Episode #74 – Creating a Highly Efficient Healthcare Delivery Marketplace – with Dr. David Berman

Dear Colleagues & Friends,

I recently heard Adina Friedman, the CEO of NASDAQ, give a talk on what it means to be a free, open and efficient marketplace.  Her main message was that a free and open marketplace has two requirements: ‘certainty of product’ and ‘certainty of price’. What struck me about her talk was how healthcare delivery, for the most part, meets neither of those requirements.

Healthcare leaders and economists have repeatedly described how the healthcare delivery system in our country seems ‘perfectly designed’ to be ridden with inefficiencies, frustrations and opacity. Our guest this week, Dr. David Berman, is keenly aware of these realities. He has practiced medicine for over 30 years.  Over the past couple of years he has been putting together a start-up company, ‘Slingshot Health’, whose purpose is to reduce the opacity and friction in the healthcare system. As he puts it, the goal is to “create an open, two-sided marketplace in healthcare – where you put the patients and the providers back in control of what they both want.”  It’s an ambitious goal, but Dr. Berman brings a very practical solution to the lack of price transparency, affordability and accessibility in healthcare.

Dr. Berman is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist who trained at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He is a highly accomplished physician & has published and spoken extensively on his subspecialized area within hepatology.  He is also a savvy and successful entrepreneur – having built a thriving, multi-specialty practice in Manhattan.

What you’ll hear in this interview includes:

  • The solution Slingshot Health is deploying.
  • How Slingshot Health adds more provider supply and capacity to healthcare without any increase in cost to the market.
  • How Slingshot Health solves a major challenge for providers, which is the significant percentage of unfilled appointments that go to waste each day.
  • Slingshot Health’s rapid and expansive growth.

There are a number of things I deeply appreciate about Dr. Berman, and the approach he and his colleagues are taking. First, he has been in the private practice environment for decades and intimately understands the day-to-day challenges and frustrations of providers and patients. Second, his approach is not a complicated bureaucratic schema; but instead a simple solution to the complex issues of convenient access, cost and price transparency. Third, I love the fact that it’s a win:win for both patients and providers. Patients win because they are able to obtain timely access to medical care, at a reduced cost. The average selected wait-time to appointments for patients who use Slingshot Health is 4 days, compared to the national statistic that it can take, on average, 3 to 4 weeks to obtain a medical appointment. Providers win because they get to fill their unused appointment slots each day. Somewhere between 10 to 20% of provider appointments go unfilled each day, which harms both patients as well as providers.

Slingshot Health is inserting choice and self-determinism back into the healthcare marketplace. It is fulfilling the efficient marketplace requirement of ‘certainty of price’ that I referred to above. Dr. Berman is clearly a mission-driven physician and entrepreneur. But, he’s also a very down-to-earth business person. From my perspective, his company is a wonderful mix of both mission and margin. It is a manifestation of what an open, transparent and efficient market can offer to patients, providers and our healthcare delivery system.

Now, nothing is perfect and I’m not suggesting that Dr. Berman’s start-up is the answer to the larger access, cost and transparency dilemmas plaguing our healthcare delivery system. And I’m not suggesting that it will address the larger issues of disparity and inequity, or the social determinants of health. But, it does solve some very real and specific problems. And it does it in a consumer-oriented, value-enhancing way.

I’ll leave you with a quote from this interview which captures the pragmatic American idealism that Dr. Berman and his colleagues are attempting to manifest in their efforts.

“Slingshot Health is democratizing healthcare – giving the individual back their voice and their vote in their healthcare destiny. No longer do you have to beg for what you need, but now you have direct, no risk access to what you want – at no extra cost.”

Until next time, be well.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD