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David Holt: Engineering a New Customer Experience

Written by Kermit Pattison

In college, David “DJ” Holt studied how technology could improve health care. Now he is trying to re-engineer health care itself.

Holt, a healthcare attorney, co-founded the startup, miVoyce, which educates consumers to be more savvy about purchasing and using medical care.

Holt came to the University in 2006 to study biomedical engineering. In high school, he read the works of futurist Ray Kurzweil and became entranced by the evolution of medicine and the possibility of replacing body parts with biotechnology.

“I was going to be the guy who built all these cool devices before they make it into people’s bodies—pacemakers, hip replacements, tissue organs,” he recalled. He pursued a career in tissue engineering and secured an undergraduate research position in the University's Stem Cell Institute. Holt’s research led to a valuable discovery—that the life of a lab scientist was not for him.

“I was sitting in the lab alone at 3 a.m. cultivating stem cells. I wanted to be a little closer to people, not just sitting at a computer screen, cultivating cells, or in the traditional scientist role,” Holt said.

He began to step out of the shell of a self-described “introverted, nerdy, geeky guy.” He volunteered as an orientation leader for Welcome Week, served on the CSE student board, and founded a student cribbage club (fundraising shirt: “Your crib or mine?”).

His interests shifted toward health policy. The time was right. Congress was debating and passing the Affordable Care Act. As an undergraduate, Holt once negotiated a health care bill from $350 down to $40. This piqued his curiosity. How did the health billing system work? Was there leeway to adjust fees on the customer’s behalf?

He has remained focused on health care ever since. After graduating, he went to law school. Holt and his business partner, David Dubé, founded miVoyce.com (formerly cutmedicalbills.com). The service helps consumers navigate the medical bureaucracy and reduce costs. “There’s not a whole lot of incentive on the health insurance company or the provider to truly educate the patient about what’s covered and how much stuff costs,” Holt said.

The startup aims to fill that gap and empower consumers to act as their own advocates. According to Holt, the average customer saves about 40 percent off their original medical bills. Holt also runs a small solo law practice in healthcare and business law. He now divides his time between his startup and practice.

He still puts his engineering education to work. Instead of devices, he aspires to build a more transparent, fair and equitable system for delivering care. “I developed a very strong work ethic,” he said of his CSE education. “I learned how to manage my schedule and really prioritize working very effectively. When we had these big projects, I learned it wasn’t about how much time you put in; it was about how effective you were.”