Health Tech: Angie Franks On How ABOUT Healthcare’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our…

Posted on

Health Tech: Angie Franks On How ABOUT Healthcare’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

The first two are highly related, but the first is don’t create technology and then look for a problem to utilize it. The problem must come first, and you find that through observation and understanding the market. Create the technology in what we call a market-driven manner and your transition from what Geoffrey Moore describes in Crossing the Chasm from the “early adopters” to the “early majority” will be much faster.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angie Franks.

Angie Franks is CEO of ABOUT Healthcare Inc., which provides solutions for orchestrating patient access across the care continuum, balances capacity, and enables health systems to grow with resilience. She has instilled ABOUT with the virtues of grit and focus, with an emphasis on company growth and alignment with clients’ objectives. Franks has more than 25 years of high growth, technology leadership experience. Her areas of healthcare IT expertise include orchestration of health system operations as well as clinical and financial information systems, enterprise resource planning, telemedicine and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. Franks has served in executive leadership roles at The Advisory Board, Healthland, Lawson Software and GeoAccess. She is on the board of directors at Medical Alley, United Hospital Foundation Board and Pinky Swear Foundation.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, where ABOUT Healthcare is located. My mom is Irish, and my dad is Italian, but the Italian culture dominated our household as did healthcare. My dad was a dentist, and my mom was a nurse.

For my first real job, I worked in my dad’s dental practice, where I got to sit in on staff meetings and learn how to lead a team. I am also extremely competitive. This came from being a middle child with an older brother who was the captain of every team he played on, an excellent student, and an overall high achiever. This helped drive my competitive spirit.

Additionally, I was a speed skater from a very young age, and it helped me develop a year-round work ethic. Later in high school, I played basketball, volleyball, soccer, track, fast-pitch, and slow-pitch softball. I was also the soccer goalie for the Minnesota State Select Team in college, where we got to travel and play internationally.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My first job was in a sales role at a healthcare technology start-up. The company was pre-revenue, and my territory was on the west coast, so I was in airports a lot. On one trip, I picked up a book called Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, which is about how to build and market a successful technology solution so that it can be adopted by a larger share of the market.

I read this and had an epiphany that this was exactly what was happening to our company at the time. Moore described what happens when a company starts to dominate its market and that was happening to us. About a year later, the company sold, and I was now working for a huge software company that had solutions for many industries but wanted to crack the managed care market as we did at the startup.

My boss says: “Hey, we have a board member that has been helping us develop our healthcare strategy, and we want you to work with him and his business partner.” That board member was none other than Geoffrey Moore. I was flabbergasted. It was amazing just to live that experience, and within a year, meet Geoffrey and work with him. It was super formative for me to work closely with him and his business partner, Phillip on the healthcare growth strategy for the business.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Other than my mom and dad, I would say Geoffrey Moore. Not that he would even realize how much of an effect he had on me, but he was also the most formative person for me professionally. Everybody makes fun of me here because I talk about him so much and share examples and concepts from his books. It just had a profound effect on my life and even more so when I got to meet and work with Geoffrey and Philip.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

St. Francis de Sales said: “Be who you are and be that well.” It has been a very grounding philosophy for me since I was probably a teenager. Another way of saying it is to know your authentic self and don’t worry about trying to be someone or be something else. From a professional perspective, I have reiterated this concept at almost every company I’ve been a part of. I also quote this today at ABOUT, where we are focused on what we are the best at — helping patients access the best setting of care and helping health systems do that efficiently. It is a major challenge in healthcare right now, and we help health systems solve it better than anybody. So that quote personally and professionally has been meaningful in my life.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Passion. I just couldn’t do something that I was not passionate about. I can’t just get up and go through the motions. That is not who I am as a person, and it would not be fair to the company or my team. I am very passionate about what we do at ABOUT because it helps save people’s lives by getting them the care they need as fast as possible.
  2. Courage. I am not afraid to take calculated chances and risks. I am also not afraid to do something that maybe others haven’t done or grab hold of an opportunity. At ABOUT, for example, there is a tremendous need in healthcare right now to help health systems create a connected network of care. You must have the courage to grab that opportunity even if no one has really tried to do it before.
  3. Generosity. Many leaders I have worked with over the years have been generous with their time and counsel, and I have always valued and tried to emulate that as I’ve had the opportunity to lead organizations or volunteer my time. I still serve as an advisor to startup companies in the Twin Cities region through an entrepreneurial organization. I also counsel women entrepreneurs and executives whenever I am able.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which problems are you aiming to solve?

In the most basic terms, we aim to connect people in need with people who can heal and do that very efficiently. That is our mission, and we wake up every day to solve that problem. Here’s why that matters: If an individual needs to be in a special hospital for a stroke, heart problem, traumatic injury, or other needs, the faster you can make that happen, the better the outcomes will be. It may sound simple, but it is not. People can spend hours or days waiting to access potentially life-saving care. Behind the scenes, we are helping take a ton of time out of that process. This means we have the potential to save lives and improve quality of life. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that we have that effect every day. We help solve that problem by enabling easier collaboration between the many medical facilities, physicians, nurses, transportation companies, and other people involved in this process.

How do you think your technology can address this?

Our technology pulls together data that is in lots of different information systems in multiple healthcare facilities to help make decisions about somebody’s care efficiently. Ideally, this can be done with just one phone call. Without our technology, getting an individual to the right care setting involves lots of calls and waiting for return calls, looking up documentation, and trying to find information. We take all that friction out. Now of need, a clinician has everything at their fingertips and all the people accepting those calls have exactly what they need at their fingertips to decide. Our goal is to take a process that usually takes three to six hours, if not longer, and shorten it to 15 to 30 minutes. That has a clinical impact on the patient.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Healthcare was ingrained in our family, but I originally planned to be a teacher. After college, there were limited teaching positions available, so I continued working in an occupational medicine clinic that I had worked at through college, and have been passionate about it ever since. Healthcare is super complex, which is intellectually challenging, but I most appreciate the mission orientation of working in the industry and that what we are doing every day has an impact on people. There are also smart, kind, and innovative people in this industry trying to do good things. It’s fun and rewarding to be part of that. I didn’t seek out an entire career in healthcare; it found me. Once it got a hold of me, I never left. That was almost 33 years ago.

How do you think this might change the world?

I do not doubt that ABOUT is going to change the world. Right now, the whole process of accessing the most appropriate care is mostly left to the patient and the provider. There is no industry-wide process that health systems share to get patients from one healthcare facility to the next so they can access the care they need. For example, which could include getting a patient from an emergency room to a specialty hospital or getting them from the hospital to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation center after discharge. Like I mentioned before, it may sound simple, but it can often be a complete mess and fraught with inefficiencies and disconnection — not just in the U.S., but around the world. When you can streamline that process and take the manual effort out and take that burden off the patient, you can help people arrive at the best place for their care and/or recovery faster — whether that is a hospital, skilled nursing center, or home. You take the stress out, improve their experience, and likely their outcome. Technology is an ideal way to solve this problem because it adds automation, consistency, and more predictability in the outcomes and more saved lives — that changes the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The only unintended consequence I can think of is expecting the technology to fix bad processes. The technology is there to help automate good processes and take some of the burdens off the clinicians executing those good processes. There must be some people-oriented change management involved, especially when you’re implementing a transformative solution like ours. You must have people engaged and understand why adopting the new processes are necessary and how the technology will help make this change easier and improve the outcomes of the patients.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive impact on society”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. The first two are highly related, but the first is don’t create technology and then look for a problem to utilize it. The problem must come first, and you find that through observation and understanding the market. Create the technology in what we call a market-driven manner and your transition from what Geoffrey Moore describes in Crossing the Chasm from the “early adopters” to the “early majority” will be much faster.
  2. The problem must be worth solving. Any meaningful technology must solve a problem that is worth solving. There are a lot of problems we could solve better, faster, cheaper through technology, but if nobody cares, if it doesn’t add value in any way, and it will be ignored. We certainly do not need more technology for technology’s sake. We need to find a market-driven problem that is worth solving.
  3. Deliver a complete solution. With an enterprise solution like ours and even smaller systems, just plugging in the software is not enough. You need to offer the change management, documentation, training, and all the components necessary to solve the problem. If you don’t bring that all to bear, then you may be even more disruptive with any benefit and people will go back to the way it was before.
  4. Keep making it better. That said, as technology improves, your solution must improve as well. It is your responsibility to keep enhancing the features and functionality, but also the training and guidance that your company offers. As new problems arise in the industry, or even individually for the client, you need to help them solve those problems as well as proactively look for problems that need to be solved. You can’t ignore the changes in the industry any more than your client can, so you need to keep enhancing it and making it better.
  5. Deliver a superior experience. Features and functionality of your solution are its foundation, but technology companies that differentiate themselves must supply a superior experience for their customers, not just the solution itself, but for the services as well. That requires a lot of attentiveness to your customers’ needs and empathy for what they are dealing with. There is no better example than what is going on in healthcare right now and all the stress that physicians, nurses, and other clinicians are facing. Our solution and services need to make their lives easier, take some of their burdens away and help them take better care of their patients. Solving their problems comes from understanding their needs and it includes providing them with updates and support that drives superior experiences.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on society, like you, what would you tell them?

Is there really a choice? If you choose not to have a positive impact, then what are you contributing? Why bother? I feel like there is no choice.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

It may seem like a cliché, but it would be the Pope — and by that, I mean our current Pope. Francis is such a reflection of care and love for everyone regardless of who they are and he has brought a new level of acceptance, understanding, and openness to his position that has been such an inspiration. His Jesuit background also shows that he is a leader with great intellect and respect for knowledge, which is something else that I admire. I just think it would be a fascinating conversation and experience.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can learn about all the exciting things going on in healthcare and ABOUT at

Angie Franks is CEO of ABOUT Healthcare Inc., which provides solutions for orchestrating patient access across the care continuum.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

Health Tech: Angie Franks On How ABOUT Healthcare’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.