As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Chrissa McFarlane. Chrissa is the, founder and CEO of Patientory Inc., headquartered in Atlanta. McFarlane founded Patientory in December 2015 after seeing the need in the market for more personalized and secure consumer-driven health information management solutions. With more than ten years’ experience in healthcare conducting research and managing teams, McFarlane has published international healthcare research, and helped to create breakthrough digital health companies that have provided services to companies such as Tumblr, Blue Apron, Casper, and Meetup. Today, as McFarlane leads Patientory, Inc. in its product development, and works on behalf of the Patientory Association, a global not-for-profit dedicated to advancing new technologies in healthcare, she also serves as co-chair of the HIMSS18 Blockchain Workgroup, serves on HIMSS Interoperability & Health Information Exchange Committee, and speaks at industry conferences globally to educate about new technologies and to inspire other business women and entrepreneurs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up with an affinity for math and sciences and wanted to pursue medicine. My family are immigrants and opened their own Caribbean restaurant so I was always around entrepreneurship. After working in healthcare startups, and seeing the challenges the industry faces, I decided to start my own company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was in customs line at the airport in route to my sister’s wedding. The person behind me recognized me and asked if I was the CEO and founder of Patientory. He was present for a talk I gave in DC in 2017.
Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?
Other than being named one of the most influential women in healthcare by Becker’s Hospital Review and winning countless innovation awards internationally and globally, I created and successfully launched the first healthcare cryptocurrency and HIPAA compliant blockchain network. The network currently has over 50 registered global nodes.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a disruptive, emerging, technology-based company in an industry resistant to change and innovation founded and led by a female minority immigrant. It’s been almost 4 years since the company’s inception and regionally in Atlanta, where the company is headquartered, has seen a 100% increase in Black female startups.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
Our company integrates with blockchain technology to bring together siloed health and medical data, which then we utilize analytics and AI/ML algorithms to bring actionable insights to improve healthcare delivery and health outcomes.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently working on our pilots and just finished the Patientory Association’s BlockHealth Summit, which was hosted at the Dubai World Trade Centre. As we are at the beginning of a new industry our core focus is adoption and education. By running pilots and proof of concepts we are able to prove the efficacy and validity of the technology in commerce. By hosting Summits we are able to share our successes, failures and highlight advancements in the space.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. The time it takes to get a healthcare company in an emerging space profitable: Speaking with customers about blockchain 3 years ago is a different conversation today.
2. Not all first employees are long-term: many people lose interest and move on or are not suited for the next stages in the company’s growth.
3. Back-office is as important or more important as sales and marketing: Not having your company’s financials and audits in place is just as important in keeping doors open as sales are.
4. It is okay to fail: Not all projects will be successful but serves as a good precursor in building the businesses brand and market viability
5. Go Big!: Sound advice encourages small businesses and startups to start local and then expand. However, what if there is no appetite locally for your product or service? It is okay to look in other geographic areas including international markets.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
The U.S. is ranked so poorly among high income nations when it comes to healthcare because of lack of transparency, current legacy technology systems and disparities in access to care.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Access to healthcare: There needs to be more services offered to rural residents. Such as a “uber” health service, which can ensure everyone has the same access to healthcare.
2. Affordability: Healthcare in this country compared to other countries is expensive. There should be affordable care models based on levels of income.
3. Technology: While the system is moving towards “friendly” technology as a service models, we are still far away from electronic medical records systems that can enable assisted and improved care for patients and providers.
4. Prevention: Medicine should not take a reactive approach. We need to push and encourage more preventative medicine initiative as part of our daily regimens.
5. Transparency: In all aspects of the word from drug and supply chain management to insurance payments and fraud detection, transparency is key to building a trusted and efficient healthcare ecosystem.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
Collaboration is key to this transformation. Individuals, corporations, communities and leaders need to start forming coalitions and band together to create shared goals and missions in order to bring out the change we want to see.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
I particularly like to read Modern Healthcare for healthcare news and Stephen Covey’s books. He is absolutely a practical writer and shares wise insights on leadership and living in purpose, which transcends any industry.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can follow me on social media via @chrissa.tanelia on Twitter and the Patientory brands @ptoy_network and @patientory, as well as @ptoynetwork on Instagram and we are also on Facebook and LinkedIn.