “What is the market share of the market leaders,” our research really digs deep into the technology of what the vendors are actually providing to the market and how capable those solutions are in delivering value. We believe our guidance for providers and other healthcare market stakeholders is extremely valuable because it gives them direction about how they need to be thinking about the market, how they need to be adopting solutions, and what they need to be planning for in the next 3-5 years.
What else do you love about Chilmark and our work as analysts that you want people to know?
In the healthcare sector, you really can’t get bored. There’s so much going on all the time: regulatory changes, huge cost pressures, we’re completely changing how hospitals, providers, etc. will be paid in the future, which has tremendous ripple effects across these organization as to how they’re going to deliver care effectively and efficiently in the future. And on the flip side, there is the technology play, especially with analytics. Never before has this industry had such a treasure trove of data to work with. Applying analytics to that data will uncover what actually delivers the best outcomes for a given patient, define completely new clinical pathways, and ultimately lead us to the potential of precision medicine that is tailored to an individual. We are in a massive digital transformation of healthcare. It really is a fascinating place to be right now.
Do you want to join the Chilmark team to research which health IT solutions are truly delivering value and transforming care delivery? Apply to be an analyst!