First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jennifer Meller: Thankfully, we are ok. My husband and I are physicians. He worked on the front lines / COVID wards when COVID hit NYC full force in March/ April. I saw lots of patients with COVID via telehealth in March/April. COVID levels are now low in NY, and our daughter is back in school (in-person so far!), so things are improved.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Navimize.
Jennifer Meller: I’m a Primary Care Physician based in NYC. I graduated from NYU Medical School and completed my internship/residency at NYU/ Bellevue in 1999. I spent 10 years working in the faculty practice at NY Presbyterian / Columbia, where I built and managed a private practice affiliated with Columbia, supervised residents, and taught medical students. In 2010 I left Columbia and established my own private practice in NYC on Park Avenue and affiliated with NY Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell. In 2014, I saw the healthcare landscape shifting rapidly around me and decided to go back to school to open up new directions for my career moving forward, and in 2016 I graduated with an MBA with Honors from The Wharton School.
It was in business school that I had the idea for Navimize. I always ran behind schedule in my practice, always kept patients waiting even though I didn’t mean to or want to. It always upset my staff and me, and of course, the patients. Then we moved into the era of online reviews and CVS minute clinics and urgi-care facilities, and I noticed that my patients started going online and reviewing my practice and saying ‘love her, but the wait is terrible’; and they started to opt-out of seeing me and instead of going down the street to the minute clinic when they got sick.
It was against this backdrop that I learned about the lean management framework in a management class and began to think about waiting in a waiting room as a form of waste in this framework. One day after class, I walked outside, ordered an Uber, and thought ‘if I can see what’s happening with this car even though it’s not physically in front of me, my patients should be able to peer into my waiting room and know what’s happening before they head to my office.’ And that’s how Navimize was born.
I teamed up with Kavita Mangal, my classmate, tech guru, and now co-founder, who was taking a healthcare class. Her Dad had recently been ill and spent lots of time in waiting rooms in India. She said, ‘we can build something to fix this.’ And the rest is history.
How does Navimize innovate?
Jennifer Meller: Navimize features a virtual waiting room platform to ensure patient and provider safety and help health systems implement the ‘new normal’ for COVID-19 and beyond.
Navimize enables health systems to increase visit volume and thus revenues at scale while adhering to new patient safety guidelines. The platform offers a turnkey solution that integrates seamlessly with existing Electronic Medical Records. Navimize monitors workflow, predicts delays, sends automated text messages to patients in real-time alerting patients of their EXACT arrival time, streamlining flow through the office, and eliminates the physical waiting room. The virtual waiting room will become the new normal for in-person visits, increasing efficiencies, and turning dead space into revenue-producing space at scale.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jennifer Meller: Pre-COVID, Navimize’s platform used proprietary algorithms to predict delays in the doctor’s schedule, and text messaged patients in real-time to communicate this information, eliminating waiting in the doctor’s waiting room and boosting patient satisfaction. When COVID hit, our team repurposed the Navimize platform to communicate new COVID policies to patients and let patients know EXACTLY when the doctor would be ready to see them, streamlining flow through the office and enabling practices to ramp up the volume without compromising patient safety.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jennifer Meller: In March and April, we thought it was ‘curtains’ for the company…. No one was interested in discussing patient satisfaction, and most practices had shifted to telehealth. We’d started dusting off our resumes and thought we’d have to shut down operations until the country began planning for re-opening. At that point, we took a step back and took a hard look at what we’d built. Once we realized that with predicting delays, a by-product was emptying the physical waiting room, we were able to rebrand, survive, and thrive.
I’d always been passionate about improving the patient experience…the lesson I learned was that sometimes you have to step outside of your mindset to allow your thinking to shift if you want to adapt to sudden new realities.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Jennifer Meller: Try to take some time off from work, spend time with my family, and I love to cook, so I’ve been cooking a lot during the pandemic.
How do you project yourself and Navimize in the future?
Jennifer Meller: My vision for the company is to grow in two phases. In the first phase, we are expanding our offerings to mobile registration and self-scheduling capabilities. Layering this into wait time management and online reputation management (already built into our platform) will create an end-to-end solution for physicians and health systems. The next phase will be to analyze the data that our platform gathers to understand what drives appointment length … and then create a machine learning fueled Intelligent Scheduling platform to schedule patients according to their needs. This will bring intelligence to scheduling, disrupt the current paradigm, drastically increase efficiencies, and revive up volumes while concurrently elevating the patient experience.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jennifer Meller: Our competitors generally are queue management companies. These companies offer queuing capabilities and will either display wait times or alert patients when their appointment is upcoming. The limitations of these companies are that they target only urgent care, where the patient flow is linear, and patients can see any doctor and do not need to wait for a specific doctor. Their solutions do not work for any of the typical appointments that you’d schedule to specifically see your primary care doctor, or your cardiologist, urologist, orthopedist, etc. Most of these companies do not integrate with EMR’s, limiting scalability.
Navimize’s unique competitive advantage is that we are the First Mover in real-time notifications to communicate precise arrival time to patients and streamline flow to maximize volumes while adhering to new social distancing guidelines. Our powerful proprietary algorithms are built on unique insights from our physician founder and work in any clinical setting. Navimize easily adapts to any clinical workflow and integrates seamlessly with EMR’s for rapid scalability, creating strong entry barriers.
Your final thoughts?
Jennifer Meller: I hope to see Navimize help get patients back to their doctors safely, to see Navimize continue to improve communication between patients and physicians, to ultimately see Navimize help physicians and health systems manage operations more efficiently while improving the experience for patients.
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