New Castlight Health president describes his plans for $100 million Series D funds

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This is the transcript of my recent podcast interview with Castlight Health President John Driscoll.

David E. Williams: This is David Williams, co-founder of MedPharma Partners and author of the Health Business Blog. I’m speaking today with John Driscoll, who’s just been named president of Castlight Health.

John, thanks for being with me. Congratulations on your new role.

John Driscoll: I’m very excited. We’ve got some great things to do at Castlight. I’m very excited to be working with the team to make it happen.

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Williams: How did you land at Castlight?

Driscoll: Gio Collela, the founder of Castlight, and I have been friendly for many years. Even before he started the company, we talked about the need to bring more transparency and the right information to consumers when they’re making decisions.

We brainstormed about how we could leverage the power of information related to the digital revolution to help perform health care in the right way. When he came up with the idea of Castlight I was fully supportive. Over the years, I’ve watched it grow.

While I was at Medco, we partnered with Castlight with a large employer. I was very impressed.

So, when I left Medco a few months ago, it was a natural extension of the ongoing conversation. He asked me to join and I was happy to accept.

Williams: What will your scope of responsibility be at Castlight?

Driscoll: I really look at it as a partner of Gio’s to help grow the company. Gio, (our CEO) and Randy Womack, (our COO) have built an incredible team of sales and marketing professionals, technologists, and health care experts. They are all working on how to deliver the right information to consumers at the right time so they can make smarter choices with their health care dollars.

It’s my job to work with them, to get the best out of the company, and to make sure we scale and grow and become even more relevant to more consumers across the country.

We couldn’t be aiming at a bigger problem, how to bring sane and sensible solutions and information to help consumers in health care. We need to make sure that we do grow and scale in such a way that we can leverage the power of the informed consumer to make the right decisions.

I really look at it as a partnership role in helping grow and take this company to achieve the kind of a national impact I believe it can.

Williams: You spent several years as an executive at Medco and before that, at Walker Digital, Oxford Health Plans and Oak Investment Partners. What will you bring from those experiences to Castlight?

Driscoll: Different things from different places. At Oxford we were involved in going through hypergrowth, in one of the most progressive health plans in the country in terms of bringing innovations to bear in the plan world. So I think I have a fair amount of sympathy and understanding to what you need to do to succeed and survive in the health plan world. And I think health plans are a critical partner in Castlight’s success.

From Walker Digital and Oak I bring an appreciation of the power of the digital revolution to take cost out and to allow you to use transparency to drive to better outcomes.

We’ve seen it in banking, we’ve seen it in airlines. There’s no reason why we can’t see the same kind of jumps in quality and reductions in cost. Things will differ in health care but the fact that they’ve been accomplished in other industries means that they are possible in many areas in health care.

At Medco I was responsible for growth outside the core, leveraging a lot of new opportunities. That included building Medicare Part D from employee number one to the largest, most successful Part D program in the country, to working in the software world developing a drug safety program in Sweden or helping drive e-prescribing.

I was involved in remarkable initiatives where we brought innovation to bear on problems and challenges for people who thought it could not be moved. We were effectively leveraging innovation as a PBM –where other people didn’t necessary expect to see it. There’s opportunity to innovate all throughout health care. That’s probably the biggest insight I bring from the PBM world.

What is also very relevant from the PBM world is how quickly and clearly people make decisions when you provide in information on cost and quality. The best examples is the higher use of generic drugs in the country. It’s been a huge boon for consumers, and the rise of the PBM industry has been a key enabler.

PBMs also reformed drug safety quite dramatically, by just leveraging information and wrapping software solutions around it to help the prescribers and doctors make smarter decisions. I’ve seen the impact that information can have in terms of improving outcomes and lowering cost.

Effectively that’s what we’re trying to accomplish at Castlight. We want to drive the kinds of reforms that leverage information about pricing, about quality, and about service to improve health care outcomes and reduce cost.

The opportunity is there. The information often isn’t. It’s our job to provide it.

Williams: Castlight has raised what seems like a very large pile of venture capital. Can you provide some insights into what you’ll do with so much money?

Driscoll: It’s a large amount of money relative to the size of the company we are today, but the capital provides the flexibility to scale appropriately to the size of the challenges we have in front of us.

Health care has systematically under invested in technology and software. One of the reasons why we feel like we need to raise a lot of capital is because there’s a lot of opportunity to invest in tools, technologies and services.

As customers are demanding those services, we needed the capital to scale with quality.

Williams: Everyone in health care and perhaps the society more broadly is keeping an eye on Washington, D.C. to see what happens with the Supreme Court with the fate of Obamacare and the election. These things will have big implications for health care.

To what degree is Castlight affected by what happens to Obamacare and what happens in the upcoming general election?

Driscoll: Shenever there’s a structural shift in health care, it will affect everyone.

But for what we want to do, which is to provide the right information in the right hands in the right way, to derive information that allows consumers and employers and payers to make better decisions at the point of care and the point of decision, that opportunity is going to exist under any legal or political change.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of the burden of pain for health care shifted from the employer to the individual. From both the employer and the plan, the information hasn’t always been available to help anyone make informed choices, particularly from a consumer perspective.

That increasing need for the consumer to have price and quality information is only going to grow and will not be affected by any legal or political changes.

Williams: I’ve been speaking today with John Driscoll, newly appointed president of Castlight Health.

John, thanks for your time.

Driscoll: Thank you, David.

 

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David E. Williams

By David E. Williams

David E. Williams is the co-founder of MedPharma Partners who writes regularly on the Health Business Blog.
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