An Interview with Norm Shore – CEO of Patient Discovery

By: Tim Gordon

Patient Discovery’s mission is to transform the way all patients are understood, supported, and treated by providing a platform for patients’ real-world experiences to be integrated into decision-making throughout the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Their platform, Companion by Patient Discovery™ , brings to the forefront non-medical factors that both allow providers to efficiently create better patient-centric care plans, and enable health systems, life sciences organizations, and health plans to remove the barriers to equitable care through aggregated, real-world patient insights.

We sat down with Norm Shore, Co-Founder and CEO to learn more about his journey.

Tim: Tell us the story behind Patient Discovery. What was your motivation to co-found the business at the time that you did?

Norm: I previously founded a business in the regulatory compliance space with Adam Sodowick who is our Chief Innovation Officer at Patient Discovery, and that company was later acquired by the NYSE. We developed a novel approach to effectively engage employees through a disruptive technology which enabled us to measure “people risk.” We essentially learned the craft of developing expertise in digital engagement.

After scaling the business at NYSE, we were ready to launch our next startup. This is where Shelby Chamberlain, who is currently our Chief Strategy Officer, came into the picture. All three of us were driven by our own personal experiences as caregivers struggling to help loved ones who were managing a cancer diagnosis, and it’s a really lousy experience. The U.S. healthcare system puts a lot of burden on patients and their families. So, we decided to bring our expertise and our energy to delivering healthcare technology solutions that benefit patients and their families, and that’s really how Patient Discovery was born.

Tim: We’ve known you not quite since the very beginning, but close to it, and the business has definitely evolved. Tell us about how both the business and the product have evolved over the last 12 months.

Norm: The healthcare market has evolved a lot, and the Covid pandemic brought very well-deserved attention to the issues of disparities in care and health equity. The industry is trying to figure out how to resolve these issues because everybody had a terrible time with Covid, and patients who were dealing with a serious disease like cancer had a particularly difficult time. Recently the U.S. government is trying to create an economic force to encourage health systems to address these challenges for patients by offering reimbursements through value-based care programs, medicare programs, joint commissions, etc. As a result, everyone is talking about health equities and disparities of care across the entire system. We’ve spoken to large systems, community practices, payers, pharma manufacturers, and pharmacies. However, nobody really knows how to address the problem. One of the basic challenges is that the problems are well understood in aggregate, but really poorly understood at an individual level– and this is where the interventions need to take place. In order to make progress in a meaningful way, we need to integrate the patient voice into healthcare delivery, essentially merging the patient’s life outside the clinic more directly with their clinical path.

We have developed a digital platform designed specifically to help care teams identify the challenges that patients are facing outside the clinic. We have a validated tool to help care teams address the health-related social needs of the patients and build longitudinal insights that are going to be required to understand which interventions work the best. So, over the past 12 months we have been acutely focused on scaling the platform. What is happening in the business today is that we are moving closer to the patients–we want to meet them where they are. 80% of patients seek cancer care within their community, so we’re focused on expanding access within those settings in addition to the academic medical centers and establishing our technology essentially as the “connective tissue” among care teams, patients, and the community resources that are equipped to support patient needs outside of the clinic. We believe that we can offer a compliant, responsible way for industry stakeholders to deliver impact on health equity. We are evolving to develop long-term collaborative programs that will drive impact in neighborhoods across the country.

Tim: And so how has that shaped the new bigger picture vision for the company?

Norm: We are thinking bigger. And we are keeping the patient at the center of everything that we do. There is no path to health equity without listening to and understanding the voice of the patients. Our vision is to become the healthcare pioneer that transforms the patient voice into a new generation of actionable data and real-world intelligence, for the benefit of everybody in the healthcare system.

Tim: Why do you think that the team that you have assembled is uniquely positioned to tackle this mission?

Norm: The three of us on the founding team have had success in other industries like financial services. We have limited professional experience in healthcare, which is a fantastically complex industry. So over the last year, we focused intently on expanding our leadership team to bring more meaningful healthcare experience into the business. We now have an incredible team that includes top tier talent, vast digital health experience, as well a diversity of professional experience from startup companies to large well-established businesses. This added breadth and depth of experience has the team operating at a very high level. We are all working well together and collaborating, and we do so within a very healthy culture of transparent discussion and debate which is a must-have in the startup world. Honestly, the caliber of talent we have brought on has truly been transformational for Patient Discovery.

Tim: When you reflect on your journey as a co-Founder and CEO, it seems like there are those pivotal moments where you just “feel it.” You feel the momentum, you feel things click, and doors unlock. What are those pivotal moments where you felt the business gain substantial momentum?

Norm: Yes, absolutely, and it happened this year when we decided to move into the community oncology practices. Really, it was the direction of the team that we brought on board. What we came to find was that we were working with large academic centers and that the combination of our expanded team’s experience and our ability to deploy our solution within oncology practices has proved to be a really powerful combination. Community oncology practices are incredibly dedicated to their patients. They are hungry for their patients to be successful on care plans, and everybody we meet within the practice – the oncologists, the nurses, the social workers, the case managers, the administrators – are really dedicated to patient care. They just don’t have the resources that are required to help the patients in every way that they can. They are in desperate need of tools that can help expand and scale their existing resources because they can’t keep hiring in today’s environment. We offer solutions that offer more leverage to the practice.

Tim: How has your thinking around hiring evolved as you continue to scale the business?

Norm: Our decision to invest in expanding the leadership team in the last year has proven to be a terrific one and we will continue to invest in the team. However, as a startup leader, I am constantly balancing the needs that we anticipate with the practical limitations of our available capital. So, as I look forward, I have begun to separate the needs that we expect in two camps: those that require new capabilities within the firm and those that are expanding capacity. When we put those two things together, we are placing a higher priority on new capabilities because they take time to develop. Once that demand comes to fruition, we don’t have the time to react. Whereas on the capacity side, even though that can be scarier because you are worried about not being able to deliver, all the demand doesn’t tend to come in at once. We have the skills in-house and the opportunity to reallocate resources, bring in contractors, or bring in other project resources. We can react more quickly to those kinds of changes.

Tim: Thinking into the future, what are you most excited about with respect to opportunities for Patient Discovery and the impact that you, the team, and the business can have on the healthcare industry?

Norm: We have an incredible opportunity to improve the lives of so many patients by helping the oncology practice understand and address the health-related social needs that their patients are facing. Better outcomes for patients mean improved quality of life for patients and their families, in addition to lower costs for caring for these patients. As cancers progress, patient care becomes much more difficult and much more expensive. Essentially, everybody wins. We’ve worked with large academic systems, community practices, group purchasing organizations, pharma manufacturers, and nobody is aware of a solution that is helping patients’ providers in the way that we are. From a social perspective, I’m really disappointed that these problems have persisted for so long. But from a business perspective, we just have an enormous opportunity for us and everyday it is incredibly exciting to get up and be able to do well by doing good.

Tim: What keeps you up at night?

Norm: Lack of time, which is really our scarcest resource. The healthcare industry, more than most others I’ve worked in, is slow to adapt. There are a lot of good reasons for the slow pace since it’s a complex industry. There is a tremendous amount of regulatory infrastructure that inhibits the movement of ideas, information, and people from one environment to the next. Things take time to progress and that’s the thing I fear most– that the market will move beyond us, we will miss the opportunity, and as a young nimble company we need to act swiftly.