Livongo Health CEO Zane Burke on leaving Cerner, company goals

In late 2018, Zane Burke made a big decision: He stepped down from his role as as President of Cerner, a $5 billion public company, to take over the day-to-day operations of a startup called Livongo Health.

Livongo Health was founded in 2014 by Glen Tullman, Mr. Burke's predecessor, who remains the company's executive chairman, with a goal to empower people with chronic conditions to live better, healthier lives through digital health technologies.

The company markets and sells wearables that Livongo calls "applied health signal" solutions, defined as "a core set of technologies and capabilities called AI+AI: Aggregate, Interpret, Apply and Iterate." For Livongo, this means connecting data sets and signals from its devices, coaches and web assets to deliver consumers actionable and personalized recommendations.

What's more, Livongo's executive team is laden with leaders from several prominent healthcare organizations like Allscripts, Cigna, GE Healthcare and 23andMe.

Becker's Hospital Review recently caught up with Mr. Burke to talk about his transition from Cerner to Livongo Health, and what's in store for the digital health company in 2019.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How did you decide to transition from Cerner to Livongo Health?

Zane Burke: I was fortunate to have the opportunity to look at many different organizations, but I saw Livongo as the clear opportunity to change healthcare and have highest impact on people's lives. First, Livongo brings significant value to clients, but more importantly, we deliver a great experience for our members. The Livongo solution is proven to make members happier, healthier and reduce overall healthcare spending. Second, it is an organization that is on the brink of doing something really big. Today, the organization serves more than 600 clients made up of the some of the largest self-insured employers, the leading health systems, four of the top seven health plans and the two biggest pharmacy benefit managers. That said, there are over 150 million Americans suffering from chronic conditions that could benefit from Livongo.

Q: What has been the biggest "culture shock" coming to Livongo from such a large organization?

ZB: You mention culture and I immediately was struck by Livongo's incredible culture and quality of the entire leadership team. My teammates are truly dedicated to the company's mission, its clients and members in everything they do. At Livongo, one-third of our employees live with a chronic condition and another third have a close family member that lives with a chronic condition. When you speak to our employees, it is clear how personal our mission is to them, and I truly believe that it is the collective passion of our employees that will drive the business forward.

Q: What would say was Livongo's greatest accomplishment in 2018?

ZB: Taking a step back, 2018 was a vital year for Livongo's growth. Let me note two of the many accomplishments. The first key piece was growth. We grew tremendously in terms of our employee base, the customers we serve and our members. Second, by launching the applied health signals category, Livongo essentially told the marketplace that we are dedicated to our members and all aspects of their health. Not only will we add more chronic conditions to our platform, but we will continue to ingest data that we can add into our AI+AI engine to offer people personalized insights that will help them understand their bodies and how to best navigate the healthcare system. I inherited all of these accomplishments, and the kudos rightly belong to the team.

Q: What do you have in store for Livongo in 2019?

ZB: I believe 2019 is going to be a great year. Our leadership team and board are deeply engaged in what we need to do to take this business to the next level. We are going to continue to expand and invest in our offerings. We started strong by acquiring myStrength [a behavioral health solutions provider] and adding behavioral health to our platform. We will be laser focused on the experience and value we provide to clients and our members. We will scale the organization to account for our growth and make decisions that are based on the best long-term outcomes.

Q: What is Livongo's long-term goal and how do you plan to achieve it?

ZB: Our goal is clear, we want to help people simplify and improve their health. In order to do that we need to significantly improve the experience and outcomes for the six in 10 people who are living with a chronic condition and at the same time, more appropriately utilize healthcare resources.

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