Building Healthy Ecosystems.

Building Healthy Ecosystems.

Mark Watson is the founder of Aquila Capital Partners. I had the pleasure of listening to one of his interviews and an audience member asked him, in Q2 where he would invest $1 million. It’s the same question we’re answering at Flagstaff Ventures. Mark invests in the technology that drives a lot of insurance companies and his fund is only available to institutional investors or family offices, unlike Flagstaff, where we are closing on our latest fund next month. Accredited investors in my programs are invited to reach out and learn more about the fund here.

In the interview, Mark said, “If you look at how the economy has changed over the past decade, there’s been a slow march to digitization in just about every industry. The pandemic accelerated this and also forced consumers to engage with brands in a direct way. For some, it’s become almost a daily experience. I know people who order from Amazon every single day of the week. It’s this recurring interaction. You could say the same about Netflix. We invest in early-stage companies that are on their way to becoming a platform, then an ecosystem. That’s where I’m putting my dollars.

We look for companies that are constantly innovating to make the experience better for the customer every time they interact. What matters, too, is that the ecosystem is multi-sided: Various people involved find it easier to transact with each other through the company’s platform than on their own. For example, Amazon is a marketplace that allows buyers and sellers to come together and transact in a more efficient way. In a true ecosystem, both sides have to win.”

Telehealth platforms are far ahead of dentistry and orthodontics in building ecosystems where providers and patients win. I had some recent cardiac arrhythmias and after a visit to urgent care, my primary care physician wasn’t available until October, so I called around and my second choice, board-certified internal medicine specialist wasn’t available until September, so I rolled the dice and booked a virtual consultation. Boy did I get lucky. I received 30+ minutes of one-on-one care with a board-certified emergency medicine specialist out of Chicago. She was fantastic, thorough and caring. She ordered all the bloodwork, CT scans and chest films that I needed without waiting six months to get into my regular physician. The platform was easy-to-use and I receive instant support if I have questions. Results and reports integrated seamlessly. Scheduling my follow-up was a breeze.

I asked my doctor if she would share with me why she makes her expertise available through a virtual platform. “I’m young and motivated to pay off my student loans,” she said, “this platform is low-stress, I have all the time I want with each patient, I don’t have to leave my home and if I really want to make some extra money or take my kids on summer vacation to Europe, I get to be my own boss and set my own hours.”

Bingo. She’s found her way into a healthy ecosystem. The telehealth company she works for simply wants my data and the relationship with pharmacies (their discount card was better than my own health insurance). The doctor wants freedom, autonomy and financial rewards. I want convenience and quality care.

Mark Watson is right. Everyone thrives when a company learns how to bring buyers and sellers together. In our market, we call them patients and providers. We must insist on making it easier for patients and providers to transact with each other. If you have associate doctors, this is even more critical. How easy do you make it for them to get results, not only for the patient but also for themselves? Are you stuck in the past, forcing associates to see every new patient in the office or do you make it easy for them to conduct virtual consultations and follow-up in the way patients enjoy and demand?

Do you have a one-way, transaction-based business or are you building a sustainable ecosystem where everyone in orbit around you thrives?

Food for thought: I see very few (if any) DSO/OSO and large group practices building sustainable ecosystems. I see Telehealth companies miles ahead in the race. It’s time for dentistry and orthodontics to catch up. If we don’t, we leave the best results, happier patients, more engaged and fulfilled employees and our highest contributions behind. In essence, we force ourselves to stay in an unhealthy ecosystem while someone else builds it the right way.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.