The Brightest Minds Speak Up

Ryne Natzke
Healthcare partnership relationship manager

Ryne Natzke hails from Wisconsin and after earning his MBA at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, in 2009 he joined Epic on their implementation team. It was a new era, a time when more and more hospitals were beginning to install electronic medical record systems. Ryne later transitioned “out of hospital basements” and into vendor relations, working with nearly every team at Epic. In 2015, he made the leap to HealthX Ventures, a venture capital and private equity startup firm, where he still acts as an advisor. In 2018, Ryne took on his current role as partner with TrustCommerce, a payment gateway company where he helps advance and grow their healthcare segment. Ryne is a member of the HIMSS Innovation committee and liaison to the HIMSS Connected Health committee.

HIMSS: What’s your role as an investor in health innovation?

Ryne: It’s my job to keep an ear to the ground on what’s happening in the digital health market. I watch the trends and keep an early eye on companies that might become exciting based on having a team with really good experience – and working in an area where health care could use some good disruption. I watch for when those companies get to a point where investment makes sense.

We’re hands-on investors, often taking a seat on the company’s board and having regular communication with the executive team. We help refine their business and sales processes and their team, and we make introductions to potential customers or partners – to help them grow and get to that next investment round.

HIMSS: As an investor, what’s the most important recent innovation you see in digital health?

Ryne: Innovation within healthcare’s business model is at the top of my list of innovations – and it’s still in flux. When you’re selling a product to a health system, or you’re looking for a company to invest in, you need to make sure all interests are aligned with the buyer. For example, let’s say you’re still a fee-for-service health organization and you get more reimbursement for an in-person patient visit than a telehealth visit. Somebody comes along with this great telehealth technology that improves patient adherence. But why would you pay for technology that will reduce your revenue?

I see a lot of exciting innovation happening in companies that are getting creative with how they get paid for a technology or service, whether it’s sharing some of the risk to help reduce costs or some way to keep incentives and align with the customer’s priorities.

HIMSS: What do you see as the most pressing needs on the horizon?

Ryne: The reason I was so excited about joining TrustCommerce is because there’s a huge opportunity for innovation in the way patients pay for their healthcare. The current method of paying a copay when you check in and then receiving a paper bill three months later isn't really working. Providers don't like it because it takes a lot of resources and the time to collect is too long. Patients don't like it because they don't know what they're actually paying for and most patients would prefer something other than receiving a paper bill in the mail.  

Another pressing need is engaging the patient better, especially the ones who need it the most – like the person with diabetes or depression, working two part-time jobs, or the single mom who doesn’t have the time to go on a run or track her calories. How do we make their lives easier while getting them more engaged in their healthcare? Better tools will go a long way – and there’s plenty of room for improvement.  

HIMSS: What’s the value of being on the HIMSS Innovation committee?

Ryne:  Everyone on the committee is amazing – way smarter than me and with more experience! I get to listen and learn a lot – from the CIO of a health system to a member working with military health, along with other vendors, and the healthcare providers in different areas like post-acute care. Being able to get different perspectives is great.

As a committee, one of the things we’ve been focusing on aligns very well with how I view the innovation space. We’ve been talking about the fact that innovation is a lot more than just the technology or the latest and greatest gadget that’s going to save healthcare or reduce costs. Our pre-conference symposium at HIMSS18 was about creating a culture of innovation within an organization.

Healthcare systems are big organizations – and in any industry, change is hard when you’re really big. It needs to start with the buyer being the right “culture fit” to implement some of these new technologies shaking up healthcare. It’s been really exciting to look to leaders on the HIMSS Innovation committee and to share best practices that can help create that “innovation culture.”

HIMMS: Anything else on your mind?

Ryne: I’ve found healthcare to be a rewarding field. It’s not just about driving topline revenue and making everybody rich by squeezing the consumer’s last dollar. It’s about reducing costs, making things more efficient, helping our customers do their jobs better and hopefully make our family members better. Everybody has a family member with cancer or some kind of chronic disease and sees the struggle firsthand. 

I remember seeing one of my first hospital customers at Epic go live with bar code med administration for the first time. I saw a nurse get error after error when she scanned the med and she kept re-starting it until she realized – she had almost given that patient 10 times the correct dosage! If that bar code system wasn’t in place, she might have given that dose – and what kind of harm or outcome would there have been for the patient? To help put that system into place – that’s rewarding.

And coming from my venture capital perspective, it’s been cool to see the provider side getting involved. It seems like every major health system now has a venture or investing arm. It allows them to be independent and find new technologies, invest in it themselves, and play an active role in helping early stage companies grow by giving them feedback, whether it’s with clinical data or user data. So that’s been exciting to see.