Grab your favorite cup of java (or in Taylor’s case, green juice) and check out the latest in our blog series celebrating Cedar’s diverse and amazing employees. As Cedar’s fourth hire in 2016 and poster child for learning-on-the-job, Taylor Hakes was recently promoted to Chief Architect and is helping to redefine engineering leadership as the company prepares for more growth ahead.
Hey, Taylor! Wait a minute — green juice over coffee?
Not really. Having this green juice at Dr. Smood is actually a first for me, but this juice bar is an interesting scene close to Cedar’s office here in Soho. I’m just not really a coffee or tea drinker. Give me straight up water any day.
I hear you were employee #4 at Cedar. What brought you to the company and what is the biggest change you have seen since you started?
I worked with one of Cedar’s co-founders, Arel Lidow, in a previous role and he invited me to dinner to share the concept of Cedar. While I hadn’t worked in healthcare before, the mission of the company and the chance to work with Arel again made the opportunity quite compelling.
For me, the biggest adjustment over the last few years is the pace at which we are adding on new talent to meet our product innovation goals. Certain processes — like shouting across your desk to ask your peers a question or brainstorm ideas — worked pretty well with four people, but with a company of 70+ we have to apply different ways to work efficiently and keep learning from each other. For example, our regular release update emails and lunch demos are a great way to keep everyone informed of our progress and gather feedback.
Cedar does quick growth better than I’ve seen at other companies, and I think that’s because our leadership has extensive experience in startup culture and what’s needed to succeed in healthcare tech, specifically. We don’t have to stumble over the mistakes we’ve already learned from in the past.
You had a few different engineering roles prior to Cedar. What aspects from your past have helped you succeed here?
In my previous roles, I was able to try out sole contributorship as well as leadership positions. They were all B2B or B2B2C startups: first AppNexus, then OrderGroove, then IEX Group. Yes, I was an engineer, but my roles were never clear cut. I wasn’t just writing code. I mentored junior engineers. I gave weekly tech talks. I introduced new processes for greater efficiency. It was a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done culture, where everyone worked as a team to find the best possible solution even if it wasn’t part of your job description. It’s that same spirit of resourcefulness and creativity that drew me to Cedar. I’m constantly learning from others and doing things I’ve never done before.
Speaking of new experiences, you were recently promoted from Engineering Lead to Chief Architect. Congrats! How has your role changed?
Thanks, this is a new role at Cedar and I am really excited to help shape it. As a tech lead I was responsible for an individual team and making sure everyone had the support they needed to do their job efficiently. Now I apply that learning on a much larger scale, looking at things holistically. How do we empower people to build better products? How do we think about building our products to make sure they will be relevant and just as powerful 10 years from now? How can we exchange knowledge better with other departments? How do we structure our team to support individual growth needs? I’m particularly excited about a new program we launched that allows engineers to build their own career track: management versus individual contributor. It gives people more options for how they want to grow at Cedar, without the pressure of being fixed into a traditional individual-to-manager path.
What do you think is something that makes Cedar’s culture unique?
We hold a variety of social events throughout the year, but the company-wide offsites are my favorite. They aren’t your typical corporate retreats where you’re doing team challenges all day and the like; they are unique opportunities to get far away from the office environment and really get to know people you don’t typically interact with. As we get bigger, this becomes more important.
Why should engineers consider Cedar over other organizations?
First off, Cedar is trying to solve a huge problem that affects nearly everyone in this country. Who hasn’t had a seriously frustrating issue with their healthcare prior to, during or after their care visit? Everyone at Cedar is passionate about building solutions that truly make a difference.
Secondly, a lot of companies have smart people. We also happen to be very friendly and open-minded. We embrace diverse approaches to solving problems. It’s refreshing.
Besides your preference for water over caffeine, what other factoid would people be surprised to know about you?
I don’t have an engineering background. I was an economics undergrad because I happened to be good at it. But, I really didn’t enjoy it. So after college, I moved home to work for my parents’ business and started building websites. I learn most of what I know on the job, always have. I guess I’m lucky that people are willing to take a chance on me.
[Author’s note: Taylor is a humble Yale grad with incredibly high self standards.]
Taylor heads up the Cedar engineering team and helped build its industry leading patient payment and engagement platform from the ground up. When he isn’t writing code and innovating change at the office, he’s on the green channeling his Yale golf team days.
Interested in becoming a Cedarian? Check out our current openings.
Hospitals, including many nonprofits, are routinely taking patients to court over unpaid medical bills, per recent reports from NPR, ProPublica and The Wall Street Journal. Some are reportedly relentless. Johns Hopkins hospital has filed more than 2,400 lawsuits against patients in nine years and Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has filed more than 8,300 in the last 5 years.
Being aggressively pursued for medical bills — either in court or by collection agencies — can be financially devastating for patients. And the physiological stress may delay healing at a moment when patients need to focus on their care. These tactics are inconsistent with the role of hospitals, particularly not-for-profits, as community institutions with a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable. As a physician, I am frustrated at the current state of billing across healthcare – one that continues to legally pursue patients for seeking the care they need at difficult moments in their lives.
This is a far-reaching problem that impacts millions of Americans. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has reported, 20% of US Consumers have medical debt impacting their credit scores — and half of those have otherwise clean credit. Many people do not even know that they have an unpaid medical bill until they are pursued by collections or see it on their credit report.
Taking patients to court is not the right answer for patients nor providers. While hospitals need to collect bills from patients to maintain financial solvency, taking legal action is both unreasonably expensive and a reputational catastrophe for the institution. Consider a better approach to improve collections by putting the patient back at the center of the healthcare administrative experience. By adopting easy-to-use, modern ways to engage directly with patients, it’s possible for providers to improve their financial outlook without compromising their values. At Cedar, we know that providers who move to a user-centric, digitally-enabled financial platform observe a 30-70% increase in their collection rates, all while maintaining a ~95% satisfaction rating. Investing in improving this process is worthwhile for providers. Studies show that patients satisfied with the billing process are 5x more likely to recommend the hospital and 2x more likely to pay in full. Based on patient behavior on the Cedar platform, we know that most people will pay their bills if it’s clear to them what they owe and how to pay it.
For low income patients who struggle with the ability to pay, a more customized approach is warranted. Rather than garnishing their wages or hauling them to court, it can be more effective to employ data science to proactively identify these people and provide them with options for payment plans, discounts and charity care.
Suing patients and unleashing aggressive collection tactics is a lose-lose for healthcare organizations and consumers. By thoughtfully harnessing the smart technology of the 21st century, providers can maintain strong financial health and patient loyalty without compromising on the Hippocratic principle of ‘do no harm’.
Florian Otto is co-founder and CEO of Cedar. Prior to founding Cedar, Florian was an executive at Zocdoc where he drove the commercial adoption of the platform by health systems. Previously, Florian founded a daily deal company in Brazil (ClubeUrbano) that was sold to Groupon. Florian holds an M.D., D.D.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg, Germany.
Isn’t it ironic? As patient cost-sharing escalates, the end-to-end patient experience is still far less personalized than what we get in less life-critical industries like retail. Cedar CEO Florian Otto discusses three areas in your practice where data and technology can improve and personalize the patient experience. Read the article.
Patient Engagement & Experience cohort track hosted by Cedar (June 25)
At this year’s HFMA Annual Conference, we are thrilled to be hosting a full day of guided and in-depth learning on one of the most important issues for today’s healthcare leaders: the patient experience and its implications for financial success. You will have a chance to listen, question and engage in discussions with a carefully selected group of presenters who have demonstrated success in improving the patient experience before, during, and after the medical visit.
We hope you will join us for one or all of these interactive sessions:
Session 1: The New Reality: Challenges and Opportunities for Patient Experience
Session 2: Personalizing the Patient Financial Experience: Thinking Like a Patient
Session 3: Transparency is a Team Sport
Looking forward to seeing you at HFMA! Register here
Grab your favorite cup of joe and enjoy our new blog series: “Cedarians in Cafes Getting Coffee.” (Sorry Seinfeld, but you don’t get to be the only one showcasing stellar talent on the streets of New York.) In this series we celebrate Cedar’s diverse and amazing employees and get an inside look into what drives their passion for affecting positive change in healthcare. This month, our editorial team had a chance to sit down with Tiffany Jackson, Director of Patient & User Success, at her favorite NYC cafe. As Cedar’s first female employee and an advocate for diversity in the workplace, Tiffany has become an important role model for her fellow Cedarians.
Hey, Tiffany! So, here we are at the Grey Dog Cafe on Mulberry Street. Why’d you pick this place?
The Grey Dog is eclectic, welcoming and happens to be filled with paraphernalia from my home state, Michigan. I just feel happy when I walk in here and it’s a great place to meet people outside your everyday circle. From students to entrepreneurs to artists and dancers, I love the diversity and sense of community. The delicious coffee and food options are just an added bonus.
You are clearly a people person and have a love of community. Is it safe to assume these attributes have helped shape your career path?
Definitely. In college, I had dreams of becoming a physician assistant but quickly realized I was more interested in figuratively touching patient’s lives; not literally. I wanted to make a more scalable difference in healthcare. I completed a grad program in healthcare administration at Western Michigan University, then dove right into a patient financial counselor role at R1 RCM. I gained a ton of experience just by listening to patients, understanding their pain points when it comes to the billing process, and trying to give them solutions. I realized how broken the system is from a patient experience perspective, and I wanted to be a bigger part of the solution. That’s what drew me to Cedar. Hearing first-hand how passionate [Cedar CEO] Florian is about the patient experience, and bringing equally passionate people together to help fix the system ‒ I knew this was where I needed to be.
I heard you are also very passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Care to share?
Working in corporate America and even in the provider space, I didn’t see many people who “looked like me,” i.e., black women. When I interviewed with Cedar two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised that the leadership team initiated the conversation and wanted me to help raise awareness of D & I [diversity and inclusion]. We started doing workshops, exploring what diversity means in our space and for our product. One of our main initiatives has always been women in tech, but our program has also grown beyond gender and race to looking at cultural differences, different ways of approaching problems, and so much more.
Why do you love working here at Cedar?
Culture is important to leadership and a big reason why I love working here so much. From the women’s events we host to the fun company-wide offsites, there are many opportunities to get to know our team members on an intimate level, which I haven’t always had in previous roles.
What is your proudest moment at the company?
My two year anniversary stands out as my proudest moment. We have a tradition at the company where on a team member’s anniversary, they recap a favorite memory of the past year. It was heart-warming to stand beside my colleagues and speak to them about my experiences at Cedar and how much the team has impacted my life. I made the best decision to come to Cedar and I am reminded of how great this company is every time I walk through the door.
Cedar seems like a pretty special place. What advice would you give to prospective candidates?
Encourage yourself to think out of the box. If our intention is to disrupt the healthcare industry, we need new and fresh ideas to do so. That is also why I feel diversity is so important to a company like Cedar; we want to ensure that all walks of life are able to use and benefit from our product. Our team makeup should reflect those who are using our product.
What are your hopes for our industry?
I would hope that we can get to a place where the patient is removed from the tug of war match between healthcare providers (hospitals) and payers (insurance companies). We need to create tools and integrations that will bridge the gap between the two groups so we can provide patients with a seamless healthcare experience. The patients I speak with tend to love the care they received, but are not at all thrilled with the post-visit experience. I am proud to be a part of a company facing this issue head on, in a very creative way.
What is your favorite quote?
“Figure it out” by the beloved Linda Jackson (my mom). I grew up in a single parent home in Detroit, and there were a ton of things my mom needed to “figure out” all on her own. She has instilled in me the courage, endurance and confidence to work through the challenging obstacles that life throws at me ‒ and emerge defiant.
Now that the heavy questions are out of the way…what is something people may be surprised to know about you?
In my spare time, I love to lift heavy things. My current personal record in CrossFit is a 240-pound deadlift!
Tiffany heads up the Patient & User Success Team at Cedar. She brings years of experience in hospital revenue cycle optimization and patient financial advisement, with prior roles at R1 RCM and Deloitte & Touche.
Interested in becoming a Cedarian? Check out our current openings.
Healthcare touches everyone. So what can we as consumers do to improve the US healthcare system and make it work for us? Cedar co-founder and CEO Florian Otto sat down with Authority Magazine to lay out the five things we must do to improve the US healthcare system.