Clarity and Compliance: Establishing Price Transparency with Chris Severn

In this episode of Friends of Project Healthcare

Chris Severn, founder and CEO of Turquoise Health, joins host Eric Thrailkill to discuss the importance of price disclosure in the healthcare system and Turquoise Health’s mission to help eliminate price ambiguity for both providers and consumers. Combining his consulting expertise with the software engineering skills of co-founder Adam Geitey, Chris is using Turquoise to catalyze action towards implementing price transparency laws effectively and efficiently. 

“We’re working backwards towards complete healthcare financial clarity. Our vision is to eliminate the financial complexity of healthcare,” Chris shares. “That means for consumers, for doctors, for nurses, care navigators. That also means for payers, providers, folks negotiating the macro cost of healthcare, self-insured employers, even the government will look at this data.”

Chris attended UC Berkeley where he studied Spanish and Portuguese before switching to Business in pursuit of his interests in entrepreneurship. Post-graduation, Chris discovered his interest in medical finances working for a consulting firm with a focus on hospital underpayments.

“I don’t have a PhD, but if I did, it would be in hospital claims, hospital underpayments, that whole underworld.”

As Chris was building an expertise on medicare pricing, his entrepreneurial work took on many forms outside of healthcare, which Chris described as “pretty fun,” but states, “I finally found my way back to healthcare. It just keeps calling you back.”

Co-Founder Adam Geitgey was the mastermind behind Turquoise Health’s software building. Together, Chris and Adam entered 2020 building bespoke machine learning models to find payment variances in hospital surgeries. “You marry the subject matter expertise with the engineering and product prowess and you get hopefully a pretty fearsome duo,” Chris explains.

When surgeries slowed with the initial shock of the pandemic, however, Chris and Adam saw the minor setback as a great opportunity.

“We originally started Turquoise knowing that there was a big opportunity,” he shares. “Adam and I said something like a cool outcome would be if we built a 25 person business doing something mission driven and enjoying our jobs. And then pretty soon as we got into 2021, we realized the opportunity was bigger.”

Chris and Adam’s idea aligned with dramatic changes made to price transparency federal regulations at the end of 2020, which required providers to disclose prices to consumers, all in time for Turquoise to take action. “Judge Merrick Garland ruled in a pretty scathing ruling at the end of 2020 that consumers have to know the price of healthcare and that price of healthcare is linearly tied to the negotiated rate between payers and providers. So this is here to stay.”

With $5 million in funding from A16Z and increased market demand with new compliance laws, Chris and Adam were “off to the races.” Turquoise Health has since grown to be a company with over 100 employees worldwide. Today, they are aiming to “dig beyond” the hospital data pipeline, adjusting to changing policies and refining processes through technological advances.

Chris explains that the largest remaining issue concerns the fact that hospitals do not have a homogeneous framework for data input, while insurance companies follow a very strict standard. By July 1st of 2024, however, things will change. With laws supporting “high compliance, high granularity and high precision,” Chris explains, July will initiate a “watershed moment.” 

“This data finally becomes irrefutable because they have to set schemas in columns and fields where you can’t really brush it away.”

Chris believes by 2028, complete clarity over pricing in the shoppable medical service will be ubiquitous. “Everybody in the United States that’s on a commercial insurance plan will know that they can get a clear price from some provider.”

With generative AI expanding the borders of content creation and enhancing the speed of data collection, Chris believes modern technology will be an asset to Turquoise Health’s mission.

“Look, if you can create a 4K video from text like we saw two weeks ago, then it should be possible to know the price of healthcare in advance. It should be possible to prompt a large database of quality, access and price as a consumer, ping it up against my insurance plan and get that exact cost of care.”

With dramatic infrastructure changes on the way and a clear path towards an equitable healthcare pricing system, Chris is looking forward to fulfilling Turquoise Health’s mission to provide the industry’s most comprehensive price transparency platform.

About Chris Severn Chris is the Co-Founder and CEO of Turquoise Health, a price transparency platform dedicated to eliminating the financial complexity of healthcare. He has over ten years of experience modeling managed care contracts, first at Cloudmed and then at Arcosta. Over the last three years, Chris has led Turquoise Health to become the industry leader in price transparency data, compliance, and contracting. Chris has testified before Congress on Transparency and Competition in Health Care and works on Project Clarity, a multi-stakeholder collation for consumer-enabled applications of price transparency.

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