New partnership with Garner Health directly addresses wasteful specialist spend in employer-sponsored healthcare

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – May 18, 2022 – Marathon Health, one of the country’s leading providers of direct primary care for employers, today announces a first-of-its-kind partnership with Garner Health, a data-driven provider search tool, to thwart the inefficiency and waste around specialty referrals.

“We believe that effective, value-driven referral management depends on two things: a high-touch approach to helping patients make care decisions, and advanced cost and quality data,” said Jeff Wells, MD, co-founder and CEO of Marathon Health. “Human-centered navigation has long been a hallmark of our patient experience, and the Garner partnership puts cutting-edge quality and cost data in our navigators’ hands for each and every referral.”

To choose a partner, Marathon conducted a comprehensive review of the major transparency and quality analytics solutions available today. Garner stood out on three critical factors: accuracy of results, scalability, and most importantly, the rigor of their next-generation approach to provider quality and appropriateness measurement.

“Marathon Health’s primary care platform is the perfect place to accelerate the Garner story,” said Nick Reber, founder and CEO of Garner Health. “We are excited about the chance to broaden the impact of our provider analytics beyond Garner’s existing employee-facing health benefits program. By integrating our data into Marathon’s best-in-class direct primary care capabilities, we can ensure more patients get the high quality care they deserve.”

The eye-popping prices imposed by many of our country’s largest health systems have long plagued employer-sponsored health care, leaving most consumers confused and disheartened when they get the bill. For instance, a 2018 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found an 8X spread in knee replacement prices and a 12X spread for lower limb MRIs. High prices, coupled with the frequent practice of making unnecessary referrals, are a key driver of our country’s ever-increasing healthcare spend, which is on pace to exceed $5 trillion by 2025.

The first step of transforming our broken system is re-anchoring it on primary care and empowering independent providers to help steer the patient’s healthcare journey by grounding it in a true understanding of quality and cost outcomes.

Today, referral decisions are often made with insufficient information and influenced by healthcare providers who are incentivized to refer “within the system” or to “friends and family.” Marathon Health believes Garner is the best partner to attack those antiquated practices head on because of its 500+ proprietary, specialty-specific measures that uncover the impact of a provider’s practices on the total cost of care. They can also accurately predict prices of common “shoppable” procedures, specific to the health plan network. Garner is a pioneer in the next generation of quality measurement — surpassing legacy tools which have fallen short in their ability to track a specialist’s care practices beyond narrow episodes.

Marathon’s approach to referral management does not rely on consumer adoption, another pitfall in the market. Instead, Marathon Health’s 30+ team of in-house referral specialists leverage the Garner data through its proprietary care navigation platform and help coach patients on their provider choices. When a Marathon Health provider makes a referral, it routes to the referral team, who then reaches out to the patient within one business day to collect preferences and return a custom list of recommendations that are in-network. That service helps ensure patients get needed care, avoiding care gaps, and yields a close rate 60% higher than the traditional system, while achieving a patient net promoter score (NPS) over 90.

“Our coordinators are a remarkable group of people who care deeply about the patient experience and are highly trained in referral management,” said Wells. “Patients rave about the unexpected level of support they receive from this team every day. It is that trust that earns us the opportunity to play such a decisive role in specialist selection.”


About Marathon Health

Marathon Health partners with employers around the United States to deliver a healthcare experience that’s convenient and drives real behavior change that results in better health outcomes and financial savings. Employers save an average of $2,000 per year for each employee who engages with Marathon Health, with the average company saving around $11 million. Marathon Health delivers its advanced primary care solution across more than 265 onsite, Network and virtual health centers in 42 states. Marathon Health was named Best in KLAS 2021 and 2020 for its excellence in Worksite Health Services. For more information, please visit

About Garner

Garner Health Technology, Inc. is a health technology company that offers both a benefit program that helps employees find the best doctors in their community, and a novel tool to power data-driven provider referrals. Using a new approach to data science and novel financial incentives, Garner is able to lower out-of-pocket spending for employees, save employers 10% or more on overall health benefit costs, and provide doctors with the tools to make more informed referrals for their patients. For more information, please visit


Alyssa Paldo for Marathon Health