By Paula Burkes
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Do you suffer from high blood pressure? If so, has your doctor talked to you about your salt intake, or how important it is to stay on your meds?
Educating people about managing their own health is the single most important predictor of their well-being and life expectancy. More than genetics. More than environment.
Jeff Greene reels off the little-known fact several times a day, dozens of times a week. It’s integral to MedEncentive — his 8-year-old Internet-based patient-doctor wellness product — that he says is the answer to improve health, the health care system and out-of-control costs.
His product encourages patients and doctors to “up their games,” Greene said. Patients are tested about their diseases and asked to rate their doctors, while doctors are asked to encourage patients and practice medicine aligned with evidence for best health outcomes.
“Doctors would rather their customers judge their performance than an entity not present,” Greene said. “While patients are inspired to demonstrate to their doctor — someone they respect — that they’re not illiterate or noncompliant.”
Independent research studies by the University of Kansas and The Loomis Co. in Pennsylvania found return on investment on MedEncentive’s product — which has been sold in Oklahoma, Washington and Pennsylvania for $3 per member per month — ranges from 3-to-1 to 17-to-1, considering financial incentives and fees, Greene said.
Patients stand to prosper and have their co-pays waived, he said, while providers bolster their reputations and receive some $15 rewards on office visits. “But most importantly, patients get well, and stay out of the hospital, while doctors practice better medicine,” Greene said.
Greene, who employs five, has patented MedEncentive in the U.S., and has patent applications pending in Canada, Australia and Europe.
From his third-floor suite at 800 Research Parkway, Greene, 64, sat down with The Oklahoman on Tuesday to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: My family moved to Oklahoma City from Missouri when I was in the ninth grade. Before then, I lived on a dairy farm in Urbana, Mo., near Springfield. I was in charge of the chickens, which taught me responsibility, hard work and other good values. I have four sisters and a brother. There’s a 10-year spread between the oldest and youngest; I’m No. 3. Our mother, who’s 94 and lives in Tulsa, was a homemaker, and father, now deceased, was an entrepreneur — selling, among other things, caskets, thermometers and siding. We moved here after he bought McGee Manufacturing, the parking meter company, and lived in the third house ever built in the Quail Creek addition.
Q: Any highlights from your school days?
A: I attended John Marshall High School, where I played football and basketball, but mainly excelled in track. I ran the 110-meter high hurdles, won the all-class state Tournament of Champions, and was awarded a full scholarship to OU, where I was the first Sooner athlete to run under 14 seconds in the event. I qualified in ’72 for the Olympic trials but married soon afterward. The last race I ran was in ’73, against two gold medalists and a bronze medalist.
Q: What did you study in college?
A: My major was industrial engineering. I learned I loved tackling a goal and solving it in a systematic way. Upon graduation, I worked seven years as a raw materials engineer for Procter & Gamble in southeast Missouri, in Cape Girardeau on the Mississippi River. I’d visit the labs of our suppliers and qualify, or disqualify, their materials. In ’79, we moved back to Norman, where I helped build a new vitamin manufacturing facility for Shaklee Corp. Shaklee moved us to San Francisco, which wasn’t our cup of tea, so we left and moved home in ’82 or ’83. I worked in the computer field and for a medical billing company for three years before starting my own medical billing company, CompOne, with my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, in ’87.
Q: How did you conceive the idea for MedEncentive?
A: We self-insured our medical billing company, so it was like Deb and I were writing a check for the health care costs of the some 300 employees we had nationwide. A vast majority were overweight or disabled and demanded some magic pill from their doctors — versus changing their lifestyles. That’s when I realized the health care system was fundamentally broken. The root problem was bad behavior — not only on the part of the patient, but also the provider and the payer.
Q: Will Obamacare hurt or help your MedEncentive cause?
A: Some of our concepts are embedded in Obamacare. In 2009, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn arranged for me to meet Zeke Emanuel, the president’s health adviser and a physicist/ethicist, in the White House. Emanuel thought our idea was brilliant, but said they couldn’t endorse commercial ventures. I wish they could have taken action, gotten it before Medicare/Medicaid, but we’re not giving up. Our new executive vice president, Cecily M. Hall, the former employee benefits director for Microsoft Corp., recently sat down with Don Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in Seattle to talk about our product.
Q: I understand MedEncentive has won the endorsements of three reinsurers. Tell us about that.
A: Yes. Sun Life Financial, New York-based AIG and IHC Risk Solutions, three of the country’s top 10 reinsurers, now have agreed to offer discounts on stop-loss insurance to self-insured companies who use our online cost-containment product. Stop-loss protection insures companies who offer self-funded health plans against deep losses. This is a big deal. These reinsurers have agreed to put their money where their mouth is. Meanwhile, our larger goal is to integrate into every segment of health plans — not just self-insured health plans, but fully-insured plans and government-sponsored plans.
•Position: MedEncentive, founder and chief executive
•Birth date: Dec. 9, 1948
•Family: Deb, married 41 years (they met in a bowling alley in The Village their sophomore year at John Marshall High School); son Jess, 27, of Aspen, Colo., and daughter Sarah Beth, 22, of Dallas
•Education: University of Oklahoma, bachelor’s in industrial engineering
•Community involvement: OU College of Engineering, advisory board
•For fun: spending time with family and extended family, watching Sooner sports, lifting weights and running intervals on the OU campus. “I like the wind in my face, running until I’m out of breath and stopping to catch my breath. There’s nothing like it.”
•On the nightstand: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, “The Paradox of Love” and “Growing Down,” both by J. Pittman McGehee, and “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.