Merritt McGowan – Lyniate
It was a harrowing and difficult time for Merritt McGowan and her family.
They had moved to New York City from Mississippi in the ‘80s when her father began working on Wall Street. Just as she was becoming accustomed to life in the Big Apple, her dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease where someone’s immune system damages the central nervous system.
He was unable to work and spent time in the hospital. When the family returned to Mississippi, they found a two-year residency requirement made him ineligible for Medicare coverage for the mounting health care expenses. McGowan’s mother owned a store, but it didn’t provide enough money to pay all the bills.
Hard times indeed, but McGowan says those years also set her resolve.
“I pledged to myself to make a difference in this area,” she says. “I went to law school for health care.”
Now as the chief legal and compliance officer and company secretary for Lyniate, she’s approaching health care from the tech side, with a healthy mix of M&A, corporate governance, and employment, too.
“We’re like the pipes in the health care ecosystem or in any health care environment because we support connecting disparate systems in health systems, public health agencies, and health technology solutions,” McGowan says.
Building a company
Lyniate provides platforms and software used by hospitals to integrate billing records, medical charts, test results and related information. It was founded in 2018 when New Zealand-based Orion Health Group sold its Rhapsody platform and software to Hg, a British private equity company, and Hg turned that into Lyniate.
McGowan was one of about 100 Orion Health employees who was retained, and she helped create the new company. The only attorney, she worked in Orion Health’s Boston-area office, separated from her former company as she and former Chief Financial Officer Tony Perrotta set up the HR, IT, legal, and finance departments and began integrating employees working in seven countries.
At the time Lyniate didn’t even have its own computer system. Instead, it had an 18-month service agreement with Orion Health to use its IT infrastructure. Adding to the chaos, in 2019 Lyniate acquired Corepoint Health, a Frisco, Texas-based company that also offered an integration engine used to link health care information and data.
“We saw the opportunity and took it, but we barely had our feet under us,” McGowan recalls, noting the deal added 90 employees. In February the company acquired Datica Integrate to improve the cloud-based integration platform Lyniate Envoy was soon to launch.
Getting a new perspective
M&A and management were new to McGowan, requiring her to assess a company’s assets and risks. Those can include customer contracts, vendor agreements, intellectual property with patents and trademarks, compliance with regulations including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, as well as any employment or litigation issues, she says.
She got help from the firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C. Among other things, they helped determine the value of patent applications, often as part of an acquisition, and drafting deal documents. The firm has 500 attorneys, and McGowan says she can easily find an expert.
McGowan says the company has worked through the COVID-19 pandemic without needing to furlough or lay off employees, and that it had already embraced remote work because of its global operations. In July, it allowed workers to return to the office on a voluntary basis.
The Lyniate leadership team of nine includes four women, and McGowan is the only one with children under the age of 6. She says working remotely attuned her to the difficulty of home-work balance, so she advocates having people come back to the office voluntarily. She says the company understands parents need advance notice of company plans and that they need to make arrangements, such as childcare.
Taking on tech
After earning her bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in English in 2002 from Colgate University, McGowan worked for two years as a business development and sales coordinator for the Ozer Group. In 2004, she entered Suffolk University Law School in Boston because it offered studies in health care and law.
While in law school, McGowan interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston as well as Greater Boston Legal Services. At the latter, she helped people apply for health care and disability coverage but found she wanted to provide a greater impact by helping to make health care more available, she says.
She earned her J.D. in 2007, and in June 2009, McGowan became a senior researcher for the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. In December 2010, McGowan joined the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General as a mediator and policy analyst.
From 2012 to 2017, McGowan was assistant general counsel for the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, helping build its IT infrastructure and eligibility process for the Affordable Care Act. In March 2017, she joined Orion Health as its legal counsel.
“I have a personal relationship with the importance of health care,” McGowan says. “I’ve realized that working with health care tech is the best way to achieve my goal of helping the largest number of people gain access to health care.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall III 2021 Edition here.
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