The Future of Healthcare with CEO of naviHealth Clay Richards

As part of my series on “The Future of Healthcare” I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Clay Richards. Clay Richards joined naviHealth upon its founding in January 2012. As CEO, Clay leads naviHealth’s strategic vision and the leadership of the organization. Prior to joining naviHealth, Clay served as Senior Vice President at Healthways, Inc., where he […]

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As part of my series on “The Future of Healthcare” I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Clay Richards. Clay Richards joined naviHealth upon its founding in January 2012. As CEO, Clay leads naviHealth’s strategic vision and the leadership of the organization. Prior to joining naviHealth, Clay served as Senior Vice President at Healthways, Inc., where he operated as both General Counsel and Senior Vice President. Clay received his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University and his law degree from the University of Mississippi. Clay has a passion for community service and serves on the Board of Martha O’Bryan Center, which empowers children, youth, and adults in poverty to transform their lives through work, education, employment, and fellowship. He also serves on the Oak Hill School Board and the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Board of Visitors. When he isn’t at work, Clay is on the tennis court or grilling up dinner for his family.

Q&A with Clay Richards 

What innovation are you pioneering?

Our company, naviHealth, partners with health plans, health systems, and other providers to manage post-acute care for Medicare and Medicare Advantage patients. Through a proven “high-tech, high touch” model, our unique combination of clinical support and predictive technology helps patients and caregivers better understand their clinical and social needs upon discharge. We’re dedicated in our mission to get patients to the best possible level of care and then on to home safely. 

One of our key differentiators is the improved patient experience we help to deliver. On the “high touch” perspective, our clinicians offer compassion and empathy in what may be a challenging time in a patient’s life. On the “high tech” side, our proprietary technology and advanced analytics allow us to understand, on an individualized patient basis, the best path for that unique patient for optimal outcomes.

Our approach and suite of solutions have already disrupted the status quo. Over the past seven years, we’ve partnered with the top health plan and health systems to better serve millions of members and patients across the country. 

What brought you to this career path?

I started out in accounting, then practiced law for several years, and later became general counsel of a company called Healthways, a population health and disease management corporation. As general counsel, I became acquainted with Tom Scully, the former CMS administrator. He looked into the area of post-acute care from a public policy standpoint, and we realized there was a substantial opportunity to use analytics and clinical process to serve this growing population. Most of our current patients are frail, elderly, and after my grandmother fell ill, I clearly saw there was a real need. 

What is the most interesting story that happened to you?

I’ll give you a very personal story. It involves my grandmother almost right after we started naviHealth. My grandmother was suffering from chronic heart failure, and she was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes. As I was on my way to see her, I was on my iPhone, looking for a coffee shop through Yelp. 

Yelp uses data based on user experience, what I’ve searched before, what kinds of coffee I like, where I am, where I’ve frequented, how far I’m willing to go, etc. and takes about 15 seconds to pinpoint all the best coffee shops near me. 

As my grandmother was getting discharged from the hospital, the nurse provided us with ‘Take-Home Care’ instructions. The instructions were seven to eight-pages with a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of potential nursing homes. It was the only information on which we could make the decision as to where she would continue to receive care. 

This decision was very impactful on her quality of life through the remainder of her life. 

When we compare that experience with Yelp, with the information we have ready for the best cup of coffee, it really validates why what we do is impactful. At naviHealth, it’s all about how to take all the data suggested in health care and leverage it to create a patient-facing, patient-forward experience around clinical decision making.

What are the five things you wish you knew?

This is a very tough question.

First, I would say to be really clear about what your mission is. naviHealth’s mission is around transforming health care and putting patients in the center. It’s so important because when you start a business, you live and die by growth in revenue. But it’s critical to have a mission to anchor your decision making. We are very fortunate to have that.

Second, culture is more important than strategy, especially in health care. With how dynamic this industry can be, it’s imperative to have a strong culture, mindset, and mission around your impact to survive.

Third, know that health care is slow to change. When you’re creating a business that’s disruptive or contrary to the current model, it’s hard, and there’s a lot of forces out there. You’re swimming against the tide. 

Fourth, be obsessed with who you hire and bring on board. Make sure they not only meet the skill sets you need, but they also believe in the culture and the mission — and enhance it.

And lastly, have the ability to be calm and collected. There’s going to be ups and downs in business. One day, you’ll think you’re going to take over the world. The next, you’ll think you’re going out of business. It’s very important to have the character to absorb that.

What do you believe in?

Humility is a big one. For any leader, we need to approach our business, our institution, our family, with servant humility. I think this is very important, and it’s something I aspire to. 

How can our readers follow you?

You can find naviHealth online at or on social media including LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram

Connect with Clay on LinkedIn

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