The non-clinical spotlight series exists to shed light on all of the interesting paths that physical, occupational, and speech therapy professionals have taken. Today’s spotlight focuses on Ben Galin, PT, DPT, OCS, who went from physical therapist to Chief of Product at Bliss. Want to be featured on The Non-Clinical PT? Know of someone who’d be a great person to interview? Please reach out today!
What is your name and title?
Ben Galin, PT, DPT, OCS
Chief of Product at Bliss Health
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
Nova Southeastern University. I graduated in 2001 with my MPT, and then went back and finished my DPT in 2006 (I completed it during nights and weekends).
Where did you first work, and what was your role there?
Loudoun County Hospital in Ashburn VA. I was a staff PT in inpatient, outpatient, wound care, and SNF settings.
At what point did you decide to leave your first role, and why?
At the time sports medicine was calling me, wanted a younger more active case load, so went to work at Physiotherapy Associates (which is now part of Select Therapy).
When did you start pursuing management, and why?
At Physiotherapy. I am just that kind of guy; I seek out leadership positions and responsibility. I enjoy making systems work better, so in management roles, I can get things done.
How did you land your first director of operations role at the staffing firm?
I moved to Florida, and I was working with a staffing firm. I noticed a lot of ways to make it better. I joined management in 2005 and grew it from one county to 11 and covered 70% of the state.
Initially, I was working with staffing therapists, and I eventually took over the nursing division as well.
I actually never worked as a recruiter; I worked on the contract side doing business development and day-to-day operations.
What did you like about your role as director of operations, and what did you dislike?
I was constantly putting out fires; literally, every hour was a fire. It never ended. I was dealing with customers (clients), which were nursing homes, home care agencies, outpatient clinics, and everything in between.
Since I had worked in all those settings, I knew the business side, regulatory side, and what it was like as a staff PT being thrust in those positions. So, I could see issues quickly, fix them promptly, and put in systems to help ensure they didn’t happen again.
But that got very stressful, as there were systems in place to rectify, but it wasn’t always a systems problem; it was often a human nature problem. I needed a break.
At what point did you decide to start going the entrepreneur route?
When I wanted a break from putting out the fires I mentioned above. I had seen a lot of opportunity while in the director of operations role with the staffing firm, and had networked with a lot of people.
I always wanted to build something that I could have passive income from, so that I wasn’t trapped in a clinic marriage the rest of my life.
Can you discuss a few of your entrepreneurial pursuits?
I started a mobile diagnostic company. We did VNG, NCV, and some cardiac testing in physician offices. I staffed the clinicians and the equipment. There was some law changes to NCV that really crunched down on this business, though, so I returned to the staffing world.
I started my own staffing company, and in two years it grew it to 75K per month in billing. But then I had kids, and the 24 hours 7/days a week got too much.
Entrepreneurship was in my blood, so I wasn’t stopping yet! I partnered in starting a nurse registry. I also started a senior wellness networking company, pairing physicians, diagnostics, home care, and the like to senior communities to bring the convenience of all of these networked partners to their communities.
What was it like being an entrepreneur?
There was no infrastructure built in to help. So everything was on me until I grew more. Income was not guaranteed, only expenses were guaranteed.
I became a marketer, an advertiser, a COO, a CEO, and a janitor for each company. Entrepreneurship is stressful, but I love it.
During this time, were you still working as a clinician? If so, how often?
I would work as a clinician until the companies were up and making money, I would then work on the next project. I used clinical income to pay the bills while I took risk in the companies.
How and when did you start consulting, and why?
I learned a lot about commercial and Medicare regulations, from billing to compliance, with respect to post acute care. I started consulting to help with compliance in outpatient and home care, and was even able to create a niche for ORF/CORF as well.
Consulting came naturally; I was using the PT mindset: figuring out what was wrong, creating a plan of care, and putting it in motion, then re-assessing.
Consulting uses that same thinking that PTs are used to, but instead of improving the functionality of a human body, you’re improving the functionality of a company with its many systems.
I took on some projects, and word spread from there. I had a website, and a few national connections who would refer local business my way, and I would reciprocate.
You mentioned having built a software company in the mid-2000s. What made you decide to do that, and what wound up happening?
By this point, I had quite a bit of experience in compliance, regulations, and documentation, and I noticed that there wasn’t much in the way of home care software around. At that point, it was either legacy systems built off hospital platforms or Kinnser, which was just getting started.
I saw all of these as electronic filing cabinets. There was nothing in them to help the clinician be more effective.
I wanted to create something from the ground up that focused on clinical effectiveness and compliance for home health.
What happened with that company?
I ended up selling it to another company, and then took a retainer role with that company to work on more of their products.
From there, you began working with Bliss Health. What is your role there, and how did you land it?
When the company that acquired my software company was then acquired by another company, I decided to leave. At that time, I got a call from another national consultant who knew a new software company looking for consulting.
This company was Bliss. I loved where the CEO was headed, so I joined on as a partner.
I was in charge of making sure the product was ready for market for home care: Medicare, Private Duty, and Skilled non-Medicare. I would create all the forms, the process flow, the function.
Can you tell us a bit about Bliss Health and what it does?
Bliss Health pivoted to be a Life Health Management platform. It is an integrated platform for Population Health Management under various “names.”
Chronic Care Management (CCM) for physicians, for example, is one of our target segments. It includes:
- Virtual care modules (telehealth, store and forward, virtual clinic)
- Patient engagement modules
- Segmentation and care plan deployment modules
- Collaboration and care coordination modules
- Care management modules
The platform is built on an administrative backbone that does HR to scheduling to payroll and billing. It can be used by hospitals, home care agencies, physician practices, and insurance companies. We launched globally and are in or talks to be in four continents as of May of this year.
What do you do in your role? What are some of the pros/cons?
We are still a small startup company, so I wear a ton of hats. I am in charge of the product function, flow, and compliance.
I have a team that works on the development and database and servers, I have a team that works on sales, I have a team that works on the underlying technology and making sure the architecture is proper.
I focus on the product and how it works, how it is heading towards market demand (and more importantly, market need) based on forecasts of health care evolution. It is a lot of hours and is stressful, but I love it.
What is a day in the life like for you in this role?
Most of the day is working with the developers to make sure they understand the needed fixes and enhancements. The other part of the day is spent on designing new functions and testing.
I also meet with current and new clients to make sure the product is meeting their needs, and to keep a pulse on market place wants and needs. I meet with partner-type vendors to see how our products could work together. I then meet with our C-suite to see about business development.
Does Bliss Health hire PTs and OTs into non-clinical roles frequently?
Right now I am the only clinical person on the staff. I can see a physician and a nurse likely joining, and a PT or OT with the right skills would be great for future non-clinical roles.
Therapists have a great clinical mind, know how to talk to the clinical players in the room, and understand healthcare. They also look at things with the PT brain, which is the same part that diagnoses people’s dysfunctions. The PT brain is great in business.
Are you still working in patient care? If so, why or why not?
I am still helping manage a clinic as a rehab director a few hours per week. But I think this will be ending this summer. I will keep renewing my PT license, as I am never sure if the patient treatment bug will bite again.
What is next for you? Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 20 years?
I see myself in this role for the next five years. I would want to take the experience in this sector and the connections and parlay that into some new business or consulting or investing in new businesses in this realm at that point.
What would you say to someone who is looking to go into product development or take a similar career path to yours? Do they need special certifications or education?
There are product management certifications. I am sure this would help get an entry level position, as would an MBA perhaps.
I just was fortunate enough to have enough experience to bypass this. I would suggest getting their feet wet in the healthcare tech sector and going from there. Being a clinician ALWAYS helps in this sector.
Thanks for your insight, Ben!