by Brian Nordli
June 13, 2018

While healthcare impacts everyone, the industry remains inefficient. VillageMD is attempting to change that.

The organization is working to make historically siloed data more accessible to physicians, enabling them to provide better care to their patients. We spoke with four leaders on the engineering team to learn how they are innovating within healthcare and touching lives along the way.

 

VillageMD Patio
Photography by Chris Murphy
VillageMD Lunch Room
Photography By Chris Murphy
VillageMD Logo
Photography By Chris Murphy

 

FOUNDED: 2013

EMPLOYEES: 600 national; 75 in Chicago

WHAT THEY DO: VillageMD’s clinical model provides physicians with data analytics, support services and physician-based care coordination to better serve their patients. It can be customized for physicians and patients in each market.

WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago

GROWTH SPURT: They’ve outgrown four headquarters in the past five years.

PERKS: Matching 401(k) and generous paid time off are just a few of the company’s perks.

 

Mike Roberts CTO

 

Mike Roberts, Chief Technology Officer

Mike leads the technology strategy at VillageMD. He provides guidance, coaching and critical thinking to help engineers develop and deploy data-first solutions intended to reduce administrative overhead for physicians and increase access to key patient information.

BEYOND WORK: Mike soaks in the sun on family beach vacations.

 

Tell us about your background — what attracted you to VillageMD?

Healthcare impacts everyone. It’s personal, it’s relatable. It can be wonderful and it can be frustrating. It’s also expensive, and in many cases, not sustainable. For these reasons and my belief that every person should have a health expert in their corner, via a primary care physician, it was an easy decision to join VillageMD.

 

What is the biggest challenge facing the medical tech industry? What are you doing to help your team solve that challenge?

The combination of poor, superficial interoperability capabilities along with too many applications means systems remain disparate and duplicative. It can’t be solved by a single technology, but our approach has allowed us to experiment with new technologies.

We are clinically focused and don’t stop simply because a problem hasn’t been solved before. Combine that with an engineering mindset, and we believe we’ve cracked the code on what interoperability and lightweight value-added applications should look like.

 

We are clinically focused and don’t stop simply because a problem hasn’t been solved before." 

 

What’s the toughest challenge you have asked an employee or employees to tackle? How did you support their efforts to do so?

There are very few easy answers in the work we do every day. The problems we face haven’t been solved yet, so the only way to approach each day is with a glass-half-full mentality. Attitudes are infectious. If everyone didn’t approach each day with that attitude, then the success we’ve had and the path we’re on would not exist.

 

Dennis At work

Dennis Payonk Portrait

 

Dennis Payonk, VP of Engineering

Dennis Payonk leads the technical direction of VillageMD’s product engineering teams. He enables the team to build innovative products like docOS — a primary care platform for clinicians and patients — faster.

BEYOND WORK: Dennis enjoys hacking technology and has voice enabled his entire home. Outside of work, he can be found playing golf.

 

Tell us about your background — what attracted you to VillageMD?

My background is in data analytics systems. I started my career in healthcare and then spent time consulting in the retail and e-commerce space. I was drawn back to healthcare by VillageMD’s mission of helping primary care doctors provide better care to patients. I’ve seen firsthand the influence a great primary care physician can have on my family. It’s rewarding to know that the work I do can help other families receive the type of care they deserve.

 

What is the biggest challenge facing the medical tech industry? What are you doing to help your team solve that challenge?

Interoperability and compliance are the biggest challenges in healthcare. Other industries don’t have the same challenge unlocking data that the healthcare industry has. The challenges are partially due to necessities like privacy but also from years of healthcare systems operating only within the four walls of their organization.

Our team is making data outside an organization more accessible to everyone delivering care to patients. We are focused on reducing the overhead clinicians have while trying to deliver better patient care.

 

Our team is making data outside an organization more accessible to everyone delivering care to patients."

 

What’s the toughest challenge you have asked your employees to tackle? How did you support their efforts to do so?

We ask all of our people to gain a tremendous amount of healthcare knowledge and context in a short period of time. The domain model is especially complex with the different terminologies. It can be hard to relate to if you’ve been fortunate enough not to have had a healthcare episode. To help, we have subject matter experts scattered around the office who are always available.

 

Describe the engineering team’s culture.

We believe in ownership and autonomy. Each person should feel like they own the success of their product and understand the larger role it plays in our business. We promote engineering principles that create maintainable code but are pragmatic in the delivery.

 

Laura at work

Liz Portrait

 

Liz Yuhas, Director of Technology

Liz Yuhas leads a team that builds and implements workflow products in the healthcare field. Her team is currently focused on a care management application to help physicians increase their impact on patients.

BEYOND WORK: Liz loves to travel, enjoying the personal insight she gleans from her solo trips.

 

What problems are you solving on your team? What impact are you making?

We launched a care management application this year, which allows nurses to better care for a patient outside of their office visits. Our product enabled a care manager to reach out to a high-risk patient who she wouldn’t have seen in her old application. She connected with the patient on a personal level and was able to help manage her chronic conditions.

 

Tell us about your role in shaping VillageMD’s interview process.

I’ve done a lot of interviews in the past year. I’ve been involved in two specific ways: aligning the question areas to be consistent across all candidates and positions, as well as improving the candidate experience.

We have lots of open roles, and sometimes we get candidates applying for one position only to realize they are a better fit for a different role. So we shored the process of moving candidates from one path to another through clear communication. We also decided to align interview themes with our company values. This creates a consistent experience centered on our core values and ensures we are comparing apples to apples.

 

Mindful growth takes a lot of energy from the team, and we’ve worked to ensure we are attracting candidates who match our values and add new perspectives." 

 

As a rapidly-growing company, what challenges does VillageMD face when it comes to finding new hires? What opportunities exist? 

Mindful growth takes a lot of energy from the team, and we’ve worked to ensure we are attracting candidates who match our values and add new perspectives. We emptied our personal networks growing from a small technology team of seven to over 30 a year later. It’s been a challenging but important task to find new sources and grow our brand in the hiring market.

 

Mario Portrait
photo provided by VillageMD

 

Mario Urquizo, Principal Engineer

Mario creates software solutions to collect data from disparate sources into a normalized data model. The data will help physicians provide better care for a patient.

BEYOND WORK: He’s a huge baseball fan. He plays in a summer baseball league and coaches a little league team.

 

Tell us about your background — what attracted you to VillageMD?

I started at a printing company developing a business process management solution, and then I went on and started my own agtech startup. After a few years, I realized how hard it was to build my own business, and I missed being on a team where I could share ideas and learn from others. VillageMD offered me that opportunity and the ability to help patients and affect healthcare.

 

What product is your team working on? What problems are you solving?

Aggregating bad and disparate data into one consumable interface is difficult. Our team tries to make that process easier through software that allows us to get more data faster. If we can do this well, we can get data to our teams that help physicians, which can make an impact on patient lives.

 

You mentor junior engineers at VillageMD. Tell us about an engineer you’ve helped coach.

One team member, Jackie, was a great person to mentor. She brought so much enthusiasm and willingness to learn that it made mentoring easy. We worked together to understand how to use Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics’ common data model and built data pipelines using Airflow. Sometimes the best mentoring is simply listening to somebody else’s ideas. Jackie would often bounce an idea off of me, and we’d talk through if there were other options.

 

Being on a small team tackling new challenges provides a huge growth opportunity."

 

You recently stepped into a senior engineer role with direct reports. How did VillageMD help facilitate your growth? 

Dennis (Payonk) showed me patience and provided ideas for solutions. The combination of the two makes for a work environment where you can grow, learn and contribute. Being on a small team tackling new challenges provides a huge growth opportunity.

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