Date: Feb. 21, 2022
Interview Subject: Marlin Doner, VP of Data Analytics, Marketing & Product Strategy, Prodigo Solutions
By Dawn Yankeelov, Executive Director of TALK
As supply chain management is top of mind for many starting 2022, we spoke with Marlin Doner who is currently the VP of Data Analytics, Marketing and Product Strategy for Prodigo Solutions, Inc. He assists healthcare providers, manufacturers and other global Fortune 500 companies with the adoption of new emerging e-procurement technology and the use of data standardization to drive contract compliance and e-commerce optimization across their supply chain trading partner networks. For the past 25 years, Doner has been a business leader in the field of e-commerce, technology design, software development and large-scale software project deployment.
Tell us more about your role at Prodigo Solutions.
Doner: Prodigo Solutions was started out of the health system in Pittsburgh—the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, UPMC. In 2008, I was involved with the company, right from the start. Primarily, my role was, at that point was as a technology solutions provider for Prodigo. So then, Prodigo acquired my company that I was a partner in, with a couple of other technical folks. We had built the technology platform, so they acquired us and brought us on board. All three of my partners are still with the company. Prodigo is now an independent company, equity-owned, and UPMC is still a shareholder, but not a major stockholder. The company has 72 employees, and we focus on the largest health systems in the US, that’s our target market. Typically a billion or more net patient revenue. Gartner identifies us as a leader in the healthcare supply chain space.
We do all in house development. We don’t do any offshore development, our entire software stack, we built ourselves. It’s not been an amalgamation of a bunch of different technologies. It’s our stack, we own it; it is proprietary; and it’s patented. And our development team is based in Pittsburgh, and is the majority of our total staff — either developers or implementation folks.
As part of our product strategy, about four years ago, one of the new products we began was in this whole area of data and analytics. And so, it still rolls up into my role. Because it’s a new product, still relatively what we define as a new product, so it stays under my product strategy role until it becomes mature. In my area, we’re building all the systems processes around how we’re going to execute in the market, and we’re responsible for the go to market of new products.
Question: So what do you think the current priority around data analytics is, for the company?
Doner: Our company is focused on the supply chain management side of healthcare. We don’t take patient information and do any analytics on that. We focus entirely on all the data assets that we manage on behalf of our customers and are available to us, related to supply chain. So transactional activity, as well as attribution of items. What’s unique in healthcare is the volume of items that are purchased. And that’s unique from other industries. When we look at manufacturing, a typical large company is probably buying 10s of 1000s of items from their vendors within healthcare. They are managing anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 items that they have on contract with their vendors. And they need to maintain those prices accurately over the life of that contract. Priorities focus on two aspects of data quality–one is completeness of attribution on the item, and the second is accuracy of that attribution. All items in healthcare have to have certain attributes on a part number price. Healthcare has been focused and catching up really to other industry verticals around standardization of item identifiers. So, bringing those attributes to our customer base been a big priority over the last couple of years. Those unique device identifiers allow the item to be scanned, at the point of view; and make sure it comes back fully attributed, with all the metadata that’s required for that item to be charged accurately to a patient care event. Then it is recorded accurately in financial reporting systems so that reimbursement can line up with costing on patient procedures.
The volume of data is a big challenge and the amount of change in that data. So, the other unique thing beyond the volume of items that our customers have to manage is the frequency of change of those items. You’ve got to manage that change. Our technology helps our customers do that. And then on the back end of it, once your data is in in a good state with good quality, then you can look at how do I analyze that data to inform decisions going forward.
Giving the customers the ability to visualize that data in a way that they can make sense of it, and take action on it–that’s our priority now and going forward. These last three years have been getting the data into a structure, making sure it is complete and accurate.
The customer manages about 17 different technologies within supply chain in the clinical enterprise. A key focus area for 2022 is automation—now that we have clean data, helping our customers automate the flow of that data between their different technologies and platforms that they use both clinical, financial and otherwise.
Question: Are you looking at new patents in this area?
Doner: We have a few patents pending in terms of what we do with data. One of the key ones is how do we influence purchasing decisions of requesters. Within a customer of ours, we have up to 10,000 different people who interact with our system at a within one of our clients. One patent we have is tied to our search algorithm. Generally, our patents are focused on how we influence those buying decisions toward the options that are preferred by the supply chain. Our customers are negotiating contracts on the back end that have conditions and commitments built into them. The better they achieve their commitments, the better the price will be. Our technology plays a role is streamlining that process, making it simple for an end user to find the item they need, ensuring the supply chain that each item that the end user sees is the accurate item for their particular location and purpose. And so, our technology does that. Two patents have been awarded and there are seven in the process now.
Question: Is there an additional focus for data analytics in 2022? What’s the next phase?
Doner: Yes. In 2022, what our customers are also asking us to do is to give them operational benchmarks, so they could compare themselves against other peers in the industry. They want more visibility into that, again, every health system out there is under financial pressure, given the pandemic, either eroding their revenue opportunity. Elective cases are being canceled or rescheduled or having to deal with inflationary cost pressures, which are is hitting our entire economy. They need us to be helping them get to a point where they can exist in this new economy that we have, and making sure that the data they have access to is going to drive and inform the right decisions downstream. Over the history of Prodigo, we’ve participated in the migration from paper to the digital supply chain. That evolution has taken 12 years in healthcare, and it’s going strong now.
I think the next phase of data and analytics within healthcare is going to be around this whole idea of how the cloud enables data to flow more easily there, there’s two parts to that. One is infrastructure, which we largely have, right, so we know how to move data today. That part’s been solved. The willingness of data to move between from the source of the manufacturer and aligning IT with the needs of the healthcare provider is an area where, for some reason, healthcare has struggled.
I think over the next two years, we’re going to see significant strides being taken in terms of connecting from the flow of the physical good to the virtual flow of data, all the way from the manufacturer to the point of care, which is at the patient bedside.