How One Man’s Chronic Back Pain Inspired the Inception of Garner Health

Founder and CEO Nick Reber describes how personal health struggles compelled him to establish a company dedicated to connecting patients with top-performing doctors.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Jul. 12, 2023
How One Man’s Chronic Back Pain Inspired the Inception of Garner Health
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What do Garner Health and the Oakland Athletics baseball team have in common?

They both evaluate performance to achieve optimal results. While the Oakland A’s established a way to measure players’ skill levels and ultimately change the future of baseball (as portrayed in the movie Moneyball), Garner Health is doing the same for doctors and the healthcare industry. 

Low-quality healthcare — and its consequences — has affected countless Americans, including Nick Reber. Before he founded Garner Health, Reber was experiencing chronic back pain, and after receiving multiple misdiagnoses and undergoing four surgeries, he decided to take action. 

“I’ve seen the healthcare system from the inside, and I’m passionate about fixing it,” he said. 

Reber initially established a health insurance startup, where his team discovered that the one major factor that determines costs and health outcomes isn’t related to age or specific ailment — it’s the individual doctor a patient sees. 

I’ve seen the healthcare system from the inside, and I’m passionate about fixing it.”

Realizing this, Reber’s team wanted to make it so that top-rated doctors at a specific hospital would be presented to prospective patients, therefore weeding out low-performers. When this idea received pushback from healthcare systems, he switched gears and founded Garner Health, which partners with employer-sponsored health plans to deliver high-quality care.  

Garner’s approach to connecting patients with the best doctors is a win-win for everyone. Not only do people have a better chance of healing more quickly with fewer complications, but they also have their out-of-pocket costs covered when they see a Garner-rated doctor. 

All of these perks feed into the company’s vision, which is “to create a virtuous cycle that leads to a higher quality of care and lower cost over time for everyone,” Reber said. 

Here’s what Reber had to say about Garner Health’s inception, its impact and the power of its mission-driven culture. 


On the creation of Garner Health:

Nick Reber
CEO, Garner Health  • Garner Health

“Up until now, most people have made their healthcare decisions based on a hospital or hospital system. But it turns out that, even within the most prestigious hospitals in the country, there are massive variations in doctor quality. As a health plan, I wanted to help our members find the top-performing doctors in our networks using digital tools and plan design. So we took our data on doctor performance to all of the hospitals across the country. The response I repeatedly received was, ‘We love what you’re doing, but if you want to work with us and you want our doctors in your network, you have to treat all doctors exactly the same.’ Frankly, I got frustrated, and that’s when I started Garner. 

“The idea behind Garner was, ‘How do we get the information around doctor quality and really make it impactful?’ We’ve aggregated 75 percent of the claims data in the country, and we analyze it in a really different way to understand doctor performance. And then we’ve created a whole new payments layer that sits outside of the health plan, which gives our members really clear incentives to see doctors that will keep them healthy — and therefore lower their total healthcare costs.” 



When Reber analyzed data from the nation’s healthcare system, the results were clear: Low-quality healthcare financially impacts all Americans, especially those in the middle class, a section of the population that hasn’t experienced a wage increase in roughly 30 years. “What they’ve gotten is increasingly expensive healthcare benefits, which haven’t created better health outcomes,” he said. “Even now, the average American family doesn’t have enough cash on hand to pay for their deductible bill, so they’re functionally uninsured.” By covering patients’ out-of-pocket costs, Garner aims to confront this issue directly, establishing a more equitable, beneficial system


On Garner Health’s impact: 

“We have really changed the economics of healthcare by giving employees richer benefits if they engage with us and use our tools. Changing those financial flows is really key to changing the system. We’ve seen employees using our platform frequently. We have engagement rates that 10-20 times better than the industry average. We’ve actually started to receive calls from providers who say, ‘Hey, I’ve heard about your data. Could I have it to refer my patients to better doctors?’ Or, ‘I’ve been losing some patient volume. Could I use your tool to improve my own performance?’” 


On its mission-driven culture:

“One of Garner’s goals is to create a community that is a joy to be a part of, in which everyone can do their best work and realize their full potential. So what does that mean? First and foremost, we select a group of people who are passionate about our mission. We aren’t big on politics, and we don’t have a lot of jockeying for internal positioning. We’re a group of people who are really willing to put the common goal first. 

We’re a group of people who are really willing to put the common goal first.”

“Because we care so much about our mission, we have really high standards for our work. In other words, Garner is a place where really talented people come to do their best work and be pushed to be even better by other really talented people. This doesn’t mean that you have to work 100 hours a week, but it does mean that when we’re here, we’re bringing our best and asking those around us to do the same. 

“We’re a really empathetic and supportive community. We spend a lot of time building relationships and cultivating trust as a community. When one person is going to give someone else direct, constructive feedback, it’s their obligation to give it in a way that’s most likely to help the other person learn, grow and improve. That doesn’t mean we water it down or sugarcoat things; we try really hard to understand where the other person is coming from and let them know that you support them and there’s something you think they could do better going forward.”


Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Garner Health.