CEO to CEO Podcast: Cindy Salas Murphy

March 3, 2021 Kevin Campbell

The CEO to CEO podcast is hosted by Kevin Campbell, CEO of Syniti.

This week's guest is Cindy Salas Murphy, a 20 year healthcare executive and entrepreneur. Today Cindy is CEO and founder of WithHealth a San Diego based telemedicine company that is making primary and specialty care accessible and affordable. Using proprietary AI and telemedicine patients can access precision health across various medical specialties. Cindy's lead in transformational change and healthcare yield the outcomes that include growth of a startup to more than $1 billion under management and improve patient safety, quality and service while reducing costs and optimizing productivity levels.

 

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Subscribe Here:  Listen to all the episodes in the Syniti Podcast Series

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Kevin Campbell (01:41):

Welcome to this week's CEO to CEO podcast. This week I am excited and pleased to have my good friend Cindy Murphy on as the CEO of WithHealth. Cindy's the founder of WithHealth and the CEO right now. So I figured Cindy we'd start with giving our audience a little bit about your background and how you got to the point where you founded WithHealth And then we'll talk a little bit more about that.

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (02:18):

Well, thank you Kevin and thank you for having me on. What an honor to be on with you. Not only are we good friends and for quite some time now, I can't believe how time has flown, but also you've been instrumental in my life and in my career. So, this is just so wonderful being on with you and thank you so much.

 

So starting off a little bit about me, I am a scientist by training and really I'm on this journey because of mentorship. Very young I had a phenomenal mentor and she said to me as she saw me working the bench and writing papers and then presenting papers she knew that my passion was not in running western blots all day long. She knew that my passion lied elsewhere and it was with people. And so she said, "Go run a hospital somewhere." And so I pivoted and went back to school and did a graduate degree and really the rest is history. I found tremendous passion in making healthcare accessible for everyone. And as time has gone on I've learned so much by running large multi-specialty medical groups and hospitals and then going on to a startup which was very different for me.

 

I grew up inside hospital systems and doing the startup was a masterclass and it was a masterclass for a variety of reasons. It taught me about working through purpose. It taught me how to live impassioned and share that passion with others and really through influence. Because when you're going from the outside in helping other organizations the power of influence then becomes your currency. And that influence is really fueled by passion, it's fueled by truth, it's fueled by inspiration. And so, I feel so very privileged to have had that experience and in that actually with one of my board members of my previous startup we did a tour around and met with healthcare executives and we were talking about what was ailing healthcare. And what I quickly learned, Kevin, is that access to care and affordability continued to be an issue.

 

And so, it was on a flight home from New York that I sat down and wrote out the business plan for WithHealth. I knew that we could fix it, I knew that I had it in me, and I knew that I had really smart people around me to advise me, to give me good ideas and also to poke holes all over my ideas. So as quickly as I finished it, I got on the phone and called some of the smartest people I know and you were at the top of that list as you know, but now your viewers know. Kevin was one of the first phone calls I made and I asked Kevin to poke holes all over my business plan. And truly we were able to create the organization that we have today.

 

And so, in 2017 began the journey of WithHealth and WithHealth is a precision health telemedicine company that is making a difference in the lives of patients and making healthcare affordable and accessible for everyone. We're a membership model, a subscription model, which works very well. And we have doctors visits that range from $40 to $80 across all specialties without having to touch your insurance. So it's now less expensive than your copay, it's less expensive than your co-insurance and what it also does, it doesn't impact the bottom line for the claims that go in through insurance and it puts the patient in control. And so, all of that brings us to where we are today.

 

Kevin Campbell (06:47):

That's been about four years right now, right?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (06:51):

Almost.

 

Kevin Campbell (06:51):

Since we had those conversations and you got that going. Access, membership model, what were the other things that you thought about that you wanted to be? Obviously, you're thinking about how am I solving the access to care which we knew was your number one objective but also how are you going to be different than other models that people had?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (07:16):

Exactly. And so, enter the genomics piece, enter the precision health piece and where we were 15 years ago in using the human genome and how do we use that with care delivery? There was none of that. We were just learning about it and to run the test was a million dollars. And so, even four years ago the price point had dropped so significantly and now even further that we knew that using DNA was something that we could make relevant to all physicians.

 

Physicians don't normally get trained in genomics. They get trained very, very little. If you're over 50 you got eight hours of training in your entire medical career and if you're under 50 you got a month, you got a month's worth of training. And so here we are mapping out the human genome but yet the physicians don't know how to use it. And so, we developed the digital twin at WithHealth and that is our intellectual property as a way to communicate genomics with our physicians so that the physicians can be better educated and make better decisions when it comes to care delivery moving from this reactive model of just dealing with symptoms to a proactive model of truly living with health.

 

Kevin Campbell (08:38):

And that's fascinating. For those of us that don't understand as much tell me a little bit more about what's a digital twin. It seems a little Star Trek'ish [inaudible 00:08:50] something like that. [inaudible 00:08:53]

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (08:53):

Well, it could be Star Trek'ish, it could be Jetsons, but it really isn't, it's today. What we do is we take your DNA and we map it out into a visual digital twin where you're able to see, the physician is able to see the digital twin in a visual format that enables information to be communicated very quickly in a way that actually makes sense for the reason of visit. And so, if you think about a regular medical record you have labs. Let's say you've seen the same physician for 15 years, you have 15 years worth of lab information. That physician that you're going to see tomorrow they're not going to go through 15 years of lab data, they're not going to go through 15 years of your history. They're going to go from your last visit, maybe the visit before and sometimes they're not even going to look at it. They're just going to see you for what you're there today. Because they have to get you out in six minutes because they have the next patient and they're going to have to chart for 13 minutes after you leave.

 

And so, how do you communicate that information? How do you get rid of those time barriers for the physicians? And that's where the digital twin takes place. So we visualize the data in a way that they could see your lab data, your pre-existing conditions, but also they can see your genomic information in a visual format so that they can better create a plan with you as they're seeing you for whatever reason you came to see them today.

 

Kevin Campbell (10:39):

And I think the enablement of that as you say by the price point drops and the access of using it is what probably is allowing you to leap frog a lot of other people that are out there who are tied to other ways of trying to do that. But speaking of the leapfrog, when you got started and you started to raise capital how did you go? All entrepreneurs have great stories about how they raised their first dollar and how they bootstrapped everything else to get there.

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (11:11):

Right. Well, we definitely bootstrapped. We bootstrapped for quite a long time and I know that's a privilege. To be able to bootstrap for awhile it really is a privilege. I must say it didn't always feel like a privilege when you're just writing checks out and nothing's coming in, it doesn't always feel like a privilege. But when I really pause to reflect it really was a privilege to be able to do that. We did raise some capital, very little capital actually, Kevin. The stance that we took was really organic growth. To get the revenue was going to be the way to do it. And so, we worked very hard to put together a product offering and the miracle of all of it is that as we shaped out our product offering COVID hit so we were ready to be able to serve and it was divine timing.

 

Kevin Campbell (12:13):

You have a great story about COVID, because for most people COVID was, "Oh my goodness our business has just dramatically changed. What are we going to do?" But you had started to build and had a ways along for building your team but then tell me how your pivots happened to doing some of the stuff that you're doing now?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (12:37):

Yeah. So very quickly when COVID hit we were beginning to service the American Indian, Alaska native clients, or the tribe, the tribal nations. And so, we quickly went very deep into serving that community that was extraordinarily underserved. And with all the shutdowns happening, really their clinics were shut down. And so that partnership then just grew which was phenomenal. Love to be able to serve a community where their average life expectancy is 59 years of age. I mean, just dramatic the impact that you can have in a community like that.

 

And then understanding that we service the employer population we reached out to the County of San Diego, that is home base for us, and asked how we could serve. And we became the telemedicine provider for the County of San Diego for the alternative discharge centers. This enabled hospitals to move patients from the emergency room to alternative discharge centers and to be able to be cared for through a telemedicine model. And so our entire product offering, minus the genomics, but all of the wearables, all of the logistical opportunities that we were able to solve for the County came to life through this partnership. And then the employers started reaching out to us asking for support to open back up, "How do we take care of our employees and how do we open back up?"

 

And so what was preventing access to care? That access that was being prevented was access to testing. And so, given that our mission is to make healthcare affordable and accessible what was that access was access to testing. And so, we very quickly developed our laboratories. We have WithHealth laboratories all across the country now and we are privileged to work with employers all across the U.S. to be able to give them affordable testing, immediate as well. We have devices, PCR machines that deliver results within 30 minutes but we also have our large laboratories and we're running same day testing so that the employers are getting those results quickly and they're able to stay open. They're able to keep their employees healthy and keep them at work. And I mean it grew beyond the employers and really the privilege that we have today is we're helping the TV and film industry stay open. We're helping them stay open by providing testing services for productions all across the U.S. and abroad so that those folks can be employed. [crosstalk 00:15:40]

 

Kevin Campbell (15:39):

So, how does that work? if there's a movie set how do you guys, do you move in with the movie set people in the movie and how does that work? Because that's been a big impact in Hollywood with everything being shut down and canceled and people trying to start back up and then actors and actresses afraid that they're going to get sick, right?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (16:03):

Right. And Kevin who we don't think of often are the lighting people, the grips, the catering, the security officers, all of those folks that are typically 1099 employees. They're not eligible for unemployment. They don't work, they don't eat. And so, when we think of productions we typically think of actors and actresses and high paid individuals but the reality is who really makes movies, who really makes TV, are all of those people. And so, keeping them employed is important. It's important for their livelihood. It's important for the industry. I mean the ripple effect of that is massive.

 

So with productions we move in with the production. We're able to do testing on location with them. We've had instances where we actually move into the bubble with them and we're there for the duration of the shoot. Our teams are just experts at running through the logistics of getting the testing done, getting it done quickly. And our pathologists are phenomenal because whenever there's something that needs to be looked at even closer like these new strains that are coming through we have genetic pathologists that are in and diving deep because they do have that knowledge, they have that experience. And so, the community benefits from it. And so, we're running thousands and thousands of tests and making it affordable too which is super important.

 

Kevin Campbell (17:45):

Yeah and I'm curious as to you've got a wide range of talent and some very specialized talent. How has it been recruiting during a COVID phase when you're doing everything like this over a Zoom or video as opposed to getting face-to-face with them?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (18:04):

Kevin, recruiting has been unbelievable. I think one of the greatest things that COVID brought was how we do recruiting. And I know it sounds weird but I'll share with you why. So, when you hire good people, you hire good people, those good people want to bring their friends to work with them. And so, recruiting no longer becomes this ad that you put on pick your platform, recruiting now becomes a personal thing. And so, we have 250 recruiters at WithHealth, 250 recruiters and those are the employees that wear a badge of WithHealth. And I believe that that model would not have existed, wouldn't be as pervasive as it is at WithHealth if it wasn't for COVID. I think all of this has changed the face of how healthcare is carried out.

 

Don't get me wrong, we still put it out on our LinkedIn and we share with folks but I'll tell you just like our clients every client that we've received has been a reference, we've never spent a dime on marketing, we don't advertise it's all by word of mouth, and our employees are the same. Our employees come to us because, "So-and-so told me I should be working here." "So-and-so told me that this is just amazing." "So-and-so told me that this person's a great boss." And so, that beauty of how recruiting has changed is something that I will forever be grateful with COVID and it's something that I'm trying to harvest within the organization of how we continue to drive that culture. I don't want to lose it because things are opening back up. I want to keep that I'm bringing my friends to work with me kind of culture.

 

Kevin Campbell (20:12):

That's terrific and a great story. Now, along the way here every entrepreneur I talked to had has had their moments of doubt or the obstacles seem just too big to be able to do. What do you do when you have those moments of doubt or the odds seem insurmountable for you?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (20:35):

Yeah. Oh yeah well that's what do we call that, the valley of despair?

 

Kevin Campbell (20:40):

Yes the valley of despair.

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (20:43):

The valley of despair. Yes unfortunately I know the valley of despair quite well. So I'm a very positive person as you know. I tend to look at things in a very positive way. Not to say that's good or bad, it's just the way that I'm wired. But the valley of despair is real and that journey's real I think for every entrepreneur as you said. So the benefit that I have Kevin is I have a really amazing family. And when I feel that valley of despair I think one of the things that really lights me up is holding onto my kids and hugging them tight and seeing how appreciative I am for them being them, for the reality of being a mom.

 

I also have my faith and I have a very significant spiritual practice. So I use centering every morning, I do my meditations and prayers every morning because it helps me. And so, no matter how down or challenged I might be those moments bring me up. And not to say that's always the cure but it's always about that incremental growth of positivity. So no matter how deep down gloomy it might seem like this isn't going to happen. "Oh my goodness do I have it in me to do another day? Do I have it in me to go one more month?" And when you see the beauty of love of family, you see the beauty of something just goes right and you get every green light on the way home then seeing the things that do actually work that just creates momentum from that contrast. And so, I think for me it's really important to just observe what's around me, to be present in the moment.

 

Kevin Campbell (22:51):

And you're right, you're a positive person, but so you don't get in trouble you didn't mention your husband who is also a very positive person.

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (23:00):

Yes.

 

Kevin Campbell (23:01):

I'll make sure you don't get in trouble and make sure [inaudible 00:23:04] I know that he has a positive influence on you too so.

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (23:10):

He doesn't just have a positive influence, he is just a force of nature. He's a force of nature. I'm very blessed to be married to my best friend. And look let me tell you, there's always contrast there too but he does have this incredible force about him that he just wants to do good for the world. And so, when you get to have that at home and you're next to someone that shares that passion for you, that wants to make the world better and lives a life dedicated to that, it makes it so much easier, it makes it so much easier. So choose wisely who you bring into your home.

 

Kevin Campbell (24:00):

It would be an obvious question to say, "Okay, COVID is over. How's the business going to pivot when COVID is over?" Or it's probably not a pivot, it's probably a natural evolution or maybe a return back to some of the original principles that you have now with a lot bigger business base and a lot bigger number of relationships and references, right?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (24:25):

Exactly.

 

Kevin Campbell (24:27):

In the services business your client references are the best thing and you've got a ton of them now.

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (24:33):

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And really Kevin, I think what's been most helpful is just keeping our ear to the ground and so helping the employers which is our target market is to actually serve the employers because the employers then serve the masses. It's just how healthcare in the U.S. works and so we want to be able to impact the masses for sure.

 

COVID ends let's hope, it's 2023 we wake up and all of a sudden what is COVID and our ear to the ground is really what keeps us in this hyper-growth mode. So, right now we're servicing employers with COVID testing, keeping employees safe, doing surveillance, but what we've recently added is in California they've put in some pretty significant laws, assembly bills and state Senate bills that require a lot of reporting for these employers.

 

And so, we now take on that reporting because it connects well with the way that we do surveillance and contact tracing for our employers. And then those are the employers that we will transition into being our complete care model where we're able to bring them affordable and accessible healthcare. So we see that as a natural progression to pivot from just being COVID, and COVID triage, and COVID surveillance, and COVID testing to really being the healthcare provider that they need to reduce costs and improve access to care. And so that natural progression, as you said, comes from being super focused, laser focused on the client's experience on that client partnership. And not just saying we partner with our clients but really showing them and meaning it, meaning it because it really is something when you can reach out to a client and they say, "Who can I call? Because everybody needs to know about you." That says it all. The team has built that.

 

Kevin Campbell (26:56):

That's awesome. That's awesome. A lot to be proud of. Early on you said you really wanted organic growth. Would you consider acquisitions down the road? Do you think there's acquisitions in your future?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (27:07):

Yeah, I think it's a natural progression of most business. I think acquisitions make great sense not necessarily for growth of revenue but I also see it as growth of talent and growth of the offering. We have an AI engine and the digital twin that I think with some good partnerships we would be able to accelerate that growth of our AI and our digital twin. So, I think that could be looking in the crystal ball at WithHealth that could be in our future.

 

Kevin Campbell (27:51):

You mentioned mentors over the years and I know you spend a lot of time trying to mentor people also, think about one or two things that you'd share with the audience about what you've learned from your mentors?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (28:06):

So one off the bat is really be true to yourself. And what does that mean? That could be hokey, be true to yourself. And so, what that really meant for me was to better understand what drives me, not how do I respond to a market, not how do I respond to my friends, how do I respond to my family, but really what drives me. And so I often look at it and when I talk to people as well Kevin, is I always want to know, "How do you want to live your day? What does your day look like?" And then work backwards from there because then you build a life of how you want to live your day. And so really understanding yourself so that you can live with great purpose is one of the best advices that I've ever been given.

 

And another is don't surround yourself with people that are like you, surround yourself with people that bring contrast into your life because those are the people that will help you expand the most. It has served me my entire life. And something that we often say is you don't hire people that compliment you, you hire people that complement you. And so, people that really fill you out that end up... Your team should not be filled with like-minded people that are always going to say yes to you. Your team should be filled with people that are different from you, have different backgrounds and bring new energy and new life because how else will you learn if you don't have that contrast? How else will you know that there's room for expansion if you don't have that contrast?

 

Kevin Campbell (30:06):

Well, well put right and I think some days I wish I'd have some people around me that would say yes to me but you ultimately know that you're better for it. What's the best career advice you've ever gotten?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (30:22):

There are days where, and I've been hearing this the majority of my career, there have been days where truly I was running western blots at 4:00 AM and I just wanted to run away. And the head of my lab at the time said, "Don't give up. Keep going. Keep going." And in fact, we published a phenomenal paper. When I was in graduate school things looked really difficult and I was working with a group of CEOs out of the Netherlands actually and I just didn't know how we were going to get through that. They wanted to implement DRGs, a new payment model, and I just didn't know how we were going to get through that. And one of my professors said, "Just don't give up, keep at it."

 

And doing the startup there were days where I just thought, "Okay, now it's time to start looking for a job." And I had great advisors that would say, "Don't give up. Keep at it." So I think when you have alignment and you know that you're doing the right thing hearing those words don't give up means a lot. So I think it's don't give up.

 

Kevin Campbell (31:44):

Cindy Murphy thank you for being on today. We really, really enjoyed talking with you. Your business is fascinating and a different model for all of us. So, I hope you don't ever give up. If people want to find more about WithHealth and be a member or anything just to learn more where do they go?

 

Cindy Salas Murphy (32:05):

Thank you, Kevin. Thank you for having me and I'm just so grateful for you. If I could just take two seconds to say thank you because what you're doing, what you've built with Syniti gosh Kevin it's the dream, it's the dream. You're taking what you know and living out your passion. So, helping people grow and mentoring people this podcast is about that. People are listening to your podcast because they want to grow as well. So thank you for having me on. Thank you for doing this podcast. You're amazing and I think the world of you, just love you to pieces. So thank you so much.

 

So to learn more about WithHealth visit us at withhealth.com and we're happy to hear from you send us, drop us a line. You can reach out to me directly, cindy.murphy@withhealth.com. Happy to take your emails and take any questions that you might have. If we could just be a resource, if we could just be of service, just reach out. There's no commitment, no sales, nothing like that. If you have any questions, just need a resource, reach out. We're here for you.

 

Kevin Campbell (33:19):

Thanks. And Cindy, thanks for being on CEO to CEO. Tune in next week when we'll have another guest on CEO to CEO and everybody have a great week and stay safe.

About the Author

Kevin Campbell

CEO, Syniti

More Content by Kevin Campbell
Previous Article
CDO to CDO Podcast: Asha Poulose Johnson - Part 2
CDO to CDO Podcast: Asha Poulose Johnson - Part 2

This week's guest is Asha Poulose Johnson, Vice President and Global CIO of Data and Analytics at GE Health...

Next Article
CFO to CFO Podcast: Bill Teuber
CFO to CFO Podcast: Bill Teuber

The CFO to CFO podcast is hosted by David Axson, the CFO Whisperer. This week's guest, Bill Teuber, is a Se...