Thomas White Creates a Digital Front Door

Thomas White, CEO for Phynd, a symplr company, helps transform health systems’ provider directories with a data management tool that organizes everything

Thomas White’s journey to launching Phynd (now symplr) took many interesting turns. After receiving his master’s in international business in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, White proposed to his now-wife and went to Kuwait for work. But after experiencing the first Gulf War in 1993, he quickly realized the move wasn’t a good fit for the new couple.

So, he turned his focus to starting a real-time news service when the worldwide web was gaining prominence. He sold the company not long after and began looking for his next career direction.

thomas white
Thomas White , CEO, Phynd, a symplr companyPhoto courtesy of symplr

At the advice of his father, White realized there were great challenges in healthcare that could only be solved by information technology. That counsel led White to partner with his brother Peter to launch Vocada in 2001. The company solved communication breakdowns between hospitals’ imaging departments and referring physicians with the goal of delivering critical test results in real time. Six years later, the White brothers sold Vocada to Nuance, which Microsoft intends to purchase by year’s end.

“In the process, we learned that hospitals don’t have good directories of their providers,” White explains. “They know their credentialed population, but about 90 percent of referring physicians are not credentialed. Nearly all mission-critical processes in healthcare require accurate credentialed and referring provider information.”

With this in mind, in 2013 White created Phynd, a company whose software platform serves as a single, central, and accurate hub of all credentialed and referring provider data in a hospital. It keeps track of who the providers are, what they do, where they work, what their specialties are, and which health plans they accept, and it serves that data hospital-wide and in real time.

Some of the largest and most forward-thinking health systems in the US rely on Phynd, including New York-Presbyterian Health, Michigan Medicine, Yale-New Haven Health System, Cedars-Sinai Health, USC Keck Medicine, Duke Health, and SSM Health.

symplr acquired Phynd in February 2021, and White’s solution has been rebranded as symplr Directory. Today, symplr Directory is still solving health systems’ important provider data management challenges in health systems. Once joining symplr, White took on the title of general manager of symplr Directory.

Providers as Part of the Product Offering

“If you look back about thirty or forty years ago, hospitals would build paper-based directories of all the doctors who worked in the facility, and that didn’t really change when they went online,” White notes.

“Providers, in essence, are part of the product of a hospital, and what was missing in the directory world was that they needed to be able to provide a search tool for patients that allows them to type in any terms—like sore throat, tummy ache, etc.—or even just put a zip code and find an urgent care center that took their insurance,” he explains.

White’s solution eliminated the struggles consumers experienced in navigating these sorts of systems and allowed hospitals to index all of their providers in an easily searchable way.

Another new product recently launched with Phynd’s EMR partners is Schedule Advisor. This module allows hospitals to leverage the scheduling tools built into electronic medical records (EMR) and extend it directly to consumers to self-schedule appointments with providers. The open scheduling slots are then integrated into the best-in-class search so consumers can find the right provider and make an appointment in a single, easy-to-use workflow. This “digital front door” capability is a game changer, White says.

“Our clients were and are at the front lines of managing patient care. We reached out to all of them to ask how we could help.”

Solving a Forty-Year-Old Challenge

From a data management perspective, real-time enrollment of providers missing in the EMR and other systems has always been an unsolved issue, and hospitals historically have not adequately coped with older tools that document new providers.

“About 20 percent of the provider engagements every year are new, so it’s a significant amount of change,” White says. “Those changes create financial issues for hospitals because, if the profile is built incorrectly, the bills are delayed, and it can quickly become a multimillion-dollar issue.

“We plugged the directory data into all aspects of hospitals’ operations,” he continues. “We integrate directly into the EMR, and we are the enrollment tool for those systems.”

What’s unique about symplr Directory is that it’s both a data model that supports broad-scale integrations and also a human management system.

“I call it ‘feeds and fingers,’” White explains. “The feeds are the real-time bidirectional feeds coming from different clinical and operational systems. The fingers are the human element that are dealing with providers every day.”

For example, one of the biggest health systems in Michigan is a client, and it has twelve thousand users working in symplr Directory every day, making nearly two thousand daily provider data updates. The system is being used to inform on health plan and network participation, to verify HIPAA compliant information, and to manage credentialing and privileging data for any mission-critical, patient-facing applications.

“symplr Directory consolidates everything into one system,” White says. “Hospitals can implement updated provider data back into the EMR, manage the marketing information—such as the glossy bios and photos—and use our application programming interface to push it out to the website in real time.”

Solving Clients’ Needs in a Pandemic

The software also served as a vital resource for health organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which White kept the business focused on its mission. “We were really nervous about the pandemic, like any small business,” White shares. “Our clients were and are at the front lines of managing patient care. We reached out to all of them to ask how we could help.”

One major health system in New York City asked Phynd to build a COVID-19 test location-search website, so consumers could find the most convenient of its eighteen mobile testing sites. Phynd tightened its own belts and focused on its core customers, yet still captured a number of new clients who were delving deeper into telemedicine and needed to better manage providers who were participating in telemedicine-based care delivery.

“We manage locations, so if hospitals have fifty urgent care centers or hospital centers, we treat them as providers, so you can search for them, look at them, and book them as a consumer, just as you would any product on Amazon,” White explains. “We can help manage who is in and who is out of telemedicine, for example, or where the testing sites are.”

Looking ahead, symplr is working on creating tighter integrations with other technology vendors and credentialing systems, as well. “We’re really a data management business, and we’re focusing in on that,” White says. “Our core thesis is that we have to be integrated into the backbone of a hospital system.”