CoverMyMeds: Experiment, innovate, grow – hold the jargon

The routine “Best Places to Work” features that offer a snapshot of what it’s like to be a part of Columbus-based CoverMyMeds often focus on what stands out at first glance: The pool tables, the beer tap, the jeans-day-every-day vibe.

nate lusher covermymeds
Nate Lusher of CoverMyMeds presenting at the June 6 COE event.

Nate Lusher, an agile coach at the health-care software startup, says the key to understanding the company’s culture is to look closer.

“Those are great, but they’re not what’s going to keep you there for the long haul,” Lusher told attendees at a Center for Operational Excellence event Tuesday. “They’re an expression of our deeper culture.”

Lusher and colleague Rick Neighbarger, director of quality and risk management at CoverMyMeds, offered a peek inside the Columbus company’s culture at the latest meeting of COE’s IT Leadership Network series. They also detailed their own efforts to make tools and behaviors key to continuous improvement a part of it, a challenge that’s intrinsic to process improvement efforts at companies of any size.

CoverMyMeds, which automates the once-cumbersome prior-approval process for prescriptions, has been a part of the Columbus business community for not even a decade but has drawn attention for its rapid growth and status as a sought-after place of employment. The last time CoverMyMeds disclosed its annual revenue – about two years ago – it was nearing the $100 million mark, and the company just this year closed a deal to be acquired by health-care giant McKesson Corp. for more than $1 billion. Columbus Business First called the acquisition the biggest tech startup exit in the city’s history.

Beneath that surface layer of culture, which the company notably pledged to keep following the sale, is one that values and trusts its people. And the people themselves, Neighbarger and Lusher said, are primed to experiment and take action.

“We’re not afraid to try something out,” Lusher said. “We’d much rather dive in and do it and learn from something.”

The effort of turning that experimentation into lessons learned and, eventually, better processes has included the introduction of a number of lean and agile tools at CoverMyMeds: Kanbans and story cards, metrics on cycle time and work in process (WIP), and an articulated vision of product ownership, just to name a few.

What’s crucial, Neighbarger said, is not what the tools are but how they’re deployed.

“You can’t just pick up techniques that a large multi-national bank uses and drop them into a small health-care IT company,” he said. “You have to tailor your techniques to principles.”

That principle-first approach ultimately has helped gain traction at CoverMyMeds as the company works to deploy a broader quality strategy that continues to manage risks amid continued growth. In short, the jargon matters much less than the results.

“Our goal is not to become ‘agile,’” Lusher said. “Our goal is to become great.”

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