“If you work in a hospital for a decade, you’ll see people experiencing life’s biggest moments. In one hall, it’s tears of elation as loved ones celebrate new life coming into their world. Down another, the somber remembrances of a life well lived. And everywhere else is everything in between.”
Brian Whorley, founder and CEO of Paytient, has seen firsthand the emotional hills and valleys that patients and their families experience in their health care journeys, and he has made it his company’s mission to make the journey easier. He is proud that his company helps people better access and afford care, and candidly shares his perspective on the future of health care.
The Confusion of Care
“In the early 2000s, the industry had this notion that as patients assume greater out-of-pocket responsibility, they would self-discover this ability to better navigate the health system since they were bearing first-dollar risk,” Whorley says. “I don’t know if that came true.
“Even for folks like myself who worked in health care most of our careers, the health system can be a hard thing to explain from the inside and an even harder thing to understand from the outside. There’s this uncertainty that is under the surface of the experience for patients. It starts from the first moment you feel unwell and you start wondering ... ‘Hmm, what’s wrong? Should I see someone? Who’s the best person to see? What will it cost?’ I think that’s why there’s this baseline level of anxiety or perhaps even frustration with the health care system as we know it. Our ability to understand it, from a consumer perspective, hasn’t kept pace with our increasing responsibility of paying for it when we have to experience it.
“Give anyone—high-, middle-, or low-income—an unexpected expense that they feel like they didn’t have any voice or choice in creating and that’s just a super-frustrating experience.
We’re so used to it that we just accept it as status quo. However, we’ve found leading employers who want to find ways to improve the employee experience without downsizing their current deductible.”
Employers pay a monthly subscription and Paytient gives employees a payment card pre-loaded with special purpose credit that the employee can use only for health care. Employees tap the card (or use Google Pay or Apple Pay) at any provider and the provider is immediately paid in full by Paytient, giving the employee the ability to repay over time. The employee can even link their existing HSA or FSA in order to repay with tax-advantaged dollars when it makes sense, or, as Whorley suggests, “to help people preserve, save, and invest their HSA dollars for later in life.”
Whorley describes Paytient as a modern health payment benefit employers offer to their employees. It gives people the ability to pay for care over time, whether that’s medical, dental, vision, pharmacy, or even veterinary care.”
“We make every visit to the doctor’s office feel financially easier, better,” he says. “And certainly, providers love Paytient as they’re seeing patients come earlier and walk in the door with a ‘no worries’ attitude and a better ability to pay for care.
Rewind to 2006. Prior to starting as an administrator at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Missouri, Whorley and a friend created a software platform that entrepreneurs from across the country used to build their own branded, on-demand delivery apps. It was the right place to be at the right time and by 2014, that company had grown to a few million users and was ripe for acquisition.
After the sale, as Whorley continued to work at the hospital, he knew he had another mountain to climb. He’d lie awake at night thinking about how to repeat that experience but, this time, solve a much larger, more important problem.
“I called Daniel, my co-founder on our last business who is now Paytient’s CTO, and we started building again. The best ideas in health care are win-win-wins, where tangible value is created for payers, patients, and providers alike,” he says. “I felt we had the experience and insight to go all in, all the way, and build an iconic company to help people better access and afford care. I had seen enough to know that the commerce of care happens outside the four walls of the hospital or physician office. It is shaped upstream, well over the horizon by parties often unknown to the providers who are at the end of the line with their heads down, rightly focused on taking good care of people. I concluded that the best way to help people and enable better health was to go as far upstream and as close to the patient as possible, so that’s what we built.”
Right Place, Right Time
As employers found Paytient and began offering it to their employees, Whorley realized that they were once again in the right place at the right time and poised for high-velocity growth.
“We’ve been very fortunate to find early partners and employers who share our conviction for helping folks to better access and afford care,” he says. “These were leading employers who simply believed that every employee, young or old, high-income or low-income, will probably have some sort of frustrating health care experience or annoying out-of-pocket cost at some point during the year and Paytient can help employees feel less stress when they’re ill.
“Most of the time, health care is unplanned. We built an experience to empower people to swipe, click, and split any medical, dental, vision, pharmacy and veterinary expense into bite-sized, interest-free payment plans of their own choosing. It’s peace of mind and a renewed feeling of control over one of the most frustrating parts of health care.”
Whorley understands that his focus on the right problem in the right way at the right time is meaningless without the right team. “Fortunately, just as we were able to find early employers and partners who realized the value in their employees having a ‘no worries’ attitude when it comes to paying for care, we were similarly lucky to find early investors who were passionate about that as well.
“We look for distinctively talented, mission-driven people who are passionate about building something that’s making a difference in people’s lives. As a remote-with-roots company, we’re able to screen for talent rather than geography and give people looking for purpose a place to work no matter where they live. That’s been so helpful to our growth.”
Naturally, one of the tools Paytient uses in recruiting is a top-notch benefits package that includes its own product. “We give everyone $5,000 on their Paytient card because we want everyone in the company to be able to easily access and afford care, no matter their HSA balance, no matter if they choose the high-deductible or low-deductible plan,” Whorley says. “Every employee deserves an anxiety-free care experience where they just can focus on feeling better. The last thing you want to think about when you’re sick is paying for care; that’ll make you sick on its own. We make that easy.”
His company, like the companies Paytient serves, sees a tangible, financial benefit with the program. “We’ve been able to increase enrollment in lower cost health plan designs without the worry of negatively impacting our employees,” Whorley says. “It’s a Do No Harm approach to the health plan design. You can increase enrollment in your higher deductible plan and save $40 per member per month without harming employee access to care. There’s also an element that I can’t quantify and that is people work best when they are less stressed. From an employer perspective, offering Paytient was an effortlessly generous thing we could do for our own employees, and people love using it. It’s not just the large expenses, it’s for everyday life. It’s for the team member who considers her dog as a family member, and it helps her take him to the vet; that’s totally fine.
“Every day we receive emails and comments from members about how Paytient helped them. The other day someone simply sent in a note that said, ‘Lifesaver.’ Seeing those coming in, unsolicited … it is inspiring.”
With access to nearly $100 million in outside capital, Whorley feels momentum building as the company is pulled into discussions with larger employers and partners.
“I think we have the opportunity to establish Paytient as a trusted, iconic brand that people will rely on to better access and afford care,” he says. “I wake up every morning thinking about how we deliver on that promise, how we make decisions all day long to reinforce that promise and earn our way up to that, as quickly as possible, in a durable and sustainable way.”