Thinktiv welcomes Eric Boggs to the Thinktiv Health Practice
Eric Boggs recently joined thinktiv and discusses his rationale and excitement behind his move. Eric has long been interested in exploring the intersection of healthcare, business, and design, and their ability to inform and drive innovation in the healthcare industry when applied together appropriately. Ten years ago, Eric decided to pass on attending UMASS medical school in order to focus more strictly at this intersection. In this interview, we talk with Eric about that decision, as well as how his path has led him to Thinktiv in Austin, TX.
Eric, tell us - if you were interested in healthcare, why did you not pursue medical school?
That’s a really great question and something I struggled with for about a year after graduating from undergrad as a pre-med student. In the end, I realized that I was really excited about health and healthcare, I just wasn’t interested in the practice of medicine. I knew that I could get an MD and then shift out of patient care, but that just didn’t seem like a fair decision to make when I knew someone else would step up and become a clinician. We are definitely facing a clinician shortage in our country, and I wasn’t going to add to that.
After that decision, there was definitely kind of a “now what?” period. Not to say that it didn’t overlap with my previous decision making process, but that was an exciting and nerve racking time because I kind of had my whole future back. Or at least the next ten years, to really chart a course. I knew that I was really interested in business and entrepreneurship - some of the folks I was most inspired by to that date in my early twenties were entrepreneurs like my dad, and some individuals from my connections at Tulane including healthcare entrepreneurs like Ed Michael Reggie and Bruce Thompson from the New Orleans WTO among others - who found and addressed markets, generated wealth, and struck me as supremely independent yet magnanimous. Eventually I found athenahealth, a mission driven company that I could get behind and really felt like I could grow at and learn the ropes of the actual business of healthcare along the way.
Tell me about your experience at athenahealth.
Sure. I ended up working at athenahealth for about 5 years. As my first professional experience, I learned an incredible amount - just about how to carry myself, lead teams and projects, and successfully meet the demands of clients. One of the reasons why I love working in healthcare is because the majority of people are kind, and are mission driven. At Athena, they are there to help people - in the end, patients and doctors, but also co-workers, and to help the company to achieve it’s mission of making healthcare work like it should. I think we can all agree that there is much that can still be done to help achieve a better healthcare system here in the United States.
So in that vein, it was incredibly easy to work at athenahealth. I learned the EMR system inside and out. I led trainings for practices small and large. I was driven by the desire to make system set up for all practices as fluid and easy as possible, with the goal of making technology work for doctors, nurses, and staff work for them so they could get on with the practice of medicine. While I mainly focused on the EMR side, Athena’s bread and butter is billing software, and they also do patient communication software, so I was able to get a really good view into how medical practices operate successfully and eventually make recommendations for how to improve operations.
So eventually you moved on.
Yes! At the same time I was conducting practice workflow consultations and getting excited by new product releases to clients, I was also exploring design thinking and interaction design as a means to more creatively address problems within healthcare - specifically around influencing behavior and ensuring patient health could improve outside of acute visits. I’m simply call that wellness technology, and at the time healthcare IT seemed woefully inadequate in its capacity to influence human behavior. I found Austin Center for Design (AC4D) via a google search, and decided it seemed like an incredible option to learn both the philosophy behind design as well as the nuts and bolts of interaction design to create new products and services. I packed up and moved down for the year, while consulting with athenahealth on the side.
How was your experience at AC4D?
It was incredible. It really changed how I approached problem solving and my whole way of thinking about life.. really. I felt like for the first time, I was engaged in an education that changed how I thought. Design education is entirely different from traditional education, in that it focuses on making artifacts as a way to communicate; that it’s rooted in real experience and empathy with people as opposed to a textbook; and that it focuses on testing solutions rapidly as cheaply and in as low fidelity as possible to ensure success. I think these are tenants that are key to my work to this day. And if I find myself getting anxious, it’s probably because I haven’t made something in a while.
It looks like you took a detour from your healthcare journey for a bit after that. How does your time at Blackboard play into your overall story?
Yes and no. I spent the following year after graduating working on a project that I started from school, which became a company and product called CareWell. CareWell focused on helping unpaid family caregivers ask for help from family and friends. We found that the complex web of familial relationships and undertones of emotion and responsibility got in the way of supporting a caregiver, who is typically a middle-aged woman closest to an aging parent. She is often a caregiver instinctively, which in many ways makes it easier to not reach out for help even though its direly needed. My partner Chuck and I figured that technology could fill that gap - technology could always be positive, suggest tasks to family members based on location and strengths, as well as follow-up to make sure things got done. I went to a coding bootcamp to learn how to build it myself, which was incredibly difficult but ended up with me learning front end code as well as how to navigate backend frameworks. CareWell stayed as a side project while design consulting work picked up. Consulting work brought me first to Whole Foods Market for a healthy eating project and then to Blackboard. I ended up with a full time gig for a few years as I had an incredible opportunity to learn from a world-class design team, and lead design for some very successful web and mobile products. I have no regrets and learned a ton. But I really felt like it was time to go back and apply my skill set to the healthcare space.
Welcome to Thinktiv, Eric. We won’t ask you to toot our horn too much. But please indulge us. Why here?
I’ve learned that great products develop at great companies that are prepared for innovation. What I mean by that is, it takes a holistic vision of innovation that includes market positioning, differentiation, a properly organized organization, and a focus on both the customer and the business needs to create products and companies that will thrive.
Thinktiv specializes in creating enterprise value, and inserts itself at the C-Level to ensure the organization is aligned around innovation in this way. They make sure companies go after the right market, have the right messaging and branding, the right product, and that those companies are positioned to go to market effectively. They can do so because they have a breadth of talent in a variety of disciplines working in the same room. The result is what our CEO calls trans-disciplinary thinking: unique collaborations that result in solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts, and have led to valuation multiple increases for large number of clients. Finally, they have expertise in the healthcare market, and an interest in growing this area of business. I’m excited to see what we can do together.