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      Your Guide to an Autonomous Revenue Cycle
      Plot a course toward forward-thinking innovation that improves efficiency, the patient experience and your bottom line.
       

      Healthcare Startups Need More Than Innovation

      Healthcare Rethink - Episode 49

       In the latest episode of The Healthcare Rethink Podcast, host Brian Urban sits down with multifaceted healthcare leader Jonathan Baktari, MD, CEO of eNational Testing & e7 Health & US Drug Test Centers. Baktari brings invaluable insights into the significance of coupling innovation with solid leadership.



       

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      Brian Urban:
      Yes, this is the Healthcare Rethink podcast. I'm your host, Brian Urban, and today we are having joining our show, Dr. Jonathan Bakari. I don't even know where to start with you. B Bakari, you have so many different businesses you run your own podcast, but we're so excited to have you on the show here today. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Oh, thank you so much for having me, Brian. Thank you. 

      Brian Urban:
      It's not an understatement. You have your hands in many, many things, but with every guest, we like to get to know you a little bit more before you've developed this amazing brand before the md. So let's go back all the way to how Jonathan got into medicine. You stood up several of your own organizations and even your own podcasts. You have, I think now well over 10,000 followers. So want to get to know how all this happened. Where did you get your beginning here? How did you get into all this? 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Well, I mean, of course I was a typical person wanting to go to med school and went to the college and got my degree in biology and psychology and went to medical school and did the traditional path and graduated medical school and residency and fellowship. Then joined a big group and did that for many years and kind of wanted to keep expanding in my horizon. So I started doing a lot of administrative work at the hospital at different places and it's one door opened another one door, literally opened another, and then we eventually decided to start these healthcare companies back in 2009 and one company evolved into another sort of sister companies and then here we are. And as we grew we decided to sort of brand our companies and of course get involved in social media just to get the word out. And so it's just been this journey of moving in one direction and seeing what happens. And we've been so far very lucky and we want to keep it going. 

      Brian Urban:
      Well, you've definitely created your own luck along the way, I think with you building these different organizations. So let's talk about those that you run right now. So you're the CEO of a couple right now, E seven Health and then US Drug Test Centers. So that's a big one. You guys had a lot of impact during the height of c Ovid 19 pandemic. So maybe let me start with the US drug test centers. So did this develop first or was it E seven Health and let's talk about how they developed here. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Yeah, so Seven Health was a preventative health and wellness company and that started first and one of the sort of E seven was seven kind of books of business if you want to call 'em. And one of them was drug testing and that really turned into US drug test centers. So yeah, seven Health was sort of the mothership. And then we've now had two spinoff companies from E seven Health being US drug test centers and ucfs up there. E national testing have been offshoots because what we did is we turned E seven Health into technology company and that technology allowed us to get into certain niches within E seven Health, so it could be a standalone. It just made sense to carve those out because they were more national, both E seven, I'm sorry, both US direct test centers and E national testing. We rolled out as a national version of the specific divisions in E seven Health. So kind of a long story there, but it just made sense because our technology got so good and we developed such a network and developed certain partnerships that allowed us to go national with those two companies. 

      Brian Urban:
      And you talk a lot about building tech in modern healthcare on your own podcast and I see your podcast as a really interesting forum and we'll get into this a little bit later about you passing down wisdom I think, which on a lot of podcasts you don't really get that. I think as someone who's established in the industry and has found a lot of niche places for your technology to fit and do a lot of good, you actually do a lot of good by giving back on the podcast and doing a lot of crash courses, especially to young CEOs. I think a lot of young CEOs should continue to hear what you're sharing on your podcast, but I'll put that aside for a moment. I'm curious, going back even to medical school, did you think fast forwarding you would be running healthcare technology companies, you would be running your own podcast and having a really interesting brand in this space, did you ever think this would happen? 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      No, of course not. When you're in medical school you're thinking really just how can I understand this field and learn everything I need to learn? And it's interesting you have such a long road of medical school residency fellowship. I don't know if many of us really think about what's on the other side. I don't want to say survival mode, but it's a lot to climb. So mean we all have visions of what maybe what kind of specialty we want to be in. And also, I didn't have any mentors back then that taught me that there are other alternatives that you don't have to just go be a straight arrow and do what you're trained to do and you can use that training and those experiences to try other things later on. Once I finished my training, I had a lot of amazing mentors who really showed me the way, showed me the way and said, it doesn't have to stop here. You can do this and it doesn't have to stop there. And then also mentored me in some of those skillsets. So you talk about giving back, I think a lot of that has to do with how fortunate I was in meeting some of these people who were so kind to hold my hands when I needed it the most. So it's part of giving back to what you got. 

      Brian Urban:
      It's a cycle and it's great to see that and to highlight that on our show. I think a lot of other shows do a good job of displaying that too with guests and different themes they cover. But for yourself, I just found it so fascinating because that's the first thing you see when you type your name into Google or type your name into Apple Podcasts is you see you contributing something to the broader space, not you pitching something or placing something in the marketplace. You're, you're talking about your experiences, you're talking about some really tangible advice. So I found that very fascinating and I'm glad we got to learn a little bit more about what's 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Yeah. And actually if you don't mind me adding, I actually got that idea because I've been a guest on maybe 50, 75 podcasts and despite all the stuff we do with the technology and all the stuff we do with healthcare and everything we do, I found that the focus of a lot of the questions when I was a guest revolved around leadership and how you start companies and how did the companies evolve and where did you get those skills. And so I actually found myself answering those kind of questions mainly. So it just dawned on me one day, even though these hosts could ask me any questions, the preponderance of questions revolved around leadership skills and how to set up companies and the do's and don'ts and the pitfalls. And so I said, well, if everyone's asking me this on their show, maybe what I should do is focus a season or two because then I have a long format. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      I have a whole 30 minutes, 45 minutes where I can pick one little sliver of that. And then so some of my best topics for shows really came from questions I got as being a guest. So it was very interesting how that evolved because you don't really know what people want to know until you've had an opportunity to have people ask and also friends, and also questions I would get when I did my own podcast. I look at the comments and you start to feel like where the void is and where you can help the most. 

      Brian Urban:
      I think that's fascinating because you're paying attention. You're not just putting a lot of noise out there. And there are a ton of podcasts today getting a little bit more specific healthcare tech, SaaS equity policy. Everyone is starting to have their place in the healthcare ecosystem. I think one thing that's really interesting is when I look at your background, I think, well, when is this guy going to put a book out? Maybe not a memoir, but kind of a howto, like a next generation healthcare tech development, how to. So if you haven't already started on that, I'm waiting for that and love have to get a pre preco preprint preview, something like that. Dr. Buck. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Yeah, yeah. Well, it's interesting. We just actually put out our first course. So I think it was whether we put out a book or a course and there was a course that we had internally that we had put together I had helped put together for the last 10 years. And so our first thing was try to get this out because I had a lot of helpful stuff. But yes, maybe after we finish a couple of seasons of the podcast where we do the tips, maybe put 'em all into one book. So 

      Brian Urban:
      Hey, there you go. I won't take any fees associated with, 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      We'll send you your commission. 

      Brian Urban:
      I love it. I won't say no to that, but yeah, amazing background. You did your medical school out of Ohio State, now you are in Nevada right now, so you've kind of got a different flavor of cultures of health, cultures of health business across the US aside from actually your residency as well. So you've kind of been around the block for sure. Geographically. I'm curious, how do you balance all of this now? I mean you've transitioned and evolved, you have a lot on your plate. How do you balance everything that you're doing? Is it just purely routine or is it just driven by pure passion? How do you balance all this stuff? What's the 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Secret? I think, and we talk about this in my crash co school, about having a great team delegating, mentoring your leadership. I have a phrase that we use. We don't micromanage, we micro mentor. And so the goal is to mentor and develop the kind of senior leadership in your organizations that is always moving the ball forward because there's only 24 hours in a day and you can't do it all. And if you don't invest in people who are going to help contribute and grow the company, it's impossible to do it by yourself. So I think we spend more time empowering and investing in senior leadership as a way to exponentially grow what we can do. And I think when people look at all the stuff we do, it can seem overwhelming, but if you invest and seek out the right people and give them the tools they need and be there for them, you can get a lot done without you actually being in the trenches and fighting every battle. 

      Brian Urban:
      And that's beautiful because then you're helping elevate everyone else's skillset too, and it's a collaborative type of movement. So that's one of the secrets to your success there. But there's probably so many more, but I want to shift over to actually the US drug test center side of your leadership world. So something that I'm curious of looking at the course of late 19 through 2021, even to 22, the whole course of the COVID 19 pandemic's impact economically in the US to drug testing centers to distribution. Tell us about the role that US drug test centers played during C Ovid 19 and maybe now what you might be evolving toward in the future, maybe what you've started to see that you're going to build in a little bit more. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Yeah, we got involved early in the pandemic and rolling out nationwide covid testing to a lot of employer groups, factories, plants that would let people come in and out of work based on covid testing and the height of the pandemic. And we partnered with laboratories that had gotten FDA approval for onsite saliva covid test where the employee could spit into basically a tube as opposed to getting a swab. So it was self-administered. They would just spit and we would have these kits, FedExed employers, and at the job site, the employees would basically give their own sample and then they could sort of whatever regimen that factory had or plant had or employer groups had, whether they would test people once a week or test people before and after they closed an open plants and what have you. So luckily we had already written all the software and technology because we were doing other testing nationwide. So for us, we didn't really have to pivot to covid, it was just more adding it to our list. A lot of companies were pivoting and literally the technology was already set up for us and the partnerships were all set up ahead of time, so we were able to jump. I think we were very early to the game on that. And I think luckily, I think we've made a really amazing impact on that. 

      Brian Urban:
      Yeah, I think you helped a lot of people gain access to a self-test that otherwise wouldn't have been there or it would've been a significant lag or an at-home delivery, just some sort of other modality, but you were already established. I like how you said it was already something we just had to put on the list. It wasn't something we had to pivot to or change to. A lot of other organizations, Walgreens, they've been on our show a good bit. They had to stand up a whole new modality and utilizing other assets. They had mobile units to do a vaccine equity campaign. It was a tremendous undertaking, a tremendous cost, a lot of logistics, a lot of hours. But you guys were already set up. It's beautiful. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Well, yeah, well, I, but you look at Walgreens, certainly they have much more resources than us. So yes, they could probably pivot to anything they want, but you got to remember organizations like Walgreens, they're busy also selling diapers and Frito lays and selling and printing your pictures. And so I think one advantage we had is this kind of testing. That's all we did. We weren't doing something else. And I think when it's the thing you are doing, it's just a little easier. You're not trying to move the Titanic. I mean, you're already in the space and that's all you're focused on. So luckily that really helped us. So even not having the resources of a Walgreens, we were able to thank goodness, help out a lot of people. So it was really amazing. 

      Brian Urban:
      And with that too, have you seen more partnerships develop from the visibility that US drug test centers has had during the pandemic? 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      I think so. I think we partner with almost all the national laboratories currently. There probably isn't one major player we have not fully integrated with. We've integrated with all the authorized.net QuickBooks. We're fully integrated with point of sale softwares. And I think that experience and that exposure introduce us to some other companies that now we're currently our partners and vendors as well as we, I think honed our technology even more because we did have to, even though we were ready, we wanted obviously improve and upgrade it as much as we could to handle the volume. So I think that that's paying dividends. Plus I think the staff got their game face on because when Covid hit, we were all trying to figure it out. And I know we had a lot of meetings about how we're going to roll this out, and I think people stepped up in the organization and those leadership skills that they acquired, the innovation that we had to roll out pretty quickly, I think we still see some of the benefits of that still. 

      Brian Urban:
      Yeah, I'm sure you do it. And I think that's really exciting because, and now it gives probably momentum to the next innovation or the next evolution 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Story. The average age of our team is so young that I think that experience could only help putting that whole program together with no playbook, no previous pandemic to go off of. I'm hoping it installed a lot of skills in terms of how to innovate, how to solve problems, critical thinking. It was very amazing to watch this stuff. Yeah, 

      Brian Urban:
      That's probably beautiful because your organization existed far before the pandemic, but now being able to face the challenge and rise to the occasion was probably just so amazing to see. And aside from the US drug test centers, I wanted to get deep on that. Thank you. I'm curious now of what you're seeing almost, I mean from your career you've seen the launch of a lot of different telehealth vendors. I mean MD live before it got integrated to Cigna Amwell, and then even some more really niche players like Loneliness, Papa Health, and then other ones like benefits, soda health. There's so many different tech startups that are coming about now. How are you seeing the emerging trends here? Are you seeing a lot of these models start to change how healthcare is delivered or experience engagement, expectations from the consumer? What are you seeing as a real industry impact from a lot of these startups as they're starting to mature or even more or even starting to pop up here? 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      That's a really loaded question because as you're asking me that question, so many things run through my mind, but the thing that overrides that question is the bigger question of why healthcare technology doesn't grow and expand other technology. For me, that's the most obvious question because all these texts that you're mentioning, startups have to work in the same sandbox that we all are, which is the healthcare system. And in that healthcare system, there are some rules of the road that apply to everybody, and some of those rules don't exist. If we were trying to develop retail technology, if we wanted to be the next Shopify or be the next Amazon, we would not have some of these restrictions. And the one I'm really referring to is healthcare. The innovation and growth of technology is somewhat, I don't want to use the word hindered, whatever the word is, by the fact that we have third party people who are paying for the service. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      And when you have to make a third party happy with the technology you're rolling out, we could end a innovate all we want, but if we can't figure out a way to incorporate that third party who's actually paying for the service. So we could have come up with great technology between the doctor and the patient and the win-win, win, win. But if there isn't a way to get the person paying for it or a portion of it, and I think that has globally slowed down technology. I mean, I joke about this often, but I mean when was the last time you went to a doctor's office and they still didn't hand you a clipboard to fill stuff out? They were really tough. Okay, so I mean, people talk about healthcare technology. Amazon doesn't give you a clipboard or who gives you a clipboard these days? Nobody. So it kind of tells you that's a symptom of the fact that globally healthcare technology is limited. Of course it's made tremendous progress, but it's limited of the ever-changing requirements to satisfy a third party. 

      Brian Urban:
      That's really interesting because I've asked this question in a couple different podcasts even earlier today on a recording and everyone has a different take on it. I like yours in particular because you looked at all of the stakeholders and you talked about, I guess really the thresholds that we sit with them. We can only advance so fast, really, but we are hindered by users, we're hindered by regulation. We're hindered in a lot of ways information sharing, data exchange. It's really interesting. So that kind of leads me back to your podcast. You do a lot of these crash course conversations to new leaders that are thinking about development, that are thinking about market expansion, things like that of recently. Is there a particular piece of advice that you think is most needed as we close out 2023? Is there something that you would encourage CEOs of a new tech startup to really have top of mind going into next year? 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Most broadest advice I can give someone is to try to innovate in a way that you are solving the old adage to solve a problem, but you just cannot do what other people are doing 5% better or 10% better. That's really a very risky thing to do. You've got to innovate in a way that really makes your competition irrelevant. You have to come up with something that really solves a problem, but solves it in a way that others are not. Take telehealth or whatever, our telehealth will be slightly better or we'll provide more customer service or the technology will be this much better. But just like uber disrupted the taxi business in ways that I don't think taxi saw it coming. I think if you really want to make an impact, doing something just a little better is okay. And a lot of people do it, but I really encourage CEOs to spend most of their time and energy innovating in a way that solves a problem that no one else has addressed in that way. 

      Brian Urban:
      I love that because you said, what I heard was don't try and do something that's already there. Better try and do something new and different or something that solves a unique problem that's maybe connected to a bigger one. And I think that is a lot of the habits I'm starting to see, and not just healthcare tech, but other types of consumer facing tech where the UI is kind of similar across the board or it's just redundant, whatever that service might be. Or they might just have that many more relationships or bigger network, whatever it is. So it's refreshing to hear you challenge some of these younger CEOs or maybe even mid senior CEOs to start to do something a little bit better. I think there's a couple interesting themes that's happening. There's an embrace disruption theme. There is a Unite Us type of theme. There's a lot of different things that are going beyond just simply disruption like looking into late 23 and into early 24. So I guess of these different themes, are you starting to see, I guess more people pile into your space a little bit more, the US drug test centers that, is there more biotech, more clinical trial research organizations you think are trying to come off the tailwinds here of the pandemic in terms of that kind of service? Or are you seeing, just because you face a lot of organizations, are you seeing some wild startups 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      In terms of what we do, which is sort of the technology to do national testing, both for clinical testing and drug testing and other, surprisingly, we don't see that many because I think we have a barrier to entry into our field, which is understanding the technology that would entail doing that. So if someone just looks at our website and tries to replicate what we're doing it, well, I guess you threw enough money at it could work. But to understand and develop the know-how to do this nationally has taken us a decade to figure out. And we figured out by actually doing it, not just conceptually sitting in a room and saying, we'll start this kind of company, but it's possible. But luckily or whatever, right now I think it's our ball to drop. I mean, really we can move forward. And then also at the pace that we're writing technology, even if somebody wanted to, by the time they got to where we are, we're going to be hopefully a few yards ahead, but anything's possible and we're okay with it. I think there's the other thing that we always say, there's plenty of business or room for everybody for more people. So it's not a concern for us because it's a big country and more than happy to share the market with others. So I think we're happy with the way things are going. 

      Brian Urban:
      Well, it's a good philosophy to have. I'll say not all CEOs probably would say something like that and mean it. I know you. So that's really cool to hear. Now, Dr. Bhattar, let's take a look into next year. So you probably already have a lot of podcasts that are filling up. They're going to go out next year. Can you give us a little bit of an idea of what's to come in 2024 on your podcast? A little bit of a teaser here. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      It's a lot of the feedback I'm getting. For example, I got a lot of feedback on whether you should take on a partner early or you should try to do it yourself, whether you should bootstrap or not bootstrap the critical forks in the road. There's about five or 10 forks in the road when you're starting. Do I take a partner? Do I bootstrap it or do I get somebody to invest? Do I go all in and just try to get a massive organization or do I organically grow? And what about speed? Those are the kind of questions I've gotten since I've started the crash CEO school. So I'm going to really focus on the forks in the road early on and help people make those decisions. What are the pros and cons of each of those decisions? 

      Brian Urban:
      That's interesting because for me, I've never started a business and I think those that have the know-how and the technical abilities are probably facing a lot of those types of challenges. Do I have to give out some equity to have a venture capital firm and support me financially or who else can I recruit? There's probably so many great questions you're getting. It's like you're having these open-ended counseling sessions, so I'm excited to tune in to learn a little bit more. You never know. You could spur my own creativity and come up with an organization. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      There you go. There you go. There you go. I like 

      Brian Urban:
      That. I'm truly thankful we got to have you on our podcast just for a little bit of time here today. Dr. bta, I feel a follow-up coming on. There's so many crazy things that you're dipping your hands into. You're quite an innovator all the way from your medical background now to leading several organizations in the healthcare space. So thank you again for joining our little show here today. 

      Jonathan Baktari:
      Oh, thank you for having me, a big honor. Thank you. 

      Brian Urban:
      Thank you. And for more exciting insights and excerpts, please visit us@finthrive.com.

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