Today's entrepreneur: Mark Becker, founder and CEO of Vivacare

Steven Loeb · July 9, 2021 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/52a8
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Whether its employees, investors, customers or others, you’ve got to have their trust and they yours

Today's entrepreneur is Mark Becker, founder and CEO of patient education toolkit Vivacare.

Vivacare provides medical professionals with personalized digital tools to educate and engage their patients, including a Patient Care Toolkit loaded patient education content and tools. Patients receive in-depth health information from the source they trust most with their care...their own doctor. Partners, such as disease advocacy organizations, collaborate with Vivacare to efficiently deliver content at the point of care.

Becker is a pediatrician committed to supporting the physician-patient relationship and inspired by services that improve patient care.

He has been in the "digital health" space before it had a name, having co-founded Salu, Inc. in 1995 to develop some of the first online health references and patient chat rooms. Salu then developed a suite of digital solutions for independent medical practices, including medical practice websites, patient portals, mobile clinical references and handheld prescription writing capabilities. Programs were developed in partnership with professional organizations (American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, American College of Cardiology) and pharmaceutical firms (AstraZeneca, Biogen, Cephalon, Galderma)

I am a(n):

Entrepreneur

Companies I've founded or co-founded:

Vivacare

If you're an entrepreneur or corporate innovator, why?

Honestly, I kind of stumbled into it. I was practicing as a pediatrician when the Internet was just gaining adoption and I was enjoying working with some other physicians and medical writers developing some of the first consumer health information online. There was clearly a need in the market so we decided to form a corporation and expanded our services to include early digital health solutions for medical practices, such as secure physician email and ePrescribing. The whole endeavor was exciting and I enjoyed exploring innovative ideas and working with a team to pursue our goals. In the end, most of our services were too early for the market, but there remained a clear need to help clinicians deliver quality patient education content since clinicians are so busy and don’t have the time to create or even curate their own patient ed content. So I left clinical practice to start Vivacare.

My favorite startups:

Having recently driven through Idaho, I was reminded of Chobani, the yogurt brand that has a large facility in Twin Falls. In just 15 years, Chobani shifted American preferences to Greek style yogurt and grew its market share to 50%, and along the way remained focused on the needs of employees and the larger community by providing its workforce with a stake in the company and employing refugees. This commitment to the community is admirable. I’ve also been impressed by Zoomcare, a provider of medical care in Oregon and Washington that was focused on serving the medical needs of patients while offering superior customer experience. Healthcare in the US is not traditionally known for being easy to navigate for patients, so shifting to a more patient-centric model required re-engineering everything from the EMR system to how front office staff were trained. The clinics grew organically without initial outside investment and filled a much-needed niche. I personally sought care from a Zoomcare clinic and loved sharing my experience with others. I made the appointment just before being seen, was immediately shown to the exam room, had all expenses clearly explained, and was able to access all test results on my phone at the end of the appointment. Had I gone to an emergency room, I would have waited hours and faced a bill at least 3 times larger.

Why did you start your company or why do you want to innovate inside your company?

When I was practicing medicine, I always enjoyed explaining the diagnosis or the pros and cons of different treatment options. Most physicians do too. However, in a busy medical practice it can be difficult to find the time to deliver the appropriate resources for a particular patient at the right time. In fact, my previous company performed a survey of 200 physicians and 80% reported that they view patient education as a key component of clinical care, but only 20% reported having the means to effectively deliver it to their patients. So Vivacare is focused on fulfilling this need, by making it easy for medical professionals to deliver meaningful resources to their patients that help them better understand and manage their care.

Also, I have a bias towards helping fellow medical professionals do their job. The digital health space is full of firms trying to develop focused services directly to patients/health consumers, bypassing the physician. There’s one company that helps you get prescriptions for some types of pills and another company focused on providing prescriptions for other pills. There’s one app to track your headache and another app to track your asthma. There are very few firms focused on helping clinicians leverage digital tools to deliver care for all of their patients and support the physician-patient relationship

Vivacare makes it easy for physicians to deliver personalized health information to their patients via print, email, text or display on their websites so that patients come prepared to their appointment and are better equipped to manage their care from home.

What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?

I’d say the most frustrating or challenging aspect is the uncertainty and doubt. Things are changing quickly so it’s not always clear whether changing plans or staying on course is the best decision. And sometimes the finish line is fuzzy, which means there can always be more time and effort spent to increase the odds of succeeding, but there are only so many late nights and weekends that can be devoted to work without that taking its toll. However, amidst that challenge is the satisfaction of building something new that hopefully is appreciated by the customer. I’ve felt tremendous reward when a physician has taken the time to reach out and personally thank me for the service we provide.

What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs/innovators make?

I am not sure I’m the most qualified to say how other entrepreneurs might run astray but staying focused/avoiding distractions has got to be a common challenge.

When creating something new, you’re always asking questions and getting feedback from the customer and the marketplace. You’re always looking for new opportunities and ways to make things better. But it’s often too easy to start tackling multiple opportunities at the same time and get spread too thin. To succeed, each initiative needs its own product plan, marketing plan, and most importantly, understanding of how it supports the overall business. Most startups can probably handle only a few initiatives at a time without overwhelming the organization. Too much ambition or too little forethought can lead to failed efforts and wasted time.

What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?

  • People. Hiring smart, motivated people is critical to building an organization that communicates well and gets things done. And the right hire is not found in the credentials or resume. Some of our best employees came from completely unrelated fields.
  • Trust. Whether it’s your relationship with employees, investors, customers or others, you’ve got to have their trust, and they yours. And an essential part of maintaining that trust is being honest about the company’s successes and failures and a realistic assessment of the road ahead. There is a lot of hyperbole in the world of starts up because the bigger story the bigger the rewards. But a story too far from reality is like a Ponzi scheme that is not sustainable.
  • Focus. As I mentioned earlier, focusing on the right initiatives is one of the keys to not overwhelming a startup organization and achieving realistic goals. Figuring out what to prioritize and staying on task with the top priorities will lead to less distraction and wasted efforts, and ultimately better results. 

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Mark Becker

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I am the founder of Vivacare and a pediatrician committed to supporting the physician-patient relationship and inspired by services that improve patient care.