For the Record with Sara Ratner, Senior Vice President of Government Markets & Strategic Initiatives, Icario – Medical Alley Association

For the Record with Sara Ratner, Senior Vice President of Government Markets & Strategic Initiatives, Icario

A proven leader in the healthcare industry, Sara Ratner was the CEO of HealthEHR where she helped venture-backed organizations develop Medicare and Medicaid program strategies for emerging markets leveraging CMS and state frameworks to generate opportunities for program development and expansion. She has also served as SVP, Corporate Systems and Compliance at RedBrick Health, President of NeoPath Health, and as General Counsel, VP of Strategic Partnerships and Human Resources at CVS CareMark (MinuteClinic division). She earned a B.A, cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, and her J.D. from St. Louis University graduating magna cum laude. 

Give us Icario elevator pitch. 

Icario is a health action company that seeks to deeply understand people by leveraging behavioral and data sciences, in order to move them to take action for better health. 

We make a new level of outcomes possible. 

Icario is the proven leader in driving better health outcomes using behavioral research, multi-channel engagement orchestration, and advanced analytics to bring humanity back to healthcare communication. 

Icario delivers a “whole population” solution. We intelligently reach members that need healthcare interventions most, while at the same time driving low and moderate acuity members to action with personalized outreach at scale. 

Personalization is now more personal. 

Icario improves member experiences at every touchpoint. We can develop personalized healthcare experiences that move people to better health with every action, leveraging the full spectrum of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. As a partner, Icario can prioritize outreach and engagement to reduce abrasion from disconnected interactions, setting a foundation for our partners to leverage personalization to meet health outcomes and business goals.  

We replace fragmented multi-vendor engagement with market-leading AI and machine learning capabilities to create personalized experiences that improve health and drive better outcomes. 

We make your life easier. 

With Icario, business processes are simplified. ​We can help orchestrate and automate data integrations, compliance workflows, incentive management and more, enabling you to meet your ​business goals and improve member experience.  

Icario offers a broad and deep set of capabilities for motivating member action by bringing our clients the ability to pilot critical initiatives with confidence, to deliver end-to-end solutions that scale across millions of members. We are committed to working “within your systems/policies” without hampering your vision. 

As a leader, how has your role changed during COVID-19? 

I’m very intentional in showing compassion, expressing gratitude, finding new ways to be flexible, and promoting a focus on mental health. The shift to remote working highlighted a paramount need to look each other in the eye (over Zoom of course) and ask, “how are you doing … how is your family doing?” That pause and sincerity enables us to stop and take the time to understand how people are doing, rather than accepting this is the new normal. This is not normal, and for so many it is a nightmare. We need to respect newly confronted circumstances and understand how people are doing in a real and honest sense. 

Now, more than ever, there is a need for greater understanding, grace, and flexibility in meeting our team member’s needs. Working hours have changed with shifting familial responsibilities and it is imperative to try to flex around accommodations needed to meet the team’s needs, retain talent, and attract new employees. 

How have you pivoted your company to address the needs that have risen since the onset of COVID-19? 

Almost overnight, everything changed. Initially, messaging was required to refer people to telehealth or other remote services to minimize COVID-19 exposure and facilitate access to needed care. Information and education were central to healthcare with the daily epidemiological changes. However, success amid this pandemic has required organizational resilience, flexibility and innovation to quickly accommodate new market needs. Recognizing this shift, Icario, through studies we conducted through The Harris Poll, studied the shift in care patterns, recognized the decline in specific preventive screenings and vaccinations, to help message clients around these emerging gaps in care patterns. Our organization has strengthened its already strong commitment to, and investment in, forging new and innovative ways in improving health plan performance. 

In addition, Icario has studied member satisfaction, which is more important than ever to program performance. The Medicare and Medicaid CAHPS surveys are a critical measure of health plan member satisfaction especially due to recent bonus payment weighting changes tied to this area. As such, there is a heightened focus on improvements in this domain and corresponding demand for Icario services to help address satisfaction.  

Our employee needs changed almost overnight. With newly realized and varying burdens and needs, the organization shifted to holding all employee weekly meetings with much more frequent department meetings. In addition, we executed a merger (between Revel Health and NovuHealth) in the midst of COVID which has required more intense communication. Because of this, leadership started holding listening sessions with small groups of employees to understand, from varying perspectives, the issues and opportunities in the newly formed Icario business.  Paramount to the organization’s success has been helping our employees survive and manage new barriers. 

We adopted incredible flexibility in helping each person with their particular circumstances. Situations previously viewed critically and skeptically, were met with acceptance and encouragement. Our employees are our core, so we need to do everything to help them through this pandemic. This means flexibility, acceptance, gratitude, patience, and firm support of each employee’s needs. 

What are the big milestones to come in the next few years for Icario? 

One of the biggest milestones was executing on the merger between Revel Health and NovuHealth. We will continue to grow in the government programs space focusing on members with varying health and non-healthcare needs. The focus is building the best health action platform enabling greater fluidity and a member-centric focus on communication that can be seen in consumer markets. This will be driven by new capabilities, including pursuing opportunities to develop Icario’s machine learning and AI. This fortifies Icario’s execution on channel ubiquity driven by member need and focus, further hardening a unified 360-member view. 

What does leadership look like to you? 

Leading authentically and courageously always assuming positive intent. It is critical to employ a servant leadership approach to be a talent magnet. 

While difficult at times, leadership is demonstrated by being vulnerable and owning the team’s mistakes to create a learning environment, and also recognizing the need for having hard conversations. If you have to say “but” as part of owning a mistake, then you’re not owning it. 

It is imperative to be the same person at work and home. I try to bring diplomacy and patience from work to home and kindness, gratitude, and emotional openness from home to work. 

What is the best advice you have received in your career? The worst?

The best advice I’ve received is to pay it forward. I’ve taken risks networking and reaching out to leaders with fear of rejection. When I’m asked to meet with someone, I try to say “yes” as, over the years, many people took the time for me.

Other notable great advice:

  • Ask questions/be curious rather than self-righteous.  
  • Be prepared, and then continue to prepare more.    
  • Take criticism seriously but not personally.  
  • When a mistake is made, apologize with all sincerity. 

The worst advice I have received throughout my career are as follows:

  • It’s ok to massage the facts. 
  • Dress like everyone else to fit in. 
  • Raise as much money as possible. 

What have been the most rewarding moments in your career? 

I started serving as the General Counsel (subsequently assuming additional responsibility for strategic initiatives and human resources) for MinuteClinic when it had 85 clinics in seven states. In this role I was responsible for helping to eliminate political headwinds to enable a 50-state presence. State legislators and medical societies tried to block this new care delivery model’s presence in many different ways. However, by the time I left we had clinics in all states and had expanded to 560 clinics. It was incredibly exciting building a new healthcare category and being at the forefront in a new way to deliver care. Now MinuteClinic is a category name for retail clinics and it is a mainstream part of health care. 

I also formed the Women’s Leadership Network when I was at RedBrick Health to develop women leaders through building their brand identity and developing a networking plan. I have observed that women are often too humble in describing their professional accomplishments and understated in their positive leadership traits. The brand statement facilitates an approach to authentically speak about experiences and accomplishments, and naturally respond when someone says, “tell me about yourself.” This enables an intentional approach for women to describe themselves, in the voice in which they are comfortable, and in a way that succinctly captures key professional highlights. It was so successful that the organization, and subsequent ones I was a part of, wanted to extend to all employees since it was valuable in teaching people how to network, benefiting not only the individual but also deputizing organizational ambassadors. 

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year? 

I have several goals: 

  • Train for another Ironman and compete in 2022. 
  • Focus on mental wellbeing and continue to support the mental health needs of others. 
  • Be more present in the moment. 
  • Saying “no” more often to protect my investment in, and dedication to, my current commitments, including time with family. 

How do you relax / decompress? 

Run, run, and run.  

Read books about World War II, the U.S. special focuses, and the Middle East conflict. 

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community? 

It is such a valuable asset establishing a forum to continuously learn from its leaders and member organizations. Medical Alley includes some of the sharpest people I know, and its leadership is at the forefront for creating a vision for what is ahead rather than immediately in front of us. The organization has a strong recognition and focus on the market needs, and fortitude in helping to shape it going forward. I appreciate Medical Alley’s pivotal role in shifting Minnesota from a healthcare “fly over state” to one that is recognized as an innovation incubator and engine. 

Welcome to Medical Alley Association’s For The Record interview series! Join us as we sit down with innovators in the delivery, payment, technology, and policy industries, giving us – and in turn, you – access to diverse perspectives on how healthcare is changing and what lies ahead.

Medical Alley is the global epicenter of health innovation and care; For The Record, is meant to share insights and spark discussion. If you have a perspective on the future of healthcare, feel free to share it by reaching out to Jamie Oyen, Marketing Manager at joyen@medicalalley.org

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