February 23, 2023 Sandy Bielawa
I am the senior director of customer success. Starting at Ursa, I jumped in as a technical customer success manager, or TCSM, so I've been playing that role and understand what's involved. Recently I’ve started overseeing the team of TCSMs and am now thinking more broadly about what the future of the team looks like and how we can best support our clients. I'm excited to work on developing our team culture.
TCSMs are responsible for understanding what our clients need and how we meet them where they are. They're coordinating both our clients and our internal teams to ensure that we achieve success in the most efficient way possible. They understand both the business side of our work, what our clients are going through and what challenges they’re facing, and the technical side, how to translate business needs into technical requirements—and specifically how to make it all come to life in Ursa Studio, our analytics development platform.
Our clients face so many different challenges, whether it’s the populations that they're serving, their market maturity and resources, or their particular place in the healthcare ecosystem. Some of our clients have been around for many years and have large teams of analysts and data engineers, while others are working to do it all with very little. We have clients that are focused more on primary care, while others home in on specialized areas such as chronic kidney disease, musculoskeletal disorders or serious mental health issues. And while many of our clients are moving toward value-based care models, they can often be at varying stages of taking on risk-based contracts.
Because of all these differences, the way that we get to a solution can be drastically different. So a lot of the job is uncovering that right path to success.
A TCSM has to know the right questions to ask and who to ask them of. We have resources internally that they can call upon, and we do a lot of information sharing and cross training about topics that might be shared across the client base.
However, in certain areas our clients are really the experts and the ones who know best, and we look to them to help us build our own expertise in their area, which happens naturally as we work together. So the true talent of the TCSM is pulling the right information out of the right people, and then imbuing that information with perspective from working with many different types of clients.
I gravitated toward math and science in school, and I was always solving problems. That was the only real direction that I had going into my career. I did not plan to go into healthcare, but my first job was doing analytics at a small consulting firm in upstate New York, and we worked on a lot of healthcare payment reform projects for Blues Plans. That's where I started developing my technical skills: understanding databases and how to write SQL, creating reports and analyzing data in Excel, and—the real key to it all—how to interpret healthcare claims data and learn what it takes to transform it into something that is actually usable.
That’s when I started to understand and enjoy finding out what you could glean from healthcare data analytics. My sister became a physician assistant around the same time I was getting into that role, and I loved having conversations with her around the challenges she faces on the clinical side and how analytics could make a difference.
I eventually moved into a consulting role engaging directly with our clients, which I really enjoyed. But I soon wanted to move to Boston, and because I was interested in learning more about the world of consulting, I hopped over to PwC around the time when ICD-10 was coming out and organizations needed to quickly prepare. While there was no shortage of ICD-9 to ICD 10 transition projects, I also performed various opportunity assessments—for example, identifying charge capture opportunities at hospitals, and quantifying expected savings through implementation of new medical policies for a large managed Medicaid plan. I learned a ton in my two short years at PWC but ultimately all the travel was a little bit too much for me. And you don't ultimately get to see things through—you provide the recommendations, and then you move on to the next project.
So I joined athenahealth and went right into a client analytics role. I got to learn a lot more about EMRs there, and for the first couple of years worked with our largest clients—$10 million plus in annual revenue—helping them figure out how to optimize their revenue cycle performance on the athenahealth platform. It was very “white glove” analytics work, working with a small number of clients and diving very deep into their data to surface and help execute on specific opportunities that would ultimately improve KPIs.
Over time I moved into a management role, and we began working on figuring out how to scale that analytics work we’d spent years developing so we could deliver it to all of our customers, because there were thousands of clients—especially our one- and two-doc practices—looking to get this kind of insight. We used tools such as Tableau and Gainsight and spent a lot of time training our account managers so they could have productive, effective performance conversations with clients and move the needle on their KPIs.
Eventually, my interest in value-based care and the clinical side of healthcare, plus my desire to work for a smaller company like I had at the beginning of my career, brought me to Ursa Health.
The opportunity at Ursa Health opened up, and it was the perfect mix of the right company culture, the right leadership mindset and vision, the right technology, and the right mission.
The big thing for me was that our leadership really understands the analytics challenges facing our customers, because they've been there themselves. And they’ve spent years thinking about this specific need and building this product to solve for it. I have never seen a company that is so uber focused in this area. Truly impactful healthcare analytics require a lot of time and attention, which, frankly, makes it challenging for many companies to do well. It's not enough to just give healthcare organizations access to data, although plenty of companies do that. What’s really needed is the ability to transform that data into something meaningful. And because of the complex and ever-changing healthcare industry, you also need the ability to quickly adapt and iterate on logic and approach in an efficient and scalable way. Ursa Health's done a really great job of that.
I also really enjoyed being a consultant in my previous roles and was looking for an opportunity where I could use those skills to help clients be successful. And I really enjoy the technical work and getting deep into the data to solve problems. The TCSM role was a nice balance of those business and technical worlds.
Gosh, there's a lot, but two main things. The first is the people. It's such supportive environment of smart people that all want to do right by our clients. Everyone's accountable and wants to work together to make things happen. I came from companies where things got very siloed very quickly, so I love that.
I also have really enjoyed being able to jump in with clients, understand their challenges, and help them use Ursa Studio to quickly turn around insights that can help them thrive. I've been fortunate enough to be working with clients that have certain organizational goals in mind and are already starting to see how Ursa Studio can play a role in their success.
Well, I'm very competitive. I think it started when my grandparents used to visit us every summer growing up, and my Pop would not just beat me at every game we played but would really rub it in that he won. It made me try harder and harder every time we played. Eventually this competitive nature would carry through to organized sports in high school (I was MVP of my softball team!), and these days you can find me shouting out answers watching “Jeopardy” with my husband, Finn, or trying to be the one to guess the Wordle in the least amount of tries on the family group chat.