Executive MBA Alumni Help Chart the Future of Telemedicine
In 2011, Sanat Dixit (EMBA’12) connected with a prospective Executive MBA student at a Starbucks in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood. The neurosurgeon was completely unaware that seated behind him was fellow EMBA alum and physician Rob Moskowitz (EMBA’08), until the emergency room doctor overheard their conversation and interjected, offering his own testimonial about his experience at Vanderbilt.
They didn’t know it at the time, but the fortuitous connection the two doctors made that day would help change a career and a company in only a few years’ time.
A Serendipitous Reunion
Moskowitz went on to take a position at a hospital in Miami and remained in Florida for almost 5 years, until he felt compelled to look for new opportunities. “I wasn’t feeling any of the creativity that I was hoping to garner after I completed my Executive MBA,” he explains. “I used the degree to become better at operations in an emergency department, but being a little disillusioned and not creative, I looked to get out of administration.”
In the spring of 2016, Moskowitz emailed 10 people, inquiring about their careers with the hopes of learning more about how to navigate the next step in his own. One of those people was his Starbucks connection from Green Hills.
“It was very timely, very serendipitous,” recalls Dixit.
Dixit had co-founded a healthcare solutions company, Satchel Health, and the changing direction of the business required a new Chief Medical Officer – the position he was holding. “I needed someone who was a better fit for the CMO spot,” he says.
Satchel Health, founded in spring 2014 out of Nashville’s Jumpstart Foundry, began with a single telemedicine product built for the company’s first client and had rapidly evolved with the market opportunities that presented themselves. By the time Moskowitz got on Dixit’s radar, the company had created multiple telemedicine platforms and was providing healthcare services in the post-acute care space, an area that was less familiar to the neurosurgeon but very much in Moskowitz’s wheelhouse.
“(Satchel) was looking at how to utilize telemedicine to decrease unnecessary hospital readmissions,” Moskowitz explains. “As an ED doctor, it was the bread and butter of my angst – these unnecessary ER visits and subsequent admissions of nursing home patients – so it fit my clinical experience.”
Moskowitz assumed the role of Chief Medical Officer at Satchel Health in August 2016. He wasn’t the last Vanderbilt EMBA alum to take on a senior role at the company: Lanson Hyde (EMBA’03) assumed the role of CEO in April 2017.
“It’s fun to work with Owen alums; it just adds a lot to what we’re doing,” Dixit says.
Hyde’s arrival came after a formal search by Satchel’s board of directors to identify a chief executive to lead the company through the next steps in its evolution – namely, scaling the business and cementing its identity as a tech-enabled healthcare services provider. “The health care world is moving toward post-acute care,” Hyde says, “and we’re getting in front of that movement and helping to define it.”
A Crash Course
Dixit and Moskowitz arrived at Owen with different priorities but were both drawn to the program’s creative elements and free-thinking environment.
Moskowitz was looking to strengthen his operational abilities, and the Executive MBA program’s emphasis on thinking outside of the box helped in his administrative roles. “Learning from people not in medicine was important,” he says. “As you grow (in the medical field), you realize the inefficiencies, and as you look for opportunities to elevate and disrupt it effectively, you need to stop thinking like a physician.”
Dixit echoes the sentiment. “Probably the best thing I got out of the Owen experience was that I learned not to think like a neurosurgeon,” he adds. He pursued the degree because he wanted to be an entrepreneur and liked the creative and innovative energy that came with starting a business.
When he entered the program, Dixit came with an idea for intellectual property in neuromuscular care, but its small potential market size compelled him to look for other opportunities. “I got enamored with healthcare in India, then I got involved in telemedicine, then started talking about Google glass,” he recalls.
He linked up with a developer through an Owen MBA connection, and they started working together on applications for a wearable device. When they were contacted by a company to build a formal product, the duo switched gears to telemedicine, building a minimal viable product and earning their first customer. Satchel, then called Octovis, picked up the pace from there.
“It was a crash course in what Michael Burcham taught: moving from having a nice little product, to figuring out what our niche was going to be, to figuring out our customer and business strategy. We started forward integrating and becoming a healthcare services provider. That happened within the span of 12 – 14 months,” Dixit says.
He also notes that Jim Bradford, a strategy professor and former Dean of the Owen Graduate School of Management, was a supporter from the earliest stages. “He liked what we were doing,” Dixit says. “He was a bit of a champion for us in the Nashville community, and it opened up a lot of doors for us in terms of communication and contacts.”
The Executive MBA Advantage
With Satchel positioned for additional growth, the two Executive MBA alums still return to their education every day. “It doesn’t matter what your role is,” Moskowitz says. “I’m pulling bits and pieces from strategy, operations, marketing, you name it.”
Dixit’s experience launching and growing Satchel Health continually affirms the significance of his Vanderbilt Executive MBA Education. “The big overarching theme that I got from b-school: you need to create value,” he concludes. “When you’re starting up a company, you need to demonstrate your value proposition, and it’s not just your product or your business model, it’s your people. It was all right there.”
“One of the classes that most people snickered at during school was an HR course… ‘oh it’s all about being PC,’ or this and that,” Moskowitz adds, “but the big takeaway is that when it comes to a startup, human capital and how those pieces integrate, from personalities to work ethic, is invaluable.”
From establishing an effective board in the early stages, to recruiting a talented, cohesive development team and pivoting toward the right markets, Dixit and Satchel Health have benefited from Owen’s best practices and innovative thinking. With Moskowitz and Hyde in the C-suite, they’re benefiting from its people as well.
“Owen is in our DNA,” Dixit says. “There were so many salient things we had to go through that I was taught and was exposed to at school. That MBA is one of the most valuable things I ever did in my life. None of this would’ve happened without the context and experience I got at Owen.”
Hyde can see why Dixit and Moskowitz pursued their Executive MBAs. “I know that they are entrepreneurial and see how getting that degree was a natural step for both of them. It gave them the skills they needed to pursue ventures outside of their daily practices. It’s been a pleasure and a joy to get to know them.”
The Next Chapter
Satchel’s board tapped Hyde because the company was looking for someone with experience scaling a business, and the CEO certainly fits the bill: he helped take Surgical Development Partners from $0 to $300 million in revenues and 0 to 1,500 employees.
As it was for Dixit and Moskowitz, Satchel Health embodied the perfect next phase in Hyde’s career. “I was tired of running bricks and mortar, building and running facilities. I wanted to get into a business in the post-acute space, anything that was improving patient care and shifting the cost curve that had alignment with payers and hospitals. I think it’s the first inning of that wave and that it’s going to be huge for the next 10 years.”
Hyde believes that Satchel is uniquely suited to take advantage of the shift towards post-acute care. With an experienced in-house development team that can incorporate end-user feedback in real time and demonstrated success selling into managed care plans (“our ultimate client,” Hyde says), Satchel Health is focused on wide-spread adoption. The CEO has helped build out the operations and sales teams with seasoned industry veterans who will help generate and meet demand. For Satchel, “2018 is all about sales,” he concludes.
Profits aside, Hyde sees incredible value in the services the company offers in the post-acute world. “There are huge provider gaps in our space,” he explains, “where medically complex patients don’t have access to the physicians or care that they deserve. We bring the doctor to the patient when that patient needs that care.”