Brooke LeVasseur: “Don’t forget patients are people”

Empowering Primary Care Physicians (PCPs): They should be at the center of care, and we need to empower them with the tools to support them taking on risk. A continued shift towards value-based care is crucial for our ability to drive lasting, positive change in the US healthcare system. As a part of my interview […]

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Empowering Primary Care Physicians (PCPs): They should be at the center of care, and we need to empower them with the tools to support them taking on risk. A continued shift towards value-based care is crucial for our ability to drive lasting, positive change in the US healthcare system.

As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Brooke LeVasseur, CEO of AristaMD, has over 15 years of leadership experience launching new, innovative healthcare products and solutions to payors and providers. Her expertise across the healthcare spectrum — from consumer health to medical devices and diagnostics — provides the industry acumen needed to guide AristaMD’s efforts to rapidly penetrate the eConsult market.

After graduating from Stanford University, she went into equity research, covering medtech companies for Thomas Weisel Partners. Since then, LeVasseur has worked with numerous start-ups in a variety of capacities, including: corporate and commercial strategy, marketing and new business creation where she has led teams to successfully commercialize new healthcare tools and gain widespread clinician adoption and reimbursement.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I broke my back in a car accident when I was 16. What ensued were multiple surgeries and hardware throughout my back. When thinking about careers in college, this experience drew me to join an equity research team at Thomas Weisel Partners covering medical device companies in the orthopedic space whose innovations had allowed me to live a normal, active life after the accident. I’ve carried this interest through my career adventures from there, including Veracyte, Sequenom, and now AristaMD. I have always been a part of companies that bring innovation to healthcare and improve patients’ and their families’ lives.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

At AristaMD, we take great pride in our best-in-class technology platform, directing a lot of resources towards this effort. However, one of our most successful initiatives was born completely out of a mix of happenstance and necessity. Prior to raising our Series B round of funding, we were operating with limited resources, and providers were finding our V1 app solution to be time consuming and clunky. In response to that, we launched a white-glove nurse offering in which we provided nursing staff that could act as an extension of a clinic and take up all the heavy manual lifting that previously the clinics were supposed to support. This simple, low-tech offering was a complete game changer and overnight resulted in exponential growth in adoption of our solution. In healthcare, listening to the customer is so important versus building tech in a vacuum!

Today we now offer a variety of solutions, employing full technical integrations as well as continuing to support numerous clients with our nurse extension program. I love our team’s creative, tool-agnostic approach to solving client problems.

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?

Several years ago, I was rushing to meet with a large group at one of our clients, including the former CEO and COO. I arrived with five minutes to spare and hopped out of the car, only to notice that I had two different shoes on. I was dying inside with embarrassment, and for five minutes I sat in my car, considering cancelling the meeting. After much agonizing, I finally waltzed into the office and declared to the assembled team that yes, I was wearing two totally different shoes. We all had a good laugh and moved on without anyone really batting an eyelash. Through small mistakes like this one and other much larger gaffes, I have learned that being authentic, open to sharing flaws, asking for help, and being transparent with your team and customers are really important leadership skills.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We value genuine connections at AristaMD. The close, collaborative culture we have built fosters true sharing and trust, and that extends to our clients. We are repeatedly told that we are unique as vendors in that we speak our client’s language, understand their unique pain points and don’t try to force a one-size-fits-all solution on everyone we work with.

What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?

Put your employees first. Team members who feel valued, seen, listened to and supported will be able to deliver their best work. Don’t inadvertently diminish your team’s potential by not investing enough in developing an employee-empathetic culture.

According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US 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 US is ranked so poorly?

Two of the most important factors in the health of a population are accessibility and affordability of care, and our country’s healthcare system currently has issues with both — specifically for the uninsured and under-insured populations. Many parts of our country also struggle with high rates of poverty and income inequality which impact many of the building blocks of good health, such as reliable access to food and shelter.

At AristaMD, we are motivated by the power of eConsults to improve these vectors. Across all our customers, we decrease referrals to specialists by over 70%. What this means for vulnerable populations is that they receive full and better care from their primary care clinic and don’t have to struggle with all of the social determinants to get to an unnecessary specialist appointment. This has an impact on affordability of care, allowing for lower utilization of medical care and more appropriate medication management, two factors that are particularly important for this population.

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 US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Empowering Primary Care Physicians (PCPs): They should be at the center of care, and we need to empower them with the tools to support them taking on risk. A continued shift towards value-based care is crucial for our ability to drive lasting, positive change in the US healthcare system.
  2. Utilizing the right tools at the right time: The pandemic has highlighted the importance of telehealth and virtual tools. There is a role for using AI for front door triage, using video for low acuity PCP visits, tapping into eConsults for more complex issues where a specialist needs to weigh in, and using patient-to-doc messaging for follow-up. These tools can be used to match patients to the right resources in the right place.
  3. Consumerization: Don’t forget patients are people. Health care companies must innovate in ways that help providers deliver a better consumer experience with a focus on speed, convenience and quality.
  4. Empathy: We can’t be successful in partnering with providers and ultimately having a positive impact on patients if we can’t put ourselves in their shoes and connect at a core, emotional level, with their experience.
  5. Diversity in providers and in healthcare leadership: We have too many health care executives who look nothing like the millions of people who need health care innovation the most. We need more diverse voices and backgrounds to develop products and solutions that can actually impact populations with severely underserved needs.

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?

We need to carefully align incentives that will drive lasting behavior change. Reimbursement will forever be a barrier to adopting new models. We have to design the overall system to drive use of tools, models and behaviors that align with the outcomes we want.

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 doing to improve this?

We are having an awakening in this country when it pertains to taking a more holistic view of health and its core components. Mental health is very much an integral part of overall health as are things like social determinants. To truly care for patients and foster better health, we must start to bring these facets together in a coordinated way. I am very excited about initiatives, such as the Collaborative Care Model, which seek to integrate behavioral health with primary care.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

Providers have dedicated themselves to a very important and noble cause and today are under more strain than ever. I assume every provider out there is doing their best to be an excellent provider and we need to give them the support and tools they need to fulfill this intent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be a cork on the water.” My dad taught me this saying after I got my first job out of college and today that metaphor has never felt more relevant. It means that you should allow any turbulence and rough water to bolster you up. I always try to use any chaos around me to push me above it.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re currently working on the next generation of our solution. It’s not only going to be focused on empowering eConsults, but supporting our providers, both specialists and PCPs, in a whole new way that addresses whole person needs — how we can help truly reduce burnout, empower everyone to operate at the top of their license, and maximize economic potential to deliver better care.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

I read Modern Healthcare, Xconomy, Becker’s, Healthcare IT News, and I listen to podcasts — one of my favorites is A Healthy Dose. Also, Armchair Expert with Dax Shephard, because he has real conversations, and I feel like we are collectively struggling to connect and need to embrace our shared humanity. I also like great storytelling, because creating change requires more than just data and facts, it is capturing the hearts and minds of the payors and providers and getting them to emotionally attach to our mission. So, all of the Serial seasons, This American Life and Homecoming are some of my all-times favorites.

Some of my favorite non-healthcare centered leadership and business resources include Multipliers by Liz Wiseman, Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, and Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Heather Samarin.

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?

At AristaMD we think all day long about how we can empower physicians to operate at the top of their license, and this concept can be applied to anyone. We need to find supportive mechanisms, habits and systems that can drive each of us to achieve our individual potential so that we are not wasting valuable talent, experience and resources and can collectively drive rapid progress.

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