One on One with Impact Advisors’ Peter Smith

ART225219_PeterSmithImpact Advisors was founded by brothers Peter and Andy Smith, who found the best way to compete with much larger firms with six-figure internal research and education budgets was to get out there in the trenches with clients. By doing quality work directly with clients, the Smith brothers were able to stay current in the industry and focus on anticipating demands. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Impact Advisors has stayed true to this core principle, and it’s full speed ahead for the Healthcare/IT firm. We sat down with Peter Smith who gave us firm-side and market-side rundown of the last decade and a preview of what’s to come in the next one.

Consulting: What is your outlook on the firm heading into the second decade?

Smith: We’re pretty bullish. I’ve been in the industry going on 30 years, and the healthcare and healthcare industry has been kind of slow and steady, always moving up and to the right. We think there’s a big demand out there and think in our space we’re really on the cusp of doing some amazing things in terms of what the power of information is going to do for healthcare. We think it’s going to be a continued steady market, unlike some other industries, we don’t predict wild swings in highs and lows, but we think it’s going to be a steady market for a business standpoint. We’re cognizant of expanding only on collateral services—things that leverage what we do really well—and to keep expanding that way. It’s been a good strategy for us, it’s a pragmatic way leverage what you do well and leverage your client base and add to it rather than making a big jump or overextending.

Consulting: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the healthcare/IT consulting space in the last decade?

Smith: The biggest change has been the evolution of implementing electronic medical records. Ten years ago that was a very fragmented market, there were probably 100 EMRs in the marketplace. That has radically consolidated in terms of the vendor space. What’s also happened is the implementations have become much more mature. Ten years ago it was unique for an organization to have EMR, now it’s the cost of doing business. So you see that evolution where that was a strategic technology ten years ago, now it’s a fundamental prerequisite organizations are now trying to leverage that core information into the next thing.

Consulting: Have you seen clients’ priorities or goals change over the last decade?

Smith: Absolutely. There’s been a tremendous amount of aggregation and consolidation in healthcare on both the physician and hospital side. These organizations are getting bigger and bigger and they’re merging. Small, independent practices are going away, small hospitals are joining big systems, those things. So the priorities have changed radically from that standpoint, the scale is getting much bigger so people are examining cost, how to reduce it and gain operational efficiency understanding that these are now becoming supersize organizations.

Consulting: What are some of the emerging challenges on the horizon?

Smith: From the healthcare industry side, one of the biggest challenges will be the level of uncertainty—what the new healthcare bill and the next four years will bring to healthcare. Another is the anticipation that healthcare revenue in the provider space will get scrutinized to some level. I think it’s assured that no matter what the bill ends up looking like, there’s going to be revenue pressure on our typical client base, and they’re expecting to have to prove their quality to earn the revenue, which will be a different mindset. How our client base reacts to that will be one of the biggest challenges moving forward. On the consulting side it’s how to shape our services to react to that environment. Typically when a market-use service is going to be constrained is typically not good for all consultants, so you have to change your services to play in that space. So we’re looking to create efficient environments and operations for our clients, but it also changes how we cost our services. We anticipate being at risk more, so if we can drive savings and efficiency for our clients we’ll get compensated accordingly. So we have to look at how we change our rate structure and engage with our clients and partners.

Consulting: Goals for the next 10 years?

Smith: The number one goal is to continue doing what we’re doing. That’s a big part of our strategy. We will continue to serve the marketplace we’re in and our traditional marketplace. We think that will continue to be valuable and important, so we’re going to continue to do the work we do, technology and process improvement in the clinical organization space. We will generally expand our service set to meet market demand two years in advance. That’s what we’ve done historically. We spend time thinking about where the market is going to go and what will be in demand from a consulting standpoint. We spend a year or two incubating services, methodology, capability experience. We sometimes hire leaders in that space in advance and try to nurture that market with our core client base and be ready to engage when the market demand hits.