Kelsey Mellard is Crossover’s newest Board member, and the CEO of San Francisco-based Sitka, a telehealth platform that connects specialists to primary care providers in a simple and collaborative way. Part 1 of our interview focused on her incredibly rich career path to date; in Part 2, she discusses her Board position, her initial perceptions of the company, and her ambitions for the new role at this critical juncture for the company.
How did you connect with Crossover?
Living in the Bay Area, I’d seen their clinics from time to time. I’d heard that they were leading the way people think about employee health, and providing comprehensive care by meeting people where they are. I admit I always read Scott’s blogs from back in the day, so I was following him as well. To me, he was this physician that had an amazing idea, and his company was making it a reality. I was contacted by a recruiter who told me that Crossover was looking to expand its Board, and I was really intrigued given that prior interest.
I spent time with fellow Board members as well as with Scott, Celeste Ortiz, and the team. I wanted to understand the current business, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there so I could begin breaking it down in my mind. I also visited their health centers, met with some of the care teams, and had a whiteboard session with Scott. There’s so much passion around the nearsite and onsite center designs, the thoughtfulness that goes into how it works and how it’s experienced, and how the information is presented to members. I was pretty hyped from that point forward.
Crossover is uniquely positioned in the employer space, the benefit space, and the healthcare delivery space, especially as we continue to expand the populations for which we provide care. Historically, Crossover has been thought of as a Silicon Valley onsite clinic, but now we’re in regions like Detroit, Phoenix, Louisville, Dallas, and San Bernardino as part of our work with Amazon. In addition to the young invincibles at Facebook, Crossover is now managing incredibly complex patient populations across the country. As a society, we’re just starting to recognize the scale of unmet needs that people have, but meeting those needs is something that Crossover has been passionate about since day one, from the design of their clinics to their virtual care offering. People are looking for a meaningful experience, one where they feel valued and heard and part of the conversation, as opposed to merely a recipient of information.
You mentioned Crossover’s attention to the benefits space. Could you elaborate on that?
Healthcare benefits will continue to evolve, and the way that employers structure benefits plans is becoming an enticing part of a compensation package for employees. Crossover can be a differentiator—we’re already seeing that with the desire of members who have experienced Crossover to continue the Crossover experience, even if they change employers. That level of stickiness is powerful and I’m really excited to see where it goes next.
The integrated care model and the idea of looking at the bigger picture go right back to your dinner table conversations when you were young.
Agreed. Not only does Crossover have the experience of providing a broader care model, we’re also garnering insights into how to do this across different populations, as well as how to understand the way different cohorts behave and what their need structures are. It’s really hard for people to articulate their actual needs when we’ve trained our society to think that healthcare is sick care. Crossover is uniquely positioned to impact all the things that genuinely affect our health, including the lifestyle issues that we should be focusing on as we move about in our busy lives.
Crossover has the challenge of neither being a conventional medical group nor a technology-driven virtual care company. How do we turn this into a positive?
People are starting to expect a multi-channel approach from their delivery system, whether it’s texting with their provider or a quick jump onto a screen to ask about a rash. The convenience factor is an important part of the impact that we can have with members, especially when it comes to identifying issues early.
But, I think people still really like going to their doctor. There’s a level of reassurance provided by brick and mortar—that Crossover also offers—and it’s incredibly complementary to virtual care. Virtual care can continue to expand out from, say, synchronous telehealth to texting and appointment reminders and proactive outreach and many more things like that. But it’s just one of the many mechanisms that we have to engage members where they are. In order to truly have the impact and the experience that we want people to have, there has to be multiple channels of trust.
As you said, consumer expectations are still ahead of where care delivery typically is today: Any comments about how to bridge the gap?
I don’t really want to compare industries, but the financial sector, which is equally rife with a similar bureaucracy and regulation as healthcare, has really navigated to a dot.com and app-based world and healthcare just hasn’t gotten there yet.
My grandmother used to go to the bank every day. That’s where the trust was. But now, trust has transitioned in banking, and rideshare, and retail—but it hasn’t yet transitioned in healthcare. I admit, healthcare is pretty personal and there’s so much emotion in it, so the transition to multiple channels will be hard without some brick and mortar involved as a helpful bridge to the future. I think Crossover has cracked the code on being that bridge. They understand that the trust-building experiences and the associated culture of care are equally as important as the clinical experience.
This vision that Scott, Nate and the leadership team have laid out continues to be focused on delivering the best experience—regardless of if someone’s here to have a conversation with their therapist, they need heavier clinical intervention, or if they have come in for an acupuncture treatment. This comprehensive view of looking at a whole life and rising to your patient’s question is not one that is shared throughout our healthcare delivery system, yet it’s the foundation of trust.
What’s your role as a Board member? What value and insight does your unique background bring?
Being a Board member is such a privileged perspective to have into a company and I take this responsibility incredibly seriously. You have to first ramp up and actually understand the business—I’m still in that ramping-up phase. I’ve been making the rounds with all of the leadership team at Crossover to learn how they think about their jobs, what concerns they have, and what they’re excited about. These insights will help me start building out what each of the leaders think they need in order to drive their portion of the business to the next level.
Crossover has an incredible opportunity, but we have to move quickly. Part of my job is to think about how we continue to quantify our impact. How do we better tell our powerful story? How do we think about where we can take this care delivery chassis that’s been handcrafted every step of the way, to the next order of magnitude impact, and go well beyond the current employers and members we serve today.
Then I want to dive into what we have to include to continue to add value. We have some unique insights, skills, and care delivery capabilities that we’ve been able to build and accrue over time, but what are complementary features and adjacencies that we need to start exploring? How should we continue to add accretive value to the business—value that the market will then reward us for—without losing sight of the deeply curated experience that has already been created?
How do you preserve the unique culture of care that has evolved at Crossover?
That’s a challenge companies the world over have faced as they’ve grown, whether they go public or stay private. What strikes me is that, from the leadership to the front lines, most everyone talks about the same, few, simple things when you ask them about Crossover—the member experience inside and outside the health centers, the incredibly thoughtful center and care model design, the work ethic of their colleagues, and the high moral compass of the company. Not many people in any company I can think of would rattle off those things on a regular basis, regardless of their role, and it’s an incredibly strong starting point.
Is there something about Kelsey Mellard that you’d want people to know?
I think the thing that I’m most passionate about is getting outside every day, regardless of the season. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a place where we had all four seasons and I learned to love all of them. In hindsight, I spent, on average, three hours a day outside from middle school to my early 20s, playing soccer. A little outside time still goes a long way for me, and I continued to play pickup soccer prior to the pandemic. I’m excited to get back out there when we are all able to gather again.
One of the jokes I learned when I moved to California was that you can get four seasons in a day. You start with your puffy vest on in the morning, and then you shed that and just have your sweater on, then you’ve just got your T-shirt on, and eventually it’s just you and your tank top—and then you start putting everything back on again through the evening. I’ve gotten very good at the layering game!