MedCitizens, Startups

Vivor CEO highlights patient financial assistance platform for hospitals and health systems

Vivor CEO and Co-founder Ian Manners talks about the origins of the financial assistance startup and their mission to eliminate out-of-pocket costs as a barrier to care.

Vivor CEO and co-founder Ian Manners talks about the origins of the financial assistance startup and their mission to eliminate out-of-pocket costs as a barrier to care.

Why did you start this company?

In my previous career as a management consultant, I worked with a lot of pharma companies that were trying to figure out all the reasons why patients might not be able to start or continue treatment for life-threatening conditions like cancer. Of course, most of these reasons were clinical ones — serious side effects, for example — but I was really surprised how often the non-clinical concerns like out-of-pocket cost were causing patients to skip or delay care. 

What I discovered was that insured patients are often asked to shoulder a significant portion of the cost of clinically appropriate, life-saving treatment. But at the same time, there are a vast number of assistance resources out there — from pharma companies and non-profit foundations, primarily — that are actually going underused. For example, in cancer treatment, only about 1 in 5 eligible patients get access to resources that could significantly reduce their out-of-pocket costs. I figured there had to be a way to close this gap, and I believed strongly that technology was a big part of the solution.

What specific need are you seeking to address in healthcare?

Vivor’s mission is to eliminate out-of-pocket costs as a barrier to life-saving care. There are so many patients out there encountering financial distress. It has even led to the coining of a new term in the medical literature, financial toxicity, to describe the problem. Our enterprise platform directly addresses financial toxicity by connecting patients with underused sources of assistance, which ultimately helps to keep patients on treatment and leads to better outcomes. It also helps hospitals, health systems, and other provider organizations to reduce the costs associated with unpaid medical bills.

Ian Manners

What does your product do? How does it work?

Our core product is a patient financial assistance platform for hospitals and health systems. It’s an enterprise solution focused on serving the needs of the largest health systems in the country. Vivor is able to integrate with EHRs to proactively identify patients who are eligible for various forms of assistance, which reduces the haphazard nature of screening patients manually. Then, the platform supports staff members in managing the entire workflow of enrolling in assistance programs, securing funding, and reporting on the results.

To make all of this possible, Vivor maintains a vast catalogue of patient financial assistance programs — close to 2,000 in total — along with their details and eligibility rules. Then, based on a unique patient profile including financial and clinical data, the software can identify exactly the right programs and guide a staff member to take action. Perhaps more importantly, it ties everything together with features like reminders, worklists, and reports — all of which are highly configurable so that large systems can make Vivor work in a way that meets the health system’s needs.

In some cases, large health systems have chosen to pilot Vivor first at a few initial sites, then expand after demonstrating value. We followed this approach when partnering with Advocate Aurora Health, where they first implemented Vivor at two hospitals before expanding usage across the entire health system. Their goal was to remove barriers to care, and implementing a consistent financial navigation process was a key piece of the overall strategy.

Is this your first healthcare startup? What’s your background in healthcare?

Previously, I worked in consulting for ZS Associates, a global firm with a focus on solving sales and marketing challenges for life sciences companies. It was through that work that I really got to know the problem of rising patient out-of-pocket costs and started brainstorming potential solutions. For me, healthcare is also a family business: my wife is a gynecologic oncologist, and she shares with me every day the ways in which cost and other administrative burdens make it harder to deliver the best care for her patients.

What is your company’s business model?

We use a fairly traditional SaaS model, where our provider customers pay an annual subscription fee in order to license the platform. We scale the licensing fee according to the customer’s overall patient volume, but we also try to keep it as simple as possible with no extra charges for implementation, training, or support.

Our ROI for providers is centered around the additional patient assistance dollars that they are able to bring in by using Vivor. For example, at Moffitt Cancer Center, one of our longstanding customers, they were able to secure over $1 million in incremental copay assistance during the first full year that they were using the platform.

Additionally, Vivor partners with pharma companies who want to make it easier for staff members to enroll patients in their own resources like co-pay programs or patient assistance programs. In these cases, we work with the manufacturer to create an interface that we call “Express Enroll” which supports a fully electronic, instant enrollment process.

Do you have clinical validation for your product?

We’ve been very fortunate to work over the past several years with research partners at the Duke Cancer Institute, especially Dr. Yousuf Zafar, who was part of the team that originally coined the term financial toxicity in the medical literature. We received funding from the National Cancer Institute to develop and test a patient-facing mobile component of our technology. In a 200-patient randomized trial, we found that use of Vivor’s technology significantly increased the likelihood that patients would apply for and secure financial assistance. Some of these results have already been presented at conferences like the ASCO Annual Meeting, and the full data has recently been accepted for publication in JCO Oncology Practice.

To learn more about how Vivor is eliminating financial barriers in patient care, visit our website.

Picture: claudenakagawa, Getty Images