Meet The Disruptors: Srulik Dvorsky of TailorMed On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Jason Hartman
Apr 15 · 12 min read

The best advice that I received was that we need to be on the ground meeting users as early as possible with an empathetic disposition, while introducing a minimum viable product ― not building something big before we know what the actual need is, but something that provides enough value so that you can start working with someone. For us it was our first pilot with a health system. That allowed us to basically be on the ground in the provider setting, providing value to the health system and patients ― to experience, to learn about other challenges, and to see how users are interacting with our system week over week. This is one piece of advice that paid off very efficiently in our journey. We continue to do that.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Srulik Dvorsky.

Srulik Dvorsky is the co-founder and CEO of TailorMed, the leading financial navigation technology company that helps patients and healthcare providers remove financial barriers to care. After serving as the primary caretaker for several family members following a cancer diagnosis, he started TailorMed with a personal mission to leverage technology to remove barriers to care. He brings to the company more than a decade of experience in the medical device industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Prior to co-founding TailorMed, I spent the bulk of my career in medical devices developing a new modality for treatment of ischemic stroke. During that time I had the unfortunate privilege to be the caregiver of a few close family members that were diagnosed with critical illnesses, including cancer. I assumed a very active caregiver position across those complex medical journeys. In 2016, after 10 years at the medical device company, and given the hardship that we have faced as a family, I started thinking it’s time to do something on my own that builds both on my passion to help others and my passion for technology. Eventually, I decided to combine both. The challenge I wanted to sink my teeth into was how to remove financial barriers to care for patients, which for me was something that was very hard to see ― patients unable to afford their care and, as a result, either go into financial hardship or not receive treatment at all. That’s what led me to start TailorMed.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

What we have seen the last few years is a change in the dynamics between patients and payers when it comes to cost-sharing. We have seen a significant rise in the cost of care for patients. While there has been a lot of open debate about cost of care in general, we haven’t seen a lot of meaningful solutions that are trying to help the patient. The first priority is how to remove that financial barrier to care with something that can be embedded into the industry that is serving the patient’s needs, and is implemented in a way that will scale based on the business model. One of the things that makes us disruptive is our approach, which is assisting health providers that are challenged by their financial performance and also helping them benefit patients directly.

The next objective is in addressing the technology on the administrative side of healthcare providers. These are systems that haven’t been changed in a very long time. In some cases, we are even seeing legacy systems that are very old school, and sometimes even seeing Excel as the “new” technology being used. Our approach uses data and advanced analytics to not only automate existing workflows, but also try to predict what will be the financial challenges of patients throughout their journey. We approach patients very early on and as a result, not only remove their barriers but also secure the funding and revenues for healthcare providers, which makes our approach very disruptive.

We are seeing a lot of movement in the industry toward more patient-centric payment models. Patients now have easier ways to proactively pay for their healthcare bills online and by phone. One solution that we anticipate bringing to market is a self-service app in 2022 where patients can identify and access funding assistance on their own to help them afford their medical bills. There would also expand opportunities for healthcare providers to increase the number of potential revenue resources. This level of patient financial engagement and support for providers is forward-looking and what really differentiates us.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Our go-live with our first customer was in December of 2017 in the midst of a snowstorm in Northern Michigan. For someone who has never been in a snowstorm, my mistake was to take a car and think I could drive there. For someone who comes from Israel, that was definitely not the right way to go. I learned to think about how long it will take to stop in the snow before an intersection!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

We have been fortunate to be accompanied by different advisors and partners along the journey including our team, our investors, and advisors in general. One of the early interactions I had was with Shai, who is one of our angel investors from our early seed round who has continued to work with me and accompany me throughout this journey. He’s one of those trusted advisors that I will definitely go back to when I’m thinking about big strategic moves, or even small tactical choices or decisions that I have. What I like about Shai is that he challenges me. This is a great thing to have in a mentor and in an advisor, always pushing me from my comfort zone from where I think my paradigm is, to maybe rethink that, and I love it. Our meetings always involve some sort of physical activity. Shai often invites me to take a long walk, which is the best-case scenario, or a run, a kickboxing class, or even climb some hills together. Afterward, the fun part is speaking about work. What I like about Shai is that not only is he advising me and mentoring me as the CEO of the startup that he invested in, but also on how to find the right balance between my personal life and running a company ― which is obviously a marathon and not a sprint. He challenges me there as well.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

When we talk about technology disruption, we need to really evaluate it when it comes to the healthcare industry. In healthcare changing habits, physicians’ behavior, and workflows are something that everybody wants to do. But eventually you need to remember that there is someone on the ground doing the day-to-day work. You really need to be sure you understand all of their constraints and considerations before just throwing out an idea that sounds amazing from a technology point of view without thinking about how it is going to be adopted on the ground. How is this going to influence patient care? How is this going to influence the very sensitive dynamics within a healthcare provider? You need to think about how you are incorporating a proposed change in a way that can be well-embedded into the customers’ and your partners’ day-to-day activities. Afterwards you can scale and add more disruption, more advances to your technology. It’s great that we have a lot of ideas. It’s amazing that we can build technology around that. But we need to be there on the ground with the users from Day 1, see the solutions in action, and hear the needs from the end users day in and day out, to make sure we’re not just forcing something that looks great on paper but really get that from the users face-to-face.

The end goal is obviously creating value: value to patients first and foremost, and value to our customers ― which in a lot of cases at TailorMed is healthcare providers ― and their financial performance. If disruption is the way to get to that value, obviously we need to consider that. But if we’re forcing that change to an organization or an individual that is not ready to change their paradigm, and you’re doing that in a way that doesn’t create the buy-in from your partner, that’s not necessarily the right way to go. Even if you think you know better, even if you think you’re foreseeing the impact of the disruptive technology that you are building, you need to have the right partners and engage with them very early on in the process to make sure you understand their day-to-day challenges. Then you adopt your solutions toward how they currently work and how they will work once you start providing them with the new solution. Next, you build a road map together, based on your capabilities as a technology leader and also their ability to withstand change. I think when this is done, disruption is good. When you’re kind of forcing disruption onto someone who is unable to cope with that, that creates resistance and your users become overwhelmed. This is simply not worth their time and eventually you will fail.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The best advice that I received was that we need to be on the ground meeting users as early as possible with an empathetic disposition, while introducing a minimum viable product ― not building something big before we know what the actual need is, but something that provides enough value so that you can start working with someone. For us it was our first pilot with a health system. That allowed us to basically be on the ground in the provider setting, providing value to the health system and patients ― to experience, to learn about other challenges, and to see how users are interacting with our system week over week. This is one piece of advice that paid off very efficiently in our journey. We continue to do that.

The second piece of advice was making sure we can accurately and quickly measure the value we bring to our customers. Also, attribution of the value that we bring compared to other processes and activities that are taking place. The very first go-live we had was with our end users, using our product with a dashboard showing KPIs related to the value that we bring to the system ― productivity, financial performance ― making sure that we were not only creating great solutions to the end users but were able to capture the value that we bring to our customers and buyers very early on in the process.

The third word of advice that I received was choosing the right partners for this very exciting but also challenging journey ― running a startup, running a business, and in healthcare. I think it starts from choosing the right co-founder, the early employees, your investors, and obviously business partners along the way. There will be a lot of tough times you cross along this journey. Make sure you work with people you enjoy being with, and that also complement your skill set and are eventually A-players. This is the most important thing about building a team..

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Absolutely not done. Every milestone we hit, and every anniversary of the company that we celebrate in our young company’s life ― now celebrating just over four years with the company ― we look back and are very proud of how much we have done. The opportunity moving forward, and how much we should and can do, always seems to be the tip of the iceberg of who we are.

We are looking at three different ways of taking TailorMed to the next level. One is we continue to build on our technology ― the offering based on both the feedback we are getting from our users, partners, and product leaders who are taking us and pushing us forward. How do we continue to take this very important process and continue to automate it, and make it as efficient as we can to create value to both patients and our partners’ financial performance? Second, we identify where opportunities are not fully utilized, maybe because there is short staffing, or maybe there are good organizations that don’t even have programs like financial counseling and financial navigation. We are introducing new offerings to those types of customers that will allow our team to be essentially the financial navigators to their customers and serving their patients directly. That will be a game-changer that will allow us to continue to make sure those patients are served. As a result, we see our customers’ utilization of their financial opportunities as higher. Third, as we expand to more medical services and other disease areas moving forward, the profile of the patients that we are servicing is changing. We are starting to see younger patients and more tech-savvy patients. The approach in the industry as a whole is getting more patient-centric. Patient engagement is something that will be core to our technology, where hopefully in the near future patients will have the ability to use our app to discover funding sources in order to decrease their medical bills on their own and/or utilize our financial counseling services.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“Lean Startup” influenced us very early on building that minimum viable product (MVP) that allowed us to reach initial traction very quickly. There were also the customers who, very early on in their journey, allowed us to evaluate their needs and how we could best address them.

The second example is more about how to build a team and create motivation around it, and that’s “Motivation” by Daniel Pink. This is a book that speaks about intrinsic motivation as the way to build team motivation. There are basically three pillars: autonomy, purpose and mastery. That’s something I believe in personally, that people are driven by the purpose of what they do, the ability to be autonomic in how they work, and also to have the level of mastery. We can add people with that mastery or continue to build skills within our organization moving forward.

“Motivation,” allowed me to articulate what drives me. In my early career, I wasn’t sure if it was the type of work that I wanted to do, if it was the purpose of the company. Once I read it, it resonated with where I saw myself and where I felt motivated in my role. As a result, I reflected on other team members. Eventually, over time, the three pillars allowed me to look at that as a model that drives team-building and motivation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think I have to quote my father here. Excuse my translation from Hebrew to English, this is something I strongly believe in: When you look at life, the most important thing is health ― your health and your close relatives’ health ― and the rest will fall into place. As long as we have health, work hard and you can invest more time and effort ― but that’s the most important thing. Both looking back and at the moment, these are life experiences that I had with my family that definitely made me believe that very, very strongly. That’s something that guides me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think that’s what we are trying to do at TailorMed. I think we chose something that is a very substantial need. People around the United States and the world are unable to get the care they need because of financial barriers. We decided to approach that with a venture, TailorMed, because of the belief that in order to get to an impact at scale, we needed to have something that eventually would be built on a solid business model. That’s why we chose this vehicle to make this same type of change.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn (@srulik) and Twitter (@srulikd). Feel free to direct message me there. I’ll try to be as responsive as I can.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Jason Hartman

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Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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