Julie Walker, Chief Strategy Officer, symplr

Julie Walker: Using Growth Strategies to Effectively Transform Healthcare Operations

To state that COVID-19 hit the health care industry hard is an understatement. Over the past 18 months, healthcare organizations have struggled to provide care to large numbers of the infected while simultaneously containing costs, maintaining compliance, and increasing efficiency. And the pandemic’s not done reshaping healthcare … not yet. Operations solutions that helped hospitals and health systems successfully navigate through the worst of COVID-19 broke down silos, automated processes, and enhanced employee engagement and productivity—all while keeping an eye toward improving patient care and maintaining a safe environment. Payers and provider organizations that relied on symplr received the support they needed to continue on a path toward transforming their healthcare operations to achieve better outcomes despite the hurdles and risks. symplr is a leader in a large and growing healthcare operations and governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) IT market. It began as a vendor and provider credentialing organization that grew rapidly through product innovation and acquisitions, having made 12 acquisitions in the past 6 years.

One of the executive leaders at symplr responsible for defining and implementing strategies that improve healthcare organizations’ operations to, in turn, improve their outcomes is its Chief Strategy Officer, Julie Walker.

Julie is a key player in symplr’s success and growth in the healthcare IT market and leads the company’s M&A strategy by coordinating the execution and integration of acquisitions and partnerships. This unique and ongoing program is centered on operating efficiently, effectively, and successfully at scale—and puts customers at the center. In doing so, symplr succeeds in maximizing product and service value for customers so these customers – the healthcare providers – have more time to care for patients.

Julie’s professional journey provides insight into how she successfully identifies and capitalizes on the growth that has contributed to symplr’s remarkable success.

A Young Entrepreneur and Competitive Athlete

Julie began honing her business acumen at a young age in Ft. Madison, IA, a small river town and the home of one of the U.S.’s largest double-decker swing span bridges. As a teen, she and her brother started a lawn-mowing business, which provided her with a genuine appreciation for the universal business fact that if you hustle, work hard, and do a good job, you’ll be rewarded.

Fast forward a few years to college and post-grad, where Julie played and coached Division I scholarship basketball. By striking a balance between the demands of the sport and being successful in school, she honed the skills that would set her up for success: discipline, dedication, resilience, the ability to learn fast, and, ultimately, how to lead through positive action.

Prior to joining symplr, Julie held senior leadership roles at ProviderTrust and the National Healthcareer Association, a division of Ascend Learning—both SaaS healthcare technology companies. Having a strong desire to expand her experience and reach, Julie joined a mid-stage healthcare technology startup to help transform the team and the business, which led her to symplr. In earlier roles in symplr’s Workforce Management and Access Management business segments, Julie has successfully led the integrations of multiple healthcare technology businesses into symplr, driving strategy and culture, and ultimately, helping symplr transition to its current enterprise organizational model. Most recently, she was offered the exciting opportunity to lead symplr’s Strategy and Corporate Development Team in a newly created role. Hers is a new, small, and mighty team focused on ensuring symplr realizes its short, mid, and long-term strategies as the leader in health care operations and the northstar for healthcare technology.

The Roller Coaster Effect of the Pandemic

When asked about the impact of the current pandemic on the healthcare industry, Julie expresses that COVID-19 has been transformational for healthcare. It has challenged symplr to view, access, and engage in healthcare differently, and has put a spotlight on key vulnerabilities. While it brought paradigm change, the pandemic also serves as a tremendous opportunity to improve and elevate the healthcare industry in her view—putting patients and essential workers at the center. In turn, it has reinforced the critical role information technology plays in the highly complex healthcare ecosystem.

The pandemic has also exacerbated the ongoing shortage of healthcare workers. COVID-19 placed extreme duress on already-overstretched physicians and nurses, causing early retirement and prompting others to leave for less demanding environments.

Because of COVID-19, healthcare workforce issues can no longer be ignored—or healthcare organizations do so at their own peril. Julie stresses that talent and workforce management solutions once considered a “nice to have” are quickly becoming a necessity for their ability to empower healthcare organizations. Effective use of workforce data aids data-driven staffing decisions that contain and manage labor costs, improve productivity, increase staff engagement, and positively affect patient outcomes.

Upholding Positive Work Culture

Julie emphasizes the importance of cultivating a positive work culture, which, in her view is mission-critical to any organization’s success. At symplr, people are the company’s most valued asset. Talented, satisfied staff placed in the right positions and given unlimited growth opportunities drive better outcomes for all: for symplr’s customers, the business, the employees, and all other key stakeholders. The company recognizes that without a strong culture, achieving its goals and overall mission is not possible.

As a result, symplr leans on its cultural values in every internal and external interaction. They’re core to the symplr business and are included in its personnel one-on-one meetings, team meetings, executive leadership discussions, and performance reviews. Further, it includes the core values in its interview and new employee onboarding processes and recognizes and rewards cultural ambassadors.

Culture is forever a top priority and enables symplr to continue to meaningfully effect change in healthcare operations.

Effective Technological Advancements

Returning to one of symplr’s central tenets—to keep patients at the center of the company’s mission and daily activities—Julie states that it’s integral to the way symplr has helped healthcare organizations elevate and deliver care resulting in optimal outcomes. Through continued technological advancements and a keen focus on enabling streamlined, efficient, and effective workflows, connectedness, and transparency, symplr has unlocked its ability to realize mission-driven healthcare operations solutions that advance a healthier population.

An Envisioned Future

When discussing the future of symplr, Julie expresses confidence that symplr will remain the clear leader in healthcare operations and GRC. Because symplr will relentlessly champion its customers and lead through equality and integrity to forge a new path for healthcare organizations that struggle with data siloes and inefficiencies in managing their operations. Collectively, symplr employees and leaders recognize that teamwork is their true north and their work is rooted in positive action and outcomes.

Julie notes that she is personally invested in ensuring that symplr lives out its core values and realizes its meaningful strategy for the good of all healthcare participants. It is a unique organization with many opportunities, she says, and she looks forward to what the future holds.

Lead The Way

In her advice to up-and-coming women leaders, Julie says, “Be the change you want to see. Be okay with failing fast, learn even faster, and keep moving forward—embracing others along the journey.”

“We all have a remarkable opportunity to make a meaningful impact, and it’s the mental mindset, intellectual curiosity, desire, and focus that are foundational to realizing your world-impacting aspirations. Further, find a mentor who genuinely cares about your professional journey. Mentors are worth their weight in gold!”