DHW Q&A: Humanizing Healthcare With Accenture

With Darryl Gibbings-Isaac, MD
Accenture, Senior Manager – Strategy

Consumer expectations are rising for healthcare experiences, and technology is playing a key role in meeting the demand for convenient and accessible care.

In this Digital Health Wire Q&A we sat down with Accenture’s Darryl Gibbings-Isaac, MD, to discuss the future of digital health and the importance of keeping patients at the center of the conversation.


The US healthcare system is under a lot of pressure from an aging population and a shortage of healthcare workers. What does it take to ease this burden and where does technology fit into the picture?

Technology has to play a role in augmenting what humans can do. Traditionally, healthcare has been a very human-centric system. Technology is going to be important in lowering the cost-to-serve, which will help increase access, by augmenting what clinicians can do. It will also help with healthcare worker burnout by offloading more tasks.

Technology’s relationship with humans is going to be the key thing. We’re talking about augmenting clinicians, not substituting clinicians. The conversation isn’t about doing more with less. 

We can also use technology to augment humans on the patient side. The question is about how we can enable patients to take care of themselves in situations where that’s appropriate. As an example we already see this with different symptom checkers, which help provide a guided, structured way to reach the best care.


What are some of the tools that you believe show the most promise in augmenting patients?

There are a lot of tools that take into account behavior change and behavioral science techniques to really go beyond the nudge and actually put a message in context of that patient and their daily lives. This enables a better response from that patient and allows them to manage their care in a better way. 

There’s also the data coming in. We’ve seen wearables on the consumer level where health information can be fed to patients outside of a clinical interaction and they can see if there’s something they need to do about it. As long as you pair the data with a simple and easy to understand action, that is cognizant of behavior change, you can have an effective result.

The other realm is virtual health, which enables more of the diagnosis to happen on the patient side. One way this happens is to empower patients with remote examination devices. The other way involves the “care anywhere” model and guiding patients through retail-based settings where they can get blood draws, or even imaging. Having more data generated on the patient side allows clinicians to make a decision fairly quickly when they actually see it.


Do you think we’re going to continue seeing a shift to remote care and a hospital-at-home setting?

We definitely believe that shift is going to happen for a number of reasons. The first is around experience. We’ve seen during the pandemic that experience matters and that convenience matters. We believe the tools that can bring care to where the patient is are going to be quite successful.

You also have to look at the model for centralized care, where you absolutely have to have specialized resources, and the hospital will still make sense. However, that’s the most expensive form of care in the way that it’s configured, and in a world where we need to reduce the cost of care to improve access and keep up with demand, we’ll almost have no choice but to configure other spaces to meet those same needs.


Accenture recently released a Patient Experience Survey where you found that two thirds of consumers have had a poor patient experience with a provider. How can providers improve the patient experience to meet rising expectations?

Consumers have liquid expectations from their other experiences outside of healthcare, and in order for providers to keep up with those, I think they have to understand a couple of things.

One is that experience matters, and we’re seeing that shift more and more. But it’s not just understanding that experience matters, it’s understanding which experiences matter, and asking “what are the moments that matter most to the patient.”

When we’re talking about providers, we’re not just talking about clinicians, but also the whole organization that’s managing the experience. It’s not a one-and-done situation, but something that needs continuous monitoring, so metrics are needed on the other side of it.

You have to measure consumer experience levels to have a foundation for improvement. If you recognize that the levels are going down, you need to understand why they’re going down to make adjustments.


What are Accenture’s current top priorities in the healthcare industry?

Improving the consumer experience is definitely one of them. We’re often using human-centered design to solve these problems, and placing the patient at the center of the solutions. We’re also looking at how you can unbundle care and the components around it to create a location agnostic care model. 

The first part of the equation is more design-centric, while the other side of the equation is more operation-centric. I think you need to be able to do both of these things, as a health system, to really be at the top level in today’s world.


What are the biggest challenges when focusing on human-centered design and changing healthcare?

There have been many different approaches to changing healthcare, each with varying degrees of success. We’ve seen entities come from outside of healthcare and try to disrupt it. Changing healthcare from the outside is a tall order.

Where we’ve seen this be most successful is with true partnerships that are not only inspired by the health system, but also instigated by it. Both sides have to want change before an outside partner can come in and reimagine how care is delivered.

We also need to keep putting the patient at the center of these conversations, and I’d go even further and say that we need to put humans at the center, because it’s not going to work just designing for the consumer. You have to design for everyone within the ecosystem.

Unite Us Acquires NowPow for Community Care

Social services platform Unite Us has announced the acquisition of NowPow, a personalized community referral provider.

The combination creates one of the nation’s largest health and social care networks, connecting people to resources such as housing assistance and counseling, while allowing communities to better address social determinants of health.

  • Unite Us builds coordinated care networks of health and social service providers. The company allows providers to send and receive secure electronic referrals, track individual health journeys, and report outcomes. It builds partnerships with local organizations and connects them with other organizations with similar missions.
  • NowPow specializes in personalized community referrals to support whole person care across entire populations. It then provides referral insights to assist with process improvement, network quality, and patient experience. NowPow’s referrals are highly matched and filtered to make it easier to connect people to the right resources.
  • Combining the two will allow Unite Us customers to serve their communities with an array of products that fit their unique needs by taking advantage of NowPow’s personalization algorithms and high quality resource directory.

Industry Impact
This announcement follows Unite Us’ acquisition of analytics company Carrot Health just last month. Referrals and analytics seem to be a leading combination for community wellness solutions, with WellSky pursuing a similar strategic acquisition of Healthify in August.

Verily Starts Planning for Life After Google

Alphabet’s life sciences division Verily is working to distance itself from Google technology as it plans for the next phase of its products and a possible future outside of its parent company, according to reporting from Insider.

The project known internally as Flywheel began in 2021 and involves transitioning Verily’s products away from Google’s internal cloud to a public version of the tech infrastructure.

Internal documents appear to reveal that an initial version of Verily’s updated technology stack is set to arrive by early next year.

  • Verily is aiming for independence. As the company matures, it is looking to diversify its product offerings into new areas such as telehealth, but potential partners have often needed reassurance that Verily’s data would not be shared with Google.
  • Flywheel could signal an IPO. Verily CEO Andy Conrad has previously mentioned a push towards an initial public offering, although the pandemic pushed back those plans. A current employee interviewed by Insider confirmed that an IPO is “the carrot Andy is always dangling in front of us.”
  • Verily’s recent moves support the theory. It raised $700m in late 2020 before acquiring clinical trial management system SignalPath in August to expand its commercial offerings. It also recently partnered with Mayo Clinic to develop a clinical decision support tool, all while bolstering its leadership team.

The Takeaway

When Google reorganized as Alphabet in 2015, the structure was designed to give subsidiaries more flexibility to expand away from the company’s core operation. Although no large companies have yet to be spun out, the Flywheel project makes Verily look like a strong contender to be the first one. Possibly as early as next year.

Xealth Makes Digital Health Usable

The booming digital health sector has seen such rapid expansion that it is beginning to enter the next level of its industry life cycle: the stage where solutions have solutions.

Digital health integration platform Xealth recently closed $24m in Series B funding, bringing the Providence St. Joseph Health spinoff’s total funding to $52.6m.

Xealth aggregates and organizes digital health tools within the EHR, enabling not only easier reporting, but also centralized distribution, enrollment, and patient monitoring.

The Xealth platform has three interdependent modules:

  • Xealth Clinical Interface – Solutions are ordered, delivered, and tracked from within the EHR, with clinical decision support matching patients to relevant solutions.
  • Xealth Digital Command Center – Provides customized reporting of patient and provider engagement, which is aggregated to match demographics to solutions.
  • Xealth Integration Layer – Supports deployment of multiple solutions through a single integration with the EHR, allowing health systems to save IT resources by avoiding independent vendor integration.

The Takeaway

As health systems pursue innovation, they’re presented with an abundance of disjointed products with specialized use cases, creating the need for a platform that allows physicians to prescribe and monitor these solutions within a single cohesive workflow.

Xealth’s services are already available to over 100k physicians, and the company states that care teams are seeing improved patient engagement metrics as a result of measuring outcomes across a health system’s entire virtual solution ecosystem.

Aggregators that improve usability of existing solutions have emerged as success stories in other industries such as business collaboration software, and Xealth is looking to replicate this success within the digital health landscape.

Under the Radar Healthcare Disruptors

Digital health venture fund and advisory team Rock Health recently published an excellent blog post outlining what they call healthcare’s “middle children,” defined as large-but-not-huge companies that should be eyeing expansion into healthcare.

The authors argue that these middle children have distinct competitive advantages over the cohort of technology giants that have recently been pursuing the healthcare space, which include the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, and Apple.

  • Middle children with market capitalizations between $10b and $350b are large enough to make an impact in healthcare, but small enough to avoid the scrutiny of massive players. They are often consumer-facing, with business lines that could pivot towards a healthcare use case (picture Lululemon’s acquisition of Mirror).
  • Larger middle children have deep pockets and talents pools (Salesforce, Nike), with the capabilities to pursue large healthcare goals.
  • Smaller middle children have more specialized capabilities (Garmin, Airbnb), that could help with solving more focused problems.

Middle Children Advantages

  • Smaller healthcare goals are big enough for middle children to pursue for growth, whereas much larger companies need loftier projects to warrant market expansion.
  • Loyal customer bases can be activated by middle children to establish initial users while avoiding the regulatory attention quickly drawn by larger competitors.
  • Specialized assets from middle children, such as logistics expertise or data analytics, can provide a competitive edge in healthcare. 

Potential Middle Children Plays

  • Blizzard could passively monitor behavioral health conditions for children playing its games
  • Paypal could integrate Health Savings Accounts to help users manage healthcare spending
  • Hello Fresh could offer health insights and recommend food products for delivery

The Takeaway

Gaining share within the $3.5t US healthcare market is a powerful motivator for any company looking to pursue a strategy shift, but even consumer-favorite brands will need humility to navigate the complex and quickly evolving environment.

Although middle children don’t specialize in the sector, Rock Health makes a solid case that they might be some of the best-positioned companies for healthcare disruption, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re reading about some of the plays listed in this blog post in next year’s business news.

Unlocking Value With Digital Patient Monitoring

New research from Deloitte and Harvard CBE highlights the value of digital patient monitoring, which provides benefits not only to patients, but also to healthcare systems, hospitals, and governments.

Digital health monitoring covers a wide class of technologies that enable patient follow-ups outside of conventional care settings, including remote care platforms, mHealth apps, and wearable devices.

A whitepaper of the findings released through MSD Connect details the value as it relates to each stakeholder group:

Patients

  • Increased level of health information exchange and patient engagement
  • Improved medication compliance and disease management
  • Improved health outcomes, safety, and quality of care

Healthcare Systems

  • Optimization of HCPs workflow due to reduced no-shows and administrative burden
  • Improved informed decision-making strengthened by longitudinal patient data
  • More personalized care delivery based on real-world data and evidence

Hospitals

  • Reduced hospital (re)admissions, follow-up visits, and length of stay
  • Improved efficiency leading to increased hospital capacity and reduced costs
  • Diminished risk of employee burn-out

Governments

  • Increased value of healthcare services offered through better budgeting
  • Improved population health by better allocation of health resources
  • Improved accessibility and equity of care

The Takeaway

The thread connecting the benefits across all stakeholder groups is clear: better data leads to better outcomes. Digital patient monitoring gives all parties a clearer view of individual healthcare journeys, which in turn leads to more efficient systems built on top of this data and improved health for the entire population.

Spring Health is the Latest Mental Health Unicorn

Digital behavioral health startup Spring Health recently raised a $190m Series C round ($300m total funding), raising its valuation to over $2b and making CEO April Koh the youngest woman to helm a multibillion-dollar company.

The Spring Health investment is the latest movement in an especially active third quarter for the virtual behavioral therapy sector, which has already seen major announcements from companies like K Health and Headspace.

  • Spring Health offers mental health benefits to employers, which include online therapy, coaching, and a guided-exercise app. Its services are marketed as either supplements to employee assistance programs or total replacements in many cases.
  • The company’s differentiator is that it caters to employers with a wide range of health needs and financial capabilities, as opposed to focusing exclusively on large businesses.
  • The new funds will be used to launch “the first cohesive mental health experience for families,” leveraging a single centralized platform to support both employees and their households. The extra capital will also aid in global expansion, adding to the list of over 200 countries that Spring Health currently operates in.

Industry Impact

Spring Health’s Series C round solidifies its position among the ranks of well-capitalized digital health leaders, a list that also includes competitors such as the rapidly growing Lyra Health ($680m funding at a $4.2 valuation).

While Lyra Health widened its strategy with recent expansion into new specialized care areas, Spring Health is instead focusing on depth over breadth by integrating its family health solutions into a single cohesive platform.

Telehealth Expected to Dominate Patient Care

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) latest Future of Healthcare Survey explored the pandemic’s impact on healthcare technology, finding that 89% of IT decision makers (ITDMs) have made investing in new technology a priority for their organization.

HPE surveyed 400 healthcare IT decision-makers and patient-facing clinicians throughout the US and UK, each working at organizations with over 500 employees.

Clinician Findings

  • 76% of clinicians believe telehealth will soon account for a majority of patient care
  • 68% agreed they frequently have technology issues in delivering telehealth
  • 82% believe medical devices will have the largest tech impact in the next 5 years

IT Decision Maker Findings

  • 85% of ITDMs say “IT modernization” is their largest IT investment priority
  • 59% say “innovation” is their largest IT investment priority
  • 72% cited IT security as a main concern when moving data to the cloud

Although HPE naturally recommends its own GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform as the optimal answer to each of these problems, the clinician findings highlight that technology’s evolving role in healthcare is a bigger than a single solution, and one that is only expected to get bigger from here.

Tia Raises $100M for Hybrid Women’s Care

Women’s healthcare company Tia recently closed a $100m Series B funding round that will help to scale its “whole-woman, whole-life” model to over 100k women by 2023.

Just two years after seeing its first patient, Tia now has $132m in total funding for its hybrid care model that operates physical clinics in Los Angeles and New York, as well as virtual care in Phoenix.

  • Tia’s hybrid approach combines primary care, mental health, gynecology, and acupuncture to offer women seamless care coordination throughout their entire lives. Tia claims that its proprietary software and care coordination teams can deliver care for 40% less than traditional primary care practices.
  • Tia partners with health systems to provide an integrated inpatient/outpatient experience, creating better care continuity around key periods such as pregnancies. These partnerships also allow Tia members to access specialty care not offered at its clinics, like obstetrics.

According to Tia, women control more than 80% of the US’ $3.6t annual healthcare spend, yet female patients have been repeatedly misunderstood and underserved. Investors have taken notice, with Tia’s Series B arriving within a few week’s of Maven Clinic becoming the sector’s first unicorn with over $1b funding. 

Industry Impact

Up until recently, women’s healthcare has largely been fragmented by body part or life stage, creating an ineffective model that rarely supports holistic care. 

Tia believes its “anti-fragmentation approach” is the solution, driving better outcomes by replacing transactional, condition-based healthcare with relationship-based care that can cater to women throughout their whole lives.

Second Opinions for Anthem Members

Anthem recently signed on with The Clinic to begin offering its members easy access to virtual second opinions. 

  • The Clinic began in 2019 as a joint venture from Amwell and Cleveland Clinic that provides virtual care and digital health records to payers, providers, and patients. The service combines Amwell’s telehealth services with patient support from Cleveland Clinic’s 3,500 physicians.
  • Second opinions are expected to be a $7b market by 2024 (up from $2.7b in 2019), according to research from both companies. Cleveland Clinic studies have shown that second opinions result in a modified treatment plan in 72% of reassessments, as well as a change in diagnosis for 28% of life-altering cases.

Looking Ahead

Anthem is initially making the second opinion service available to its large employer clients, with the potential to expand to smaller employers going forward.

The Clinic CEO Frank McGillin signalled that more is on the way for the partnership, saying that the second opinion services are “just the start of our work with Anthem.” The Clinic anticipates a continued increase in demand for routine expert second opinions when dealing with life-changing health conditions.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team