Five years ago, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin launched Inception Health LLC, an innovation arm focused on solving health care problems and improving the patient experience. Inception’s staff vet and implement new innovations, remotely monitor its digital solutions, and identify other promising companies to invest in. The groundwork Inception had been laying for years to help Froedtert & MCW adopt more digital health tools proved useful when the health system had to quickly switch wholesale to virtual appointments last spring. In a recent interview with BizTimes Milwaukee associate editor Lauren Anderson, Inception president and chief executive officer Mike Anderes said video visits and remote patient monitoring were more than a stopgap measure – they have permanently changed health care delivery going forward.
What has Inception’s role been in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“The pandemic probably drove more digital transformation of our industry – and not just ours, but others – than the last five years combined. … The work (we’ve been doing) paid off; when we had to immediately move to a virtual model of care, we were able to do it in about a week-and-a-half period of time. So, it was fast. We moved from almost 100% in-person care to 75% virtual care in that one-week period of time. And so that meant every single provider that we have was getting trained or dusting off their old learnings about how to do virtual visits, telephone visits, other means of connecting with patients without having to come in. That made it so within a few weeks, we were almost seeing the same number of patients as pre-pandemic because we were able to turn that service on so fast.”
“But we just layered on a whole bunch of additional digital capabilities to help people get COVID tested, to get a COVID care kit to their house, monitor them digitally during their disease journey. And if they had any problems, 24/7, we were able to help them remotely.”
Inception was already doing some remote monitoring of patients before COVID. How has that evolved?
“What we have now is a digital therapeutic formulary. So just as you have a drug formulary, we have the ability to prescribe digital tools for people that might have diabetes or depression or are pregnant. Every one of these tools engages with that individual around their condition on a daily basis in their home. It could be something where they’re entering data to let the care team know how they’re doing. If you’re pregnant, you might be getting on a scale to check your weight and doing blood pressure to make sure your blood pressure is in range. And then that data is coming back to the care team. … We have something like 35 or 36 different conditions we prescribe digital prescriptions for.
“That changes what was a visit-based structure – where you go in to see your doctor for a visit and then maybe 3 months later you go back in to see your doctor and everything that happened in between is an unknown – to something where we are actually able to help people every day of the year with their conditions.”
How do you expect utilization of those services to change?
“It will continue to grow. The idea that you can sort of have your care team in your pocket, or with you whenever you’re dealing with your condition, not only when you go in to see them for a visit, that’s a change we’re not going to come back from. … Because the reality is people have medical conditions every minute of their day, and to try to manage them for 15 minutes once every month or every few months is not adequate.”
There’s been so much change and disruption in the health care industry this past year. Do you think the pace of change will continue moving forward, or will people be able to catch their breath for a bit?
“The people who work in the industry, I think, would love to take a few deep breaths but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible. One of the things we’ve seen is that when health care becomes more digital, it really expands the number of people or types of organizations that start to try to participate in health care. We see that with big companies, the retailers, the Walmarts and Walgreens. Those organizations saw a lot of growth in this period of time in their health care services – I don’t see that slowing down – which really means everyone in the industry has to put their foot on the accelerator in order to be successful. … On a national scale, the people who are digital leaders, they’re going to keep making more leaps and bounds, whereas those that are digital laggards are going to be far behind. Over the next few years, you’ll see the separation for those with really good digital expertise that are able to meet the demands of the consumer.”