Nobody's at this startup for the free lunches or pingpong table. They're really here for each other.

Nobody's at this startup for the free lunches or pingpong table. They're really here for each other.

A taxidermied skunk perched on a floating table. Tons of thrift store-sourced clocks hanging in the air on fishing wire. Stacked boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal. It's all there at CrossChx's office at the corner of Third and Main streets in Downtown Columbus.

But don't let the whimsical decor mislead you. It is all strategically designed as part of a serious focus on maintaining a workplace where employees are reminded daily of the company's core values.

CrossChx is building a healthcare revolution. The company has a goal of updating the country's outdated healthcare system, bringing technology to the fore to organize data and streamline care.

Its flagship SafeChx app-provided to healthcare providers at no charge-creates a unique biometric, fingerprint-and demographics-based ID to verify a patient's identity and link all their medical records. Queue, another CrossChx tool, works as an advanced patient registration kiosk, forgoing the typical paper-and-clipboard sign-in process at healthcare providers in favor of a digital system that helps providers reduce wait times by as much as 80 percent.

Ambitious efforts require ambitious people-and lots of them. Brian Rutkowski, vice president of resources, joined CrossChx in April 2015, around the time it announced it had raised $15 million in Series B funding, bringing total funding to more than $20 million. "We were about 30 employees then, and we knew the Series B funding was going to be about ramping up our headcount pretty significantly," Rutkowski says. Talent acquisition became his focus. A series C round produced another $15 million this April.

CrossChx now has more than 100 employees. In a recent survey, one of the workers described the company's sensibility as "young, energetic…truly looking to change the world for the better and have some fun along the way. This is the first job I can honestly say I'm excited to go to work every day."

Before joining CrossChx in December 2013, Frank Lamantia, vice president of engineering, worked at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, researching hairy cell leukemia, a rare, slow-growing cancer. It was there he experienced the challenges of tracking patient health records, especially in the presence of language and cultural barriers. CrossChx's efforts to build a universal patient ID "really resonated with me," he says, calling the lack of a single, unique identifier "an ultimate problem in healthcare."

Since 2012, CrossChx has expanded to more than 300 health systems in 900 locations, securing more than 40 million patient identities, says Bubba Fox, vice president of sales.

"We have gathered an amazing team of highly capable people, who are working to exponentially shift an entire industry, making products that really matter-and at the same time, no one takes themselves too seriously," said another.

CrossChx hosts regular employee engagement events-happy hours, birthday parties, lip sync battles, pig roasts and other informal moments. An in-house cafe with free breakfast and lunch made on-site is available to all, as are an espresso bar and craft beer tastings. And when workers have enjoyed that a little too much, an on-site gym is available for their use, too. Monthly parking costs are reimbursed, as are cell phone bills, and the PTO policy is flexible. A 401(k) match is well on its way, and, fittingly, for a company enmeshed in the world of healthcare, CrossChx funds the entirety of employees' health insurance premiums.

"Fundamentally changing the way the healthcare industry works is no small task and will require a lot of effort-and it's going to require some sacrifice as well. We want to be able to offer as many comforts as possible for our employees because they spend a lot of time here," Rutkowski says.

Rutkowski says the company's leadership encourages employees to "think like founders. We really want to maintain that sense of ownership in this company…Especially the first 100 employees, they're going to be the core of this company. So we want to foster a sense of mission, we want people to understand how their daily role ties into the overall objectives of the company, we want to give them transparency into the decision-making process. We want to give them not just the whats, but the why."

Fox says the company empowers its people with responsibility and authority. "We're providing a culture of mutual respect. Whether you're a newbie or you've been here for three years, everyone has value," he says.

The company's core values are expressed in the decor of its small meeting and private rooms. The skunk represents the value: "Put the skunk on the table," which encourages workers to have unpleasant, but necessary, conversations. The clocks illustrate another core value, "Don't put off to tomorrow what you can accomplish today." And the cereal boxes are a reminder of yet another guiding principle: "Sometimes you're the deckhand. Sometimes you're the captain."

The company also dedicates each month to celebrating one of its core values, concluding with a team-wide vote on who best exhibits that value. That person receives extra perks-a designated parking spot, breakfast with CrossChx VPs, the opportunity to design the lunch menu for the day-and to play the music of his or her choice over the office sound system.

CrossChx's emphasis on core values is one of the things that makes it special, says Rutkowski."Many companies have generic core values that they think they have to have. They throw a few platitudes on a website and check off the box. But our core values really mean something to us…There are rooms dedicated to each core value as an ever-present reminder that, 'hey, these are the foundation our company is founded on, and we need to be living and breathing in core values every day,'" he says.

The perks CrossChx provides those in its employ are appreciated, says Lamantia, but when it comes down to it, "Nobody's here for the pingpong table or the chef-they're here to fundamentally change healthcare. Ultimately, for you to be successful here, that has to resonate with you."

Jenny Wray is a freelance writer.

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