Uber-Style Nurse Staffing Platform connectRN Lands Athenahealth Vet as New CEO, Plots Expansion

With changes in Medicare reimbursement rules and heightened pressure to cultivate stronger clinical outcomes, technology has increasingly emerged as a solution to help providers find and retain staff.

connectRN, a mobile software platform that assists registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nursing assistants, and other staff in finding available employment slots at multiple facilities, this week brought on new CEO Matt Levesque — in part to help capitalize on these trends in post-acute care.

Prior to joining the Waltham, Mass.-based connectRN, Levesque served as a senior operating executive at health care tech giant athenahealth, and had a stint at travel website Priceline.

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SNN caught up with Levesque to learn about the new CEO’s expansion plan for connectRN, which was founded in 2014 and has raised more than $11 million in funding through last year.

What interested you in joining connectRN as CEO at this moment in the acute and post-acute space?

I was working at the intersection of technology and health care with athenahealth for 12 years, and this was an opportunity to see a new technology in healthcare and the impact it could make. Health care has plenty of needs, and it’s broken. It needs innovation across the board.

Where do you believe health care is the most broken?

Clinician staffing needs the most help. As a senior operating executive at athenahealth, I supported 160,000 physicians. While I may not be a clinician, I can empower clinicians through technology, and our company allows them to be caregivers at their best. Nurses especially have a hard time being able to fulfill their calling because there’s too much friction when it comes to the staffing model.

The larger landscape shows that the U.S. is facing a clinical staffing shortage, and is probably one of the areas that has lacked innovation over the years. It’s been difficult to identify and retain clinicians. Many operators are still leveraging paper and phone trees to get clinical staff into their buildings to operate at maximum capacity. Software is typically siloed, and there’s an inability to communicate across the ecosystem — whether the field is narrowly defined as a core facility health system, a skilled nursing facility, or looking at a broader regional context.

Would you specify what you are referring to as staffing friction? How could this problem hinder clinical outcomes?

Staffing issues lead to nurse burnout. When an employee doesn’t know what their schedule will be, they are constantly re-juggling their lives, and at the end of the day, the quality of care can be impacted.

Being inside a skilled nursing facility is not an easy job. If you are entering your day not feeling good about how it started and feeling friction at your facility, it can affect your performance.

We’re not just trying to remove staffing friction, but to improve care across continuum to create liquidity for the health care professional. If you can ensure each staff member that they can get a job where they are needed, the facility can operate under optimal levels and care quality can improve.

How would you describe demand for expanding your technology?

The company is primed for a major expansion, which is part of why I’m the new CEO and why Mike Wood, co-founder and past CEO — who is still with us — understood the increased demand and need for innovating our technology services.

One year ago, we were only operating in two states and in two markets in those states. At this point, we are pushing closer to 10 states with multiple markets in those states. The big question is, where do we go next?

The demand we are seeing for our platform is incredible. We are receiving daily inbound calls for partners who are asking: When can you come to our state? We are getting just as many calls from current partners who want to expand.

Changing clinician staffing in a more holistic way — as a platform to be used for all shift-based health care, and not just contingent labor — lies ahead in the innovation plans. In other words, we are looking to add any health care professional whose schedule is shift-based, which is a broader vision of potential staff from a year ago.

What are the current wages for staff on your platform?

The dollar amount varies by region for hourly salary and depends on the their qualifications, such as if the person is a CRN, LCN, RN, etc.

What are your current technological and staffing challenges with this platform?

We are most challenged by onboarding staff onto our connectRN platform. There are thousands of licensed nurses, and we take the process seriously. Nurturing the nurses through that process is a challenge — overseeing the nurse experience from the beginning all the way through to the first paycheck and repeating that process over and over again to help staff find work where they want it.

We are also challenged in our rollout strategy. Clinician staffing is a local game, which is why we think about where we are going next in terms of our market rollout. A core competency is our go-to market, and we are asking — where we can bring our service and find traction and deliver value over and over again? As part of that effort, we are recruiting thousands of nurses to come onto our platform and scaling our onboarding strategies.

Would you talk me through the roll-out process?

We are creating a pool of facilities of nurses in a geographical area and building a two-sides market between supply and demand. On the nursing side, where there’s more onboarding than the facility side, a nurse finds job posting. Then we move them to the onboarding process, which includes gauging their interest, where they want to work, and their skill service. We collect credentials, background checks, and line up the quality and skill set with the facility’s needs. Once on the platform, the potential staffer will choose shifts and facilities they want to apply to and how often they want to work.

The fact that the nurse and the facility has the ability to choose is a source of pride for us. The facility can review the nurse profile, look at nurse ratings and work history, and decide if the nurse is the right fit.

If you have a nurse and facility that decide to both work together, it’s a different approach, and this connection can establish a partnership to last for years. As a nurse is moving in a career trajectory, we want him or her to be part of the care experience, and skilled nursing facilities are looking for continuity.

How do you oversee the quality of care in your chosen staff?

The facilities review the nurses along the lines of quality of care, including medical adherence qualitative notes, how they handle patients as caregivers — and reliability is evaluated. We vet our nurses through their credentials, and we also talk to them about their experience.

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