Alongside Virta Health’s work in trying to cure type 2 diabetes, the CFO of this virtual healthcare startup keeps busy finding solutions for a range of other challenges. Specifically, he is focused on minimizing the headaches from the B2B world’s reliance on outdated, paper-based checks and legacy infrastructures.
“Like many other businesses at this time, we’re trying to use technology as much as possible to make our billing and payments processes as easy and as frictionless as possible, both for our customers and for the vendors we use,” Virta Health Chief Finance Officer Alok Bhushan told PYMNTS in an interview.
Virta Health has done a very good job of digitizing its own payments, with Bhushan revealing that the company is 100% digital on that front. But it still has a ways to go on the accounts receivable front, as a significant number of its customers — around 20% — are still paying with old-fashioned checks.
It’s a Growth Driver
Digitization hasn’t just made life easier for Virta Health and the companies it works with: It was really a necessity for the company to grow as fast as it has, Bhushan said.
“Because of the pace at which venture-backed, high-growth businesses grow, there’s so much you have to invest in to ensure you aren’t left behind,” he said. “What worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow unless you’re investing in tools that will help you do five times, 10 times or 50 times more than what you were doing yesterday.”
Bhushan explained that technology has led the way in everything from receivables to payables and treasury to tax — and even on the auditing side, as the industry has moved rapidly from the Excel spreadsheets of old to new, cloud-based, collaborative planning tools.
“It makes the whole process really easy — even more so on the approvals and workflow side than on the payments side,” Bhushan noted. “I really appreciate the level of control that technology enables, where individual budget owners are able to approve invoices and get the level of authorization needed to make those payments.”
Technology can be a big enabler, but Bhushan stressed that it’s necessary to achieve the right balance when modernizing payment and billing systems — having too many processes will overly complicate things, while having too few means the company loses control.
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“If you have too much process too early, then you reduce flexibility and slow things down both internally and externally,” he said. “But at the same time, with too little process, you can end up losing control as your business gets away from you. So, it’s all about finding the right balance between the two.”
No Silver Bullets
In addition to balance, it’s also necessary to understand the limitations of technology. Take artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, which have so often been touted for their potential to automate many of the backend processes at today’s companies. Bhushan said AI is not the answer to everything, and that its best use case is for handling repeatable and safe tasks, such as uploading invoices into a system, where it can apply checks and identify the person who needs to approve it. When it comes to tasks that require more judgment, it’s much harder to apply AI reliably, he noted.
“Particularly for us, a fast-growing company where things are changing constantly, we’ve found that you don’t really get time to train AI on the datasets you’re looking at, because the thing that worked today may be slightly different tomorrow,” Bhushan explained. “That constant change makes it more difficult to apply AI across a broad number of situations.”
Lots of Hats
As CFO, Bhushan has discovered that he plays an important role in expanding digitization to other areas of the company’s operations. He told PYMNTS that the CFO of today needs to be involved in the planning side of every department, helping to figure out which new technologies and tools to bring in.
“The CFO has to wear many hats, and oftentimes that includes areas outside of traditional accounting and finance, and into things such as human resources,” Bhushan said. “It’s all about understanding where to add value and get that return on investment, so you can work out how to best invest in the company’s growth.”
Despite all the efforts Virta Health has made so far to digitize its business, Bhushan said it remains an ongoing evolution, one that likely has no end in sight. Now that its payment processes have been entirely digitized, Virta Health’s subscription management platform is next in line for an overhaul.
“The one thing that’s really top of mind is billing and subscriptions, and it’s something many recurring revenue businesses have to face,” he said. “Right now, we use a homegrown subscriptions manager. While it has worked for our needs in the past, I think we do need a more formal system of record that gives us greater control and flexibility to set up new deal types and billing mechanisms.”