In Conversation with Brad Smith, CEO of Aspire

What is Aspire?

Aspire is the nation’s largest home-based provider of care to patients facing a serious and life-limiting illness. We employ interdisciplinary teams of palliative care physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, and chaplains who use our data-driven and technology-enabled workflows to provide 24/7 care to our patients and their families. Today, we are working with patients in 23 states across the country.

Why palliative care? How did you first recognize a need or opportunity to focus on that area of healthcare?

I was introduced to palliative care by my brother, who was studying to be a physician at Harvard. He had decided to take a year off to work with Atul Guwande and Susan Block, who was the leading palliative care physician at Dana Farber. We were home for Christmas and my brother was sharing articles about his work. I became fascinated by the research, which focused on the health implications of palliative care.

How are you leveraging data analytics and IT within your business?

Data is an important part of our operations and we use it in two main ways. First, we use it to identify patients. We work with our partner health plans to collect information from claims and clinical records, and then we project how likely patients are to pass away and have high spend in the coming months.

In serving patients across the United States, what are some notable differences you’ve seen in the way you manage the business or work with stakeholders?

When we started the company, we suspected there would be a good chance that outcomes would be different because we serve patients in places that are so diverse.

You previously worked in state government. What lessons or experiences have been most valuable as an entrepreneur and CEO?

When I started the company, I had no idea if anything I had done before would be relevant. It turns out it was very helpful. For one thing, when I led nonprofits and worked in government, I had to bring together people with different perspectives to tackle a common problem. It turns out this is actually very similar to the work we are doing at Aspire.

Aspire is featured in Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s recent book, “Prescription for the Future”. How did that come about? What’s been the response?

Zeke had heard about us from various people and had reached out to us, so we arranged an opportunity for him to shadow one of our clinicians in Philadelphia for a day. Based on that experience, what he saw was a company that was really making a difference in the lives of patients and families. At the end of the day, what we do is all about serving patients and families, and it is important that stakeholders know about what we do so that we can do more of it. His book has been very helpful in raising the profile of a healthcare issue we care so much about, and highlighting the work we do.

Lightening Round:

If I weren’t a CEO I would be… running a nonprofit.

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Oak HC/FT is a premier venture growth equity fund investing in Healthcare Information & Services (“HC”) and FinTech (“FT”) http://www.oakhcft.com