We met Richard at Agency Connect, a cocktail party series hosted by the Cloud Software Association to bring agencies together to talk shop and build relationships with software partners.

Continuud is a patient retention technology agency. What we do is we work with small community health organizations to help them engage new clients using programmatic advertising, retain those clients and care by implementing digital communications and streamlining their care. We really help organizations understand how to build a positive digital customer experience in the health care space to help clients become advocates for their own health.

Sunir. What I love talking about to you is I actually did not know whether you were an agency or a tech company because of the sheer depth of what you’re offering on your home page. So it was quite amazing how far you had gotten with your services and bringing tech in. How did you wrap services around these all these other products?

We started as a marketing agency working within the space. We were able to bid for a large state contract that we were awarded to use digital advertising to identify people specifically within the HIV space who are at highest risk for contracting HIV and help them engage in testing and treatment at the centers closest to them.

We partnered with Buxton’s (https://www.buxtonco.com), which is a programmatic advertising partner to implement that outreach throughout the state. We did all of the creative in-house and worked with them to implement it across 50 million different platforms.

What we found is it’s a really effective way to engage individuals in health care. Buxton’s helps break down the barriers and the stigma that people face, especially with that type of care and engage them in care. And we were able to reach people who otherwise would never have sought treatment because they weren’t aware that they were at risk or they had misconceptions about the care. So it was a really great way for us to sort of step into that space once we were there, just as sort of an ethos of our company.

We build products around verified client needs. We will sell a product that doesn’t exist and then build it once we know that the need is there. So my business partner and my husband actually spent a lot of time in the offices of our clients just driving across the state, spending time with them, talking and interviewing their leadership and all of the staff that he could get in contact with to determine what are some of the biggest pain points that they have and how does that translate?

When we’re talking about client experience, we both have backgrounds in development with user experience. We wanted to look at what sort of technology can we bring into these spaces to move them away from these pen and paper workflows. We wanted to build really positive client experiences so that people want to come back, they want to stay engaged in their care so that they feel like they are in control of their own health care. That’s where all of the other services that we have now really came from is that focus and that that listening to the client and selling products that didn’t exist that we knew could be built.

Sunir. It looks like you’re selling a product, but what you’ve done is packaged up a bunch of other products and turned it into a product for the customer including the hardware. You’ve become an MSP by by accident. So tell us a little bit about that story, too.

When COVID hit, we found that a lot of organizations were rapidly closing their doors. They weren’t seeing their clients face to face. You know, everybody sort of had that initial freak out and a lot of health care moved to the digital front. Telehealth really came to the forefront.

We finally were able to break through on telehealth in a way that was previously impossible. It was an abysmal sort of rollout for the first 20 years. And then suddenly, with the rise of COVID, people were moving into telehealth as the primary way of engaging with their clients and for clients to access care.

The problem is that of any physician, roughly 15 percent of their population are going to be under-resourced. They’re not going to have reliable access to home Internet. They’re not necessarily going to have access to smart devices or data plans. So that entire population was just left behind, as they traditionally are.

We knew that we needed to make sure from a chronic illness management standpoint that COVID was not the reason that these illnesses overcame individuals, that there was another roadblock to their health care when they already faced a lot of obstacles, access and care to begin with. So we brought to market our patient tablet access program.

I have a history of deploying enterprise-level hardware to help digitize industries. And so we just brought that into the medical space. What we did is we partnered with Verizon. We are a Verizon preferred partner. We then were able to access Verizon’s largest logistics partner, who handles all of our distribution and logistics for our company. We partnered with MobileIron as an MDM solution, and we worked with our clients to design interfaces to meet the needs of their individual clients.

We made it open and collaborative. Not only do we work with our clients, the health care providers, but we work with the other providers in their network, the other mental health providers, nutrition providers that are also seeing these clients. And we allow them to interact. So each client gets an individualized, customized interface that is unique to their treatment plan, and that tablet can be delivered directly to their client doorstep. It comes with a 4G data plan and now they’re able to access care. Our clients are able to bill for remote patient monitoring and more frequent client interactions. We’re seeing positive clinical outcomes across the board.

The best part is it integrates with all of our other services. We’re now seeing a lot more data come through on each of these clients that we can use to improve our services and that our clients can use to improve the way that they provide care to clients.

Who’s been the most disappointing software partner you’ve worked with and why?

We’re really focused on becoming a data company. We want to help all of the players in health care understand when and why chronic clients will leave care, because when an individual leaves care, especially with an HIV, the lifetime cost of treating that client doubles to over $6000. That’s a major balloon.

Data is a really important part of our business and the infrastructure that we’re building within our clients organizations as well. We focus a lot on how do we build partnerships with agencies that can help us collect, analyze and feed that data back to our clients.

I won’t name names, but there’s a pretty large form and data company that we partnered with and the partnership building the training, all of that went really, really well for us. We had a pretty strong grasp of what their platform is and how we can utilize it. And we felt really well supported in those early onboarding phases. But when we went to start to sell that platform to our clients, we started to hit a lot of roadblocks.

Suddenly, the pricing structure was not as clear as it had been in the onboarding process. The support kind of really fell away quickly when we needed to start onboarding clients into it. We weren’t feeling as well supported. We didn’t have the tools and resources that have been promised to us to the point where we actually just stopped the partnership.

We stopped offering that roll out to our clients and we went back to the drawing board. What we ended up doing is turning around and partnering with JotForm, which has all of the same features that we needed and a much more affordable price and an incredibly friendly and supportive team.

Our SLAs on support sped up rapidly just by the sheer fact that JotForm was there to support us. Their pricing is transparent. We’re not having to go back to our clients two or three times during a sales process and say, actually, it’s going to be a little bit different, a little bit different, a little bit more expensive and have to do that two or three times, which just burdens that relationship with your clients. Our reputation is that we are very straightforward, we are very transparent. And that kind of model did not work with us and it does not work with our clients.

Are there any other partners you worked with that you point to that have been really stellar for you that are good examples?

I’ll say that Buxton’s actually has been one of our strongest partners. They really own the work that they’re doing. We’re working within a health care space. And more importantly, we’re working with an infectious disease, which can be a really touchy subject for a lot of people. We have to be cautious about when and how we position our advertisements. We’ve got to make sure that the right messaging gets in front of the right people at the right time, just like any other type of advertising to really be effective to really stretch those dollars.

But Buxton’s really owns that. And they’ll come to the table with us every single week to talk about new strategies. They’ll bring new partners to the table. They have expanded their network just to meet the specific needs of our audience. Steven from Buxton’s will call me out of the blue and say, “Hey, I’ve got this new idea. I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’d like to put it out there and see if maybe this is something that we can partner on. You want to give it a shot?” They’re really invested in this in a way that I wouldn’t normally expect an agency to be. They have been a really big reason then why we’ve been successful in this type of digital outreach.

How should a vendor approach you to establish a partnership?

I need to know that somebody else that I know trusts you or somebody that I respect trust you with their business. I don’t necessarily pay much attention to those emails and those phone calls. Most times they’re immediately marked as spam.

Sunir. That’s vicious.

Hey, you know, we’re all busy and email management is probably the least favorite part of my job. So anything I can do to keep that inbox clear!


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