David Frederiksen

Master of Business Administration, Class of 1996

CEO, PatientFocus

Could you provide a brief recap of your career since graduating from Owen?

I worked in healthcare strategy consulting and at a healthcare data analytics firm during my first few years out of Owen. In 2000, I joined a small firm doing debt restructurings for healthcare and after two years, I co-founded a company that lent capital to hospitals and healthcare facilities. We sold that company to Raymond James in 2006, and shortly after, I joined an asset-based lending firm as their COO. In 2008, when the credit markets froze up, we wound that firm down, and decided to start PatientFocus, a medical billing company focused exclusively on patient billing.

What is your company and where did the idea come from? What served as the the biggest motivator or influence in starting your company?

Prior to founding PatientFocus, my firm worked with hundreds of banks across the United States to facilitate loans to healthcare providers. Not one of those banks assigned any value to providers’ patient-pay accounts receivable – basically the money they had on their balance sheet that was owed to them by patients either after insurance or no insurance. Knowing the way money flows through the economics of healthcare, I saw high-deductible health plans and co-insurance begin to take root and knew they would expand quickly. The conversations around this growing phenomenon were all about the problems this was causing for patients, but no one was talking about the problems this was causing for providers.

Providers were – and to this day – are still using the same systems, processes, and people to file insurance claims and bill patients. These systems, however, have nothing to do with helping patients to understand and pay their bills, which is why you most likely have been confused at medical bills you’ve gotten in the past 10 years. It wasn’t built to bill you as a patient.  I founded PatientFocus to bridge the gap between patients who should be treated like valued customers, and healthcare providers who have neither the systems nor resources to take on the tsunami of patient-pay billing that has swamped hospitals and physicians offices across the US.

What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur and how have you worked to overcome this challenge?

One of the greatest challenges about being an entrepreneur is letting go of the day-to-day operational aspects of the business, and letting your team do their jobs. It was very easy for me to remain in the details and micromanage everything because at one point, there were only a few of us at the table. Everyone wore a lot of hats until we were big enough to compartmentalize roles, and it was difficult for me to let go of my day-to-day involvement in each of those roles. I overcame that challenge by hiring really great people and holding them accountable. Both of those things are easier said than done, but your team is everything. 

What qualities are most important to possess as an entrepreneur?

If I had to pick one I would say its persistence. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the US:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and
always will solve the problems of the human race.”

What are you most proud of about your business?

My team. We have built a tremendous product that impacts the lives of thousands of patients every day. My team not only makes that possible, but they are constantly making it better every day. They are really impressive people.

What advice do you have for students as they launch their business? Are there any tools you consistently use as an entrepreneur?

The number one thing I would say to someone starting a business is take care of your team. Your team and your people will have the greatest impact on your success. Pick the best, and don’t settle. Remember to hire slow and fire fast. There’s a great book called “Who: The ‘A’ Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It is a great template for the process of going about hiring and sourcing people for your team.

What do you do to live a balanced life? Do you have any interesting or fun hobbies?

I’ve got three wonderful kids so their lives take up a lot of my time and attention. Reading is probably my favorite thing to do when I’m not working or with family. Movies are also a great mental escape for me. 

One thing I’ve learned is what a difference a day makes. Things can be completely falling apart around you and the next day it all changes. With that in mind all you can do is do your best, put your best foot forward and keep moving forward – be persistent.