Empower care managers with the right tools and data: Care managers are some of the most important yet least-known healthcare workers. They provide an essential role as a patient’s “go-to” healthcare advisor during the time outside a doctor’s office. They ensure patients follow care plans and have the resources they need to live happy and healthy lives. We must work to equip care managers properly to play this vital role.
As a part of my interview series with leaders in health care, I had the pleasure to interview Adam Sabloff, CEO and Founder of VirtualHealth.
Adam has worked at the forefront of healthcare transformation for more than a decade, perfecting the technologies that pioneered patient-centered care. Utilized by some of the most innovative health plans in the country, VirtualHealth’s HELIOS platform is the first comprehensive care management solution purpose-built to power the entire ecosystem of value-based care. Previously, Adam spearheaded the development of the first ever “The Ritz-Carlton Residences,” a new concept in real estate that he co-created in partnership with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Adam is a recipient of the Baltimore Business Journal’s “40 Under 40,” the Daily Record’s “Most Influential Marylanders,” and American Business Awards’ “IT Exec of the Year.” VirtualHealth has received multiple awards for its work, including #39 in Deloitte’s 2018 Technology Fast 500, Modern Healthcare’s 2018 Best Places to Work, and the 2018 TripleTree iAwards for Healthcare Engagement.
Thank you Adam for joining us in this interview series. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I initially presented the idea for VirtualHealth — a company that I believed would fundamentally transform healthcare delivery by offering a quantum leap forward in technology — a number of industry insiders were skeptical. One insider went so far as to say that the industry was better off using 1990s legacy products than a new and, by definition, unproven technology.
These early skeptics were echoing a deep conservatism within the industry and an unwillingness to embrace the risk that comes with new technology. Those early discussions made me realize that to drive lasting change in healthcare, you have to follow the incentives and slowly build a track record of success. Aligning payer interests, maximizing provider efficiency, and demonstrating improved patient outcomes was essential for adoption.
This principle of “aligning incentives” was the key to unlocking the potential of the healthcare system. It continues to guide the VirtualHealth team as we approach 10 million patients on the platform nationwide.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We were early on telehealth, connected devices, and understanding the importance of social determinants for healthcare. Back in 2012 we were building an integrated tracking and alerting platform with built-in service coordination for Activities of Daily Life and Social Determinants of Health, but the industry was not ready and the financial and operating models to optimally support this model did not yet exist.
Today, our early experience with telehealth has enabled us to surge ahead with an integrated offering that is finding tremendous traction, particularly to help managed care organizations overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. So, this early mistake has turned into an advantage in both readiness to market but also understanding of how the entire ecosystem can work together.
Ultimately, I thought I could change the industry overnight. Now, more than eight years later, I know lasting change takes patience, perseverance, and gradual steps in the right direction.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A decade ago, I lost a loved one to cancer. Still in her prime, she lost her life due to a late diagnosis. How could this happen in our age of technology? The hardest part of it was the realization that everyone’s incentives were ultimately aligned. Through early detection, the health system could have prevented taxing their resources, the payers wouldn’t have had to cover expensive treatments and end of life care, but most importantly, a family could have avoided a tragic loss. This event and countless others like it have fueled my passion to address the fissures in the healthcare ecosystem and move the world toward a more proactive healthcare model.
VirtualHealth’s HELIOS platform powers this mission by integrating all the siloed touchpoints in healthcare and wellness to build the first truly holistic view of the patient and drive intelligent workflows based on that view.
Our platform is the command-and-control center that captures every patient interaction within the healthcare and social support ecosystem. By partnering with VirtualHealth, organizations lower costs and enhance efficiencies while improving member health outcomes and satisfaction.
What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?
Stay focused on the mission. At our company, social impact is paramount. Our focus is to create a lasting impact by bringing proactive healthcare to our communities. When it’s a mission and not a job, anything is possible.
According to this study cited by Newsweek, the U.S. healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the U.S. is ranked so poorly?
Our healthcare system is a study in contrasts. There are extremes when it comes to quality, comprehensiveness, and costs of care. At VirtualHealth, we believe everyone deserves access to exceptional healthcare. That is a key reason why we work with many Medicare and Medicaid plans alongside our commercial clients. Our most vulnerable populations deserve the best technology to support their end-to-end healthcare journeys. We are seeing tremendous progress at both the federal and state level to bring new standards for value-based care, interoperability, and interdisciplinary collaboration. As a result of these efforts, alongside the technological innovations of companies like VirtualHealth and operational innovations of leading payer and provider organizations, I expect we will see significant improvements in our nation’s ranking in the coming years. I’m excited and privileged to be part of the group of leaders who will be making this a reality.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall U.S. healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
Significant challenges require bold solutions. Here are some ways we can improve healthcare:
- Adopt proactive models: COVID-19 has been a shock to the industry. We must be better prepared to manage national healthcare challenges and better serve existing conditions by investing in a proactive approach to care.
- Invest in infrastructure: The industry is seeing a rise in technology-enabled solutions like telehealth, digital health apps, and connected devices. The problem is all of these solutions work in siloes. The industry needs care management technology to act as the central point in healthcare, bringing all of this data together to better equip providers and clinicians with a whole-person view of the patient — including clinical, behavioral, and social determinants of health information.
- Build on telehealth momentum: The COVID-19 pandemic, despite all the terrible damage it has caused, has greatly accelerated telehealth adoption. It is vital that policymakers and insurers continue to support digital channels for care delivery. The key will be ensuring all patients have access. For example, we are seeing some insurers equipping local community centers with computers and internet access so that their community members can connect with physicians safely and securely online.
- Address inequities: A patient’s health is often determined by socioeconomic factors. The industry must address these barriers to care, including food insecurity, lack of transportation, and lack of technology access to ensure all patients can receive quality care. We have seen and been part of key initiatives in these areas, such as healthcare organizations using rideshare services to get patients to appointments. The industry needs to invest in more of these creative solutions.
- Empower care managers with the right tools and data: Care managers are some of the most important yet least-known healthcare workers. They provide an essential role as a patient’s “go-to” healthcare advisor during the time outside a doctor’s office. They ensure patients follow care plans and have the resources they need to live happy and healthy lives. We must work to equip care managers properly to play this vital role.
Ok, it’s very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
All these changes are possible, and we have already seen positive progress across the board.
For individuals, I recommend advocating to your employers and policymakers for healthcare solutions that work for you and your family. Does your family need mental health support, transportation, or just an expert to guide you through the system? Let your support network and your local leaders know what solutions would be most supportive.
For corporations, I think it is critical to remember that quality healthcare and lowering healthcare costs are not mutually exclusive. When organizations invest in quality healthcare management solutions for their populations, they simultaneously reduce costs and improve outcomes.
For communities, I believe it is time to collaborate better. Many community organizations are doing terrific work to get people clothing, food, behavioral health, and other support they need. Let us come together and combine both social and clinical data to serve our community members in the most holistic way possible.
For healthcare leaders who joined the industry to make a difference like me, I encourage you to continue to find ways to bring your innovations to more patients across the country.
I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health, and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest improving this?
The status quo needs to change. Clinical and behavioral health are not separate but inherently intertwined.
Improving health outcomes starts with making mental healthcare accessible and integrated alongside physical healthcare. For example, coordinating with the primary care providers’ workflows is essential so that an in-network mental health referral is as easy to get as other types of medical referrals.
The key is to bring together the clinical and behavioral data, the professionals, and the supports into a unified picture to best support patients.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
An “excellent healthcare provider” is someone who is well-equipped with the data, tools, and resources to do their job. Doctors, nurses, and other care providers did not dedicate their lives to caring for others so that they could spend hours searching for data. It is the responsibility of healthcare innovators to ensure our invaluable providers have access to a complete picture of a patient’s health, clear data, and a seamless process to connect patients with the resources they need.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dad always said to me, “If you don’t quit, you win,” and that is something that has stuck with me all my life. Starting a healthcare company as an industry outsider was daunting, and many people questioned whether it could be done. However, I have always believed that just when you are ready to give up is when you find success. You just have to be willing to take that one additional step no matter how hard it may seem.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Every day I wake up driven to better connect the healthcare system through an integrated platform that ingests data from across digital health tools, community resources, and clinical outcomes to deliver better care for patients. This is the change we are bringing to the world, and we are encouraged to see more payers, employers, and government organizations partner with VirtualHealth to bring this vision to life.
The team at VirtualHealth will continue to bring our customers innovative solutions for their populations’ unique needs. From COVID-19 tracing and telehealth to vaccine education and more, we will continue to deliver solutions with impact for the millions of members we proudly serve.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
In terms of business books, I enjoyed Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Jobs rooted his work in understanding that people don’t always know what they want or need and if you stay true to your conviction and put everything into something, you can offer them a truly exceptional experience that will improve their lives. I believe that mirrors a lot of the innovation that we have been pushing for in healthcare. Another book that really inspired me was Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Gameby Michael Lewis. Billy Beane brilliantly demonstrated that data can offer unprecedented insights if one only knows how to mine it. In the early days of VirtualHealth, the concept of “Moneyball for Healthcare” helped me to successfully gain early adoption.
I’m also an avid reader of science fiction. I’ve always believed that much of what is considered “science fiction” will soon be considered science fact. Exploring pie-in-the-sky ideas that are rooted in real factual science can open your eyes to innovations that are right around the corner.
Finally, the movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream was an early motivational influence for me. It’s based on the life of Preston Tucker whose dream was to build the safest, most advanced car ever made, despite the many obstacles the automotive industry threw his way. I’ve always admired his conviction and belief in his vision. It has helped me be a stronger leader in looking to help deliver the best healthcare technology, no matter the challenge.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’m hoping to inspire a proactive health movement, where care is delivered early and often, patients receive both clinical and community-based resources, and providers are equipped with the data they need to deliver great care.
Imagine if a father needed transportation for his child’s doctor visit because he didn’t own a car, and his care manager automatically scheduled a ridesharing service along with the appropriate car seat. What if a care manager noticed a patient’s medications were running low through a connected medication adherence device, so she proactively ordered a prescription refill and delivery?
These are just a few of the realities that we’re seeing today through the proactive healthcare movement and we’re just getting started! I invite other healthcare leaders and those who manage populations to join me in providing all patients with proactive care.
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