A conversation with Lior Hod, ELLKAY’s Beekeeper, Chief Culture Officer, Founder & President

May 22, 2019

Please tell us about the services ELLKAY provides to the diagnostic laboratory industry.

We started our business in the laboratory industry. While we work with various segments in healthcare, labs are very close to our heart.

At ELLKAY, we like to think of ourselves as being at the center of the electronic ordering workflow. Our passion is helping labs to maintain profitability and be equipped to overcome the tremendous challenges they’re facing as the industry evolves. The ELLKAY team is an extension of laboratory clients’ IT departments, providing labs of all sizes with IT solutions and helping them improve their bottom lines. Our goal is to help them leverage their critical role in healthcare and be successful.

We offer solutions for achieving 100 percent clean, complete orders that minimize laboratory calls to practices and hospitals, increase first-time claims submissions, reduce operational costs for the laboratory and the practice, improve provider experience, provide more reliable results for better patient care, and maximize reimbursements.

Another critical thing we’re doing for labs is providing connectivity. We recognize the significant investments labs are making in both their interface platforms and development resources to enable their LIS to connect with EHR systems. We help labs with those connectivity challenges by building the data pipelines they require and identifying the right interface strategy. Our interface infrastructure is designed to increase deployment speeds and cut support costs, giving labs more time to grow business and achieve organizational efficiency.

Can you tell me more about ELLKAY’s customers and partners?

We work with everyone. ELLKAY has more than 450 laboratory partnerships, including most of the top 10 labs in the country that leverage ELLKAY solutions, including Quest, LabCorp, BioReference, etc. We also partner with hospitals, health systems, practices, EHR/EMR vendors, payors, and other healthcare organizations. We help them with solutions for value-based care, clinical data API, data conversion, integration, legacy data archiving, and much more. In today’s data-rich world, we work throughout the care continuum, solving key problems around all kinds of interoperability. In the industry, we are known as the healthcare data plumbers—any data, any system. We are all about making interoperability happen.

ELLKAY was founded in 2002. Can you tell us the story behind its foundation?

Kamal Patel, ELLKAY’s CEO, and I started ELLKAY in the basement of my home in 2002, where we started building demographic bridges for laboratories. It all started with a soda business… I started working with Kamal at a company back in 1997 as Senior Developers and we shared an office. In fact, we still share an office. We thrived working as a team on complex projects. During our time there, the company increased the price of soda from $1.00 to $1.10. We decided to put a small fridge in our office and fill it with sodas. We advertised 50¢ sodas and everyone in the company started coming to our office for them. We added other items: water, candy, chips, ice cream, and free watermelon on Thursdays. We made $3,000 profit that year… all of which went to charity. We loved it and it felt great. So, we decided to start our company with the same energy and culture as our little “side venture.” My wife Janet came up with the company name ELLKAY after our first name initials ELL for Lior and KAY for Kamal.

What kept you occupied prior to 2002?

I started my career in the early ‘90s in the clinical laboratory testing space as a consultant for a company called MetPath Laboratory (known today as Quest Diagnostics). During my time at MetPath, I helped design and build one of the first electronic lab order and results management systems, called CCLink. I then went to the 3M Health Information Division, and they were just starting out with healthcare. I was one of the lead developers for their All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups (APR DRG) solution.

How did the acquisition of the CareEvolve Laboratory Portal and Connectivity Platform benefit ELLKAY and its customers?

CareEvolve was a great fit for ELLKAY—both companies have a high focus and strength in technology and innovation. While ELLKAY already had a good footprint in the market before the acquisition, this allowed us to offer more advanced laboratory outreach solutions to those markets and expand our level of service and partnership in the hospital market. More importantly, it increased our whitespace for all our other product lines (non-lab) in the hospital market. I feel it was a good transaction for both sides.

ELLKAY’s Data Archive Solution was rated 2019 Best In KLAS: Software and Services Report; what does this mean?

ELLKAY is very proud of our recognition from KLAS for LKArchive. It marks the first time that KLAS researchers reviewed data archive solutions. In the report, ELLKAY received top marks and we were recognized for delivering high satisfaction for our customers, our broad experience, and for the significantly positive financial impact to the organizations using LKArchive.

KLAS is a healthcare IT data and insights company that is recognized for providing impartial research on software and services used by providers and payers worldwide, so their findings and report are highly regarded.

Please explain how ELLKAY is a “client-first” company.

At ELLKAY, we are very proud of Our ‘client-first’ focus. What it means is that we value our clients and recognize that strong relationships are the foundation for a strong company. Our customer-centric approach drives results. We understand that every business is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ model, therefore we work with our clients to identify the best strategy for their success, while providing innovative, scalable solutions, and unparalleled service.

Your title has Chief Culture Officer in it. Please tell us what this means at ELLKAY.

I take this title very seriously. I view my life as one long journey, forming friendships along the way. Due to ELLKAY’s growth, we purchased our new building in 2017. We moved from a 13,000-square-foot building to one with 74,000 square feet. I personally participated in designing and building the best workplace I could think of. We went with an open floorplan design to encourage collaboration and innovation, glass office partitions, standing corner desks, LED lights, gaming chairs, and a whole lot more.

Since the time we started the business in my basement, we have always paid for lunch for our employees. We also provide cold drinks, the best coffee, bagels, fresh fruits, fresh-baked cookies, ice cream, and beer on tap. I like to create an environment that rewards the hard work of our employees. I believe that in creating an atmosphere that celebrates their dedication, it encourages them to not only have fun, but also strive for excellence.

Receiving ELLKAY honey is always a pleasant surprise! We hear you tend honeybees on the roof of ELLKAY’s HQ. Tell us how this all started.

In early 2015, Kamal and I were driving for a meeting with our product design team. That morning, I had happened to read an article in the New York Times about how the honeybees were dying throughout the country. With it fresh in my mind, I brought up the subject and mentioned how I had always wanted to raise honeybees and harvest the honey for our friends and clients. The grouped loved the idea, so I contacted my beekeeper friend and the process started.

We owned our building, so we were able to set up six hives (which initially housed 36,000 bees) on our flat roof. Everyone volunteered to build the hives and care for them and within months, the bees multiplied to more than 300,000. When we moved offices, we also (carefully) relocated the hives and its residents. We now have 16 active hives and we produce and package our own honey on premises. The honey demand is so high that we are in the process of expanding to a remote location in upstate NY.

Besides tending to the honeybees, what do you like to do off-the-clock?

My passion is basketball. We are a big basketball family; I played college ball with my brother at Yeshiva University and we are still currently ranked as No. 2 and No. 3 for scoring. I am also blessed that my three boys also played for the same school. In fact, all three played in the same game in 2017, marking the first time in NCAA Division III men’s basketball history that three siblings from the same team were on the floor at the same time. I am a proud grandfather to six-month-old twins. I’m also fortunate that two of my children work with me at ELLKAY, so I get to spend time with them and mentor them regularly.