Author Archives: Lisa Suennen

Happiness is a Warm Puppy and a More Productive Employee


I think that if you asked the vast majority of employers WHY they provide employee benefits today, they would say that it is the very unfortunate customary cost of doing business. In other words, it is expected that most employers, at least the larger ones, will offer health benefits to their employees and that the primary purpose of doing so is to attract and retain them. They will also say that offering, managing and paying for health benefits is a drag.

Interestingly, with Obamacare came the ability of employees to move employers and not lose health coverage. In other words, the law had the unintended consequence of removing the retention value of employee health benefits. Employees are no longer “locked in” to existing employer health plans due to pre-existing conditions. And since health benefits have become particularly expensive and short on frills, their usefulness in attracting employees is likely getting pretty tenuous. In any event, now that any American can get health insurance through the public exchanges, there is also a viable alternative than staying at a job to get coverage.

A secondary reason that many employers provide certain benefits,

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Posted in Consumer Engagement, Health and Wellness, Health Insurance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beavis and Butthead Go To Silicon Valley


Last week HBO aired the first episode of a new TV series called Silicon Valley.  I have seen a fair amount of formal and casual review on the show including a heated debate of whether it’s funny or not and whether it is more of a satire or closer to a reality show.  A few people have commented that there are virtually no women on the show and what’s the deal? It’s just not right!

I figured I’d weigh in on that last comment, as it is a perfect example of the fine line between the debate on life imitating art and art imitating life.  For the record, I thought the first episode was pretty hilarious, but because it was so self-consciously close to reality, not in spite of it.

Let’s start with the fact that the show is brought to us by Mike Judge, the guy who wrote Beavis and Butthead.  Remember those guys back in the 90’s?  They were two teenage nerds with no social skills who couldn’t talk to girls and always sat around on a couch wearing crappy t-shirts.  Well. fast-forward to now and

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, Girls Rule!, Innovation, Medical Comedy Relief, Uncategorized, Venture Capital, Women in Venture Capital & Private Equity | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Data Comes to Life As CMS Releases Medicare Claims Bonanza


Transparency of healthcare pricing is a hot topic and it just got hotter. On April 9th, 2014 CMS released Medicare provider-specific payment data for the first time and the Internet is en fuego.

Kept private by court-order since 1979, this publicly-relevant data, about care paid for with tax-payer money, demonstrates a lot of things and, also, probably a lot of nothings.  Doctors fought against CMS’ release of the database of all claims paid by CMS to physicians, vowing it would be released over their dead bodies.  Some of these doctors may have gotten their wish, as I suspect there are more than a few physicians worrying about the death of their careers right about now.

One of the most notable findings on a quick review of the data is that 2% of physicians who billed Medicare in 2012 received…ready for it?….$15.1 billion of the $60 billion paid by Medicare in that year to physicians (total spend was $77 billion including labs and ambulance services).  In other words, 2% received about 25% worth of the money.  Man, those guys must be SUPER productive.  Yeah, right.

About 75% of the money went

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Posted in Consumer Engagement, Health Insurance, Healthcare, Healthcare Information Technology, Healthcare Policy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Patients Are Actually Customers…Who Knew?

Q: Hospital food or Hotel cuisine?  A: Henry Ford Hospital

Note: This post also appeared April 4, 2014 in Xconomy.

I was finally getting to my giant pile of reading this week when I saw an article in Health Care Information Week that included the following sentence:

As consumer satisfaction begins to have a bigger impact on the bottom line, more hospitals are hiring a chief patient experience officer (CXO) to treat patients like valued customers.

Maybe it’s me, as a born and bred marketing person, but that seems like the weirdest concept in the world. In layman’s terms it basically means this: Hospitals are waking up to the fact that patients are actually their customers (go figure) and failure to notice this fact will reduce their revenue. Another fact: it wasn’t until CMS decided to penalize hospitals for poor patient satisfaction by docking their reimbursement by up to 2 percent that hospitals started to get religion on this topic.

Can you imagine the board of directors at Coca Cola or Revlon or Nordstrom saying, “You know, we just realized that the people who pay for our products are actually our customers and we should think about being nice

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Posted in Consumer Engagement, Healthcare, Healthcare Reform, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Healthcare Comedy Relief Meets National Nutrition Month


As we approach the end of March, which is officially National Nutrition Month, I thought I would pass along a note from those who clearly didn’t get the memo: Dunkin Donuts has announced in March that they are getting ready to fill the void that has stunted efforts at world peace by launching marshmallow Peeps-encrusted doughnuts.

Yes that’s right, in anticipation of Easter and just in time for National Nutrition Month, you can now advance your efforts towards Type II diabetes by scarfing down your choice of doughnuts glazed with either green frosting and a pink drizzle, or pink  frosting with a green drizzle — topped off by a marshmallow Peep.

I have long thought that Peeps are essentially the fast food world’s version of nuclear waste, likely to survive long past cockroaches and Arnold Schwarzenegger while poisoning everyone with whom they come into contact.  Apparently this is a huge marketing advantage for Dunkin Donuts.

National Nutrition Month was also the opening season for Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu, featuring the 700 calorie Crunchwrap with Sausage and, my personal choice for nasty new breakfast food:  The Waffle Taco,

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Posted in Healthy Eating, Medical Comedy Relief | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hot or Not? Why Good Looking Men Get All the Funding


Note: A slightly shorter version of this post appeared March 21, 2014 on PE Hub.

Oh lord, so this explains it.

Women have heard a million excuses about why, as entrepreneurs, we get the short end of the stick when it comes to raising venture capital.  In case you are unaware or are missing a second X chromosome, you should know that “among high-growth-potential ventures, only 11% of US firms with venture-capital backing, past and present, have been founded or led by women, and women-led ventures have received only 7% of all venture funds.”  Considering that about 51% of the US population is women and that there are loads of studies that demonstrate better financial returns from businesses run by women, this trend persists year after year.

Why? Why do men get all the funding?

We have been told that it is because it’s an “old boys club” and thus women are out of sight, out of mind.

We have been told there are so few female CEOs that that there are no opportunities to fund them.

We have been told that experience is key to successful leadership and

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, Girls Rule!, Healthcare Venture Capital, Uncategorized, Venture Capital, Women in Venture Capital & Private Equity | 5 Comments

Headbands: Retro Accessory or Functional Fashion?


Back in 1990’s, Hilary Clinton was often in the news (filed under “ridicule”) for her hair accessory of choice, a headband.  More often associated with Scooby Doo’s Daphne or Bjorn Borg or even Madonna in her Desperately Seeking Susan phase, the headband has long been considered a somewhat gauche style choice.  Until recently, that is.  Lupita Nyong’o, star of 12 Years A Slave, wore a diamond-encrusted headband on stage at the Oscars, perhaps ushering in a new era of headband hipness.

And not a moment too soon, as we are also beginning to see headbands emerge on the wearables scene for both fitness and medical applications.  And thank goodness for that, as people are at perilous risk of running out of wrists for all the watch form factors that are the current wearables rage.

The new headband that most recently caught my eye (in a good way, not a fashion faux pas way) was the Cefaly, which just got FDA approval for the prevention of migraine headaches.  This headband is worn once a day for 20 minutes and, according to its label, is intended to help the wearer

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Posted in Diagnostics and Screening, Digital Health, Health and Wellness, Healthcare Information Technology, Innovation, Medical Devices, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

And It Begins at the Airport…


And it begins at the airport. I am making what has become my third annual pilgrimage to South by Southwest (SXSW) to judge a healthcare startup program in the SXSW Interactive Accelerator and I find that the all-consuming techno-weenie goofiness that envelops Austin for SXSW has spread, germ-like, to Virgin America gate 54B at SFO. There at the gate is a huge display of free cupcakes and nerd glasses with an ad for what I can only surmise is the newest extra-marital-activity-while-you-are-on-the-road-pre-planning-app called HereOnBiz.

Contrary to my first impression, HereOnBiz is not intended (or at least is not marketed) as “Tinder for people who carry laptops.” Rather it is being promoted as an app that lets you find people who are in your social networking universe who might happen to be nearby or on your flight. It also lets you shop from the others on your flight whom you do not already know in order to find that very special someone who might be your next source of funding or fondling, depending on your predilections. For the moment, HereOnBiz is the purveyor of very popular free cupcakes

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Posted in Digital Health, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Employee Benefits Times, They Are A’Changin’


Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

-Opening lines to Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A’Changin’

An article in HIX/Health Insurance Exchange newsletter last week quoted an Aon study saying that more than 33% of companies will put their employees into private health insurance exchanges in the next few years; ; 66% would put their retirees into these exchanges in the next few years; and, 38% of the companies would offer no benefits to part-time workers within the next three to five years.  On top of that, Aon found that 5% of the companies surveyed may drop employee health-care coverage in the next three to five years, an increase from 1% now.

A quote from the article: “Employers are telling us they are losing confidence in their traditional approaches, like vendor changes or employee cost-sharing,” which only deliver “incremental” improvement, Jim Winkler, Aon’s chief

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Posted in General Business Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Reform | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HIT Bingo – A Reprise for HIMSS 2014


I’m not attending HIMSS this year, electing instead to keep my sanity. or what’s left of it.  In honor of the old-school nerd-fest to which all my intrepid friends will venture this coming week, I have decided to reprise an old blog favorite, HIT Bingo, which I wrote back in 2012.

So HIMSS attendees, here are your instructions: print out the bingo card below and pick any random aisle in the exhibit hall.  If you haven’t yelled BINGO! within 30 feet of starting down the aisle, you’re just not paying close enough attention to the marketing chatter all around you.

Even though I wrote the post below nearly two years ago, it occurs to me that the buzzwords from then are pretty much the same now, except “mhealth” has been transformed into “digital health.” Additionally, the words “transparency” and, god help me, “curate” are missing.  The former we will no doubt be hearing more about as government moves to compel providers to publish their prices.  The latter makes me downright nauseous, it being fairly pretentious and nearly as bad as “ecosystem,” as in “let’s curate the content in our ecosystem.” 

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Posted in Digital Health, Healthcare Information Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment