Conversa Health operates with the understanding that health happens between visits. The San Rafael, CA-based startup develops patient relationship management solutions to keep patients and care teams connected and informed. Their Digital Checkup service automates targeted outreach, allowing provider practices to efficiently communicate with patients and help them reach their care goals. The actionable patient data from Digital Checkup flows right into the EHR, just like lab reports. Oliver Wyman Associate Terrance Wallace caught up with Conversa Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Dr. Philip Marshall to learn more about how this application can advance patient engagement and population health:
Terrance Wallace: How did Conversa Health get started?
Dr. Philip Marshall: Today we really don’t know how patients are doing between visits. Because of the reforms to payment and more value-based models such as bundled payments, ACO, or capitation, it’s really incumbent on providers to know how their patients are doing between visits so they can provide the right level of support and resources. Conversa Health recognized that opportunity in the marketplace and began providing a digital checkup tool that enables care teams, providers, health systems, or even payers to be able to have more of a continuous and collaborative outreach to their patients – we call this the Digital Checkup. That automated outreach can gather and analyze patient reported data to be able to provide real-time support and guidance to help keep the patient on track. That data is also brought back to the care team so they can see how that patient is doing in order to prioritize their resources appropriately. Right now patients and providers are in the dark between visits.
TW: How is the rise in digital engagement impacting the healthcare ecosystem?
PM: Consumers are now increasingly empowered by digital technology. I’m not just talking about millennials; I’m talking about everybody – all the way to people in their 80s. As consumers are more prepared to be participants in digital engagement, the healthcare system can bridge this gap more readily. And with the right financial incentives in place, this is the right time to do so. Digital technology primarily impacts the healthcare system because of patient participation and engagement. That is a variable that has been missing despite many attempts, be they patient portals or otherwise. Now patients are able to be equal participants in their care, and that’s becoming more and more of a requirement.
TW: What role will Conversa play in the transformation?
PM: We are bridging the gap and allowing patients and care teams to be on the same page with regard to patient status and goals. We are able to reinforce that on a regular basis, help the patient to monitor their condition on a regular basis, and report that back to the care teams in a way that makes it a more continuous and collaborative extension of the existing relationship. This helps doctors have better relationships with patients. All we are doing is automating the conversation digitally to extend that relationship between visits. Providers still have the traditional resources that they can apply, whether an office visit, a phone call, or another channel. We’re helping clients be smarter about where they apply those resources. With Conversa, clients will know where their entire population stands with regard to goals that they have. These goals range from chronic care management goals, to medication adherence, to pre- or post-surgical goals. We help the care teams know how their patient populations are doing.
TW: How does Conversa unlock the power of data and analytics to enable providers to deliver better care, outcomes, and consumer experience?
PM: When most companies talk about data and analytics, they’re talking about looking in the rearview mirror. We look at analytics in a different way. We have a particular competency at Conversa Health and that’s the ability to deeply profile patients based on all of their data, including their electronic health record data. What that allows us to do is create a profile of each individual that lives and breathes based on additional participation that they have in our system or additional data that comes into the EHR. As that data changes and we analyze trends over time, we’re able to marry that with data driven logic of what we say to whom and under what circumstances. Our approach to data allows us to create an extremely deep and personalized experience that really does reflect what the provider knows about the patient. So it truly can be an extension of the conversation. As the provider brings that patient back, we can analyze that data in a way that facilitates a dynamic conversation. Digital checkups make the population analysis so much richer because providers can truly see who’s falling off the rails and who might need that telephone call or office visit.
TW: How will Conversa add value to the ecosystem – and what does a win look like?
PM: For a patient that is non-adherent to his care plan or has clinical values that are off track - with Conversa Health each and every one of those patients is identified well before they would have been identified in the standard model. Value-based care may be barreling down the track, but there is no way to know which patients in a value-based system are going to need care without running this kind of service. The value that we provide is that a provider will truly know how patients are doing. And the only way you will know is if you ask. We automate the “asking and messaging” on behalf of health systems. So when a provider is able to get a patient back on track sooner, that’s certainly value for the patient. But it also adds value for health systems – in avoiding that readmission or complication that might require hospitalization. It’s really about turning the healthcare system into one that is proactive rather than reactive. The only way to be proactive is to know what you need to be acting upon, and the only way to know that is to ask. Payers also benefit because they are avoiding the downstream complications. With a valued-based model, there’s really no one who doesn’t benefit.
TW: What projects and partnerships are you working on now?
PM: We have a few new strategic partnerships that are a key part of our scalable business model. One is a partnership with Healthgrades, where we have integrated with their CRM platform to create a population health management solution that is an extension of their clinical offerings. The second is with Emmi Solutions, a leading patient engagement company that chose us to help power their next generation platform. The third is a leading care management company where we’ve been asked to help automate the care management process. Those fall into three important categories: healthcare CRM, patient engagement, and care management.
TW: We know that big change in healthcare is possible. What big changes do you see driving what healthcare looks like in the future?
PM: The big changes we are going to see in healthcare are going from a reactive model to a proactive model and going from an episodic model to a continuous and collaborative model. All of that requires delivery systems and patients being on equal footing. Patients will need to be equal partners in that process, and it’s the tools and services that enable proactive, continuous, and collaborative healthcare that are going to be the biggest movers. We believe this is the biggest gap and opportunity in healthcare, and why we’re going after this market.
TW: What should leaders be thinking about that is NOT on their radar?
PM: We know that we’re early in how we enable delivery teams to have the information they need to know about who to bring into the office, or call, or have a video visit with. I would say that leaders need to think about how the patient plays a bigger role. What I think they’ll recognize is that the systems and procedures that they put in place are really quite centered around the providers and their workflow, and less open to patients being a regular and ongoing participant in the process. What they need to begin to think about is how they can begin to lay the foundation for how patients become a regular part of the process and how they can capitalize on that in a value-based model. How can they open up their system to having the patient being a more equal participant? That takes a mind shift that says you are wholeheartedly embracing the notion of value-based care, whether you are fee-for-service or not.