Clear Arch Health: Q&A with Dr. Joe Kvedar
Clear Arch Health, a leader in Remote Patient Monitoring and Remote Life Safety, sat down with Joe Kvedar, MD, Professor of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School; Senior Advisor, Mass General Hospital Center for Innovation in Digital HealthCare; Chair of the Board, the ATA, Editor-in-Chief, npj Digital Medicine, and MobileHelp board director.
Clear Arch Health: Let’s jump right in. You were one of the early telehealth pioneers and now you’re helping the industry adapt, expand and fight for its place in care delivery. Telehealth has come a long way, but the road ahead is still uncertain. As you prepare for your annual keynote at ATA2022, what’s on your mind about the next phase of digital healthcare delivery? What’s next for telehealth and how do we get virtual care to always be at the right place at the right time for patients?
Dr. Kvedar: We need to bring more doctors into the fold. Their reticence is the main thing holding the industry back right now. This reticence is understandable and emanates from several very fundamental – and solvable – issues:
- Lack of clarity on reimbursement. The payer community is not unified in its approach to telehealth reimbursement. Much of this is due to the fact that we are all waiting for the Administration to make decisions about what will happen to essential flexibilities put in place during the pandemic that allow for telehealth access whenever and wherever people need it. Providers understand this and are reluctant to make big investments in telehealth as a sustained part of their delivery programs.
- Workflow integration. Many provider organizations added telehealth to their in-person schedules during the pandemic, exacerbating worries about burnout. Telehealth should substitute for in-person workload.
- Lack of clarity on clinical indications. With rare exception, few providers have invested the energy required to clarify which interactions are ideal for telehealth, which should be handled in person, and which can be left to patient preference.
- Uneven technology deployments. There has been lots of frustration on both patients’ and providers’ parts due to technology that was difficult to use and/or unreliable.
All of these matters will be examined in detail at the conference.
CAH: One of the growing trends in healthcare is collaboration between care delivery systems and technology solution providers. As you know, Clear Arch Health was recently acquired by Advocate Aurora Enterprises (a subsidiary of the Advocate Aurora Health, a 26-hospital not-for-profit health system) as part of its strategy to advance innovative solutions that go beyond traditional clinical care to support whole person health and help people live well. Why do you think we are seeing more of these novel collaborations, and will it benefit healthcare providers and patients?
Dr. Kvedar: I think it’s become abundantly clear that quality healthcare does not need to only take place in a hospital or doctor’s office. Many provider-patient interactions can and should be conducted virtually.
Advocate Aurora is to be congratulated for their leadership and vision in their acquisition of Clear Arch Health and its parent, MobileHelp. As large, geographically disbursed hospital systems look at the future, they see a world where the locus of care is not in their brick-and-mortar facilities, but in the home. The Clear Arch Health acquisition will help Advocate Aurora leapfrog others into this new world.
CAH: Let’s talk remote patient monitoring, a highly competitive segment of the connected healthcare market that is growing rapidly, especially since the pandemic. Where do you see the opportunities for RPM solutions and, more importantly, what can companies like Clear Arch Health do to continue delivering meaningful and sustainable RPM solutions to healthcare organizations?
Dr. Kvedar: This is an exciting development for me, personally, as I have championed this mode of care delivery for a couple of decades. The two big opportunities for RPM are:
- Improved management of patients with chronic illness, especially in settings where value-based reimbursement is paramount. There are examples of how using these tools can help organizations achieve true population health and one-to-many service delivery.
- Integration with consumer wearables and mobile apps to merge the areas of chronic illness management and lifestyle/wellness.
CAH: Telehealth became a household word over the past two years and a primary and proven modality for care delivery during the pandemic. Then usage dropped quite a bit and now there is a gradual, yet steady increase in telehealth and virtual care services. Do you believe we will ever establish a hybrid care delivery system that includes both in-person and virtual care, and what are the critical challenges that could stand in the way?
Dr. Kvedar: During the pandemic, when patients were told to stay away from hospitals and their doctor’s office, telehealth usage soared. It was the only way providers could take care of our patients. As patients were able to start seeking in-person care again, understandably, the demand for virtual care decreased. But this decline was largely seen in surgical and procedural specialties and less so in other areas of care, including adult primary care, obstetrics/gynecology, oncology, and behavioral health. But it’s important to point out that telehealth usage today is 24-fold higher than it was in 2019.
As I mentioned earlier, a big challenge is that we still don’t know what the ideal mix of telehealth vs in-person services is. This would be a wonderful project for a health economist graduate student or think tank. The next phase should be one where we see clear triage rules for telehealth vs in-person care, leading to improved access and improved efficiency.
In addition, many of the critical challenges that were threatening our healthcare system pre-pandemic – severe provider shortages, an aging population requiring more care, escalating costs, provider burnout – are still looming. Telehealth and virtual care services are a big part of the solution.
I wholeheartedly believe that we will establish a hybrid care delivery system. We are making good progress as we continue to learn, innovate, and adapt to a changing healthcare environment. We’ll be discussing many of these challenges and opportunities, and the path forward, at ATA2022.
Don’t miss Clear Arch Health President, John Bojanowski, and Scott Powder, President of Advocate Aurora Enterprises, in their ATA2022 Executive Spotlight, Interesting Bedfellows: Innovative Hospital Systems and Solution Providers Creating Partnerships that are Pushing the Boundaries of Traditional Care on Monday May 2. Hear them discuss strategies for moving care beyond traditional brick-and-mortar facilities to strengthen the care continuum and improve health outcomes. Please visit Clear Arch Health at Booth #1214.