By Tom Stanis, CEO, Story Health
Patients in the ICU are surrounded by continuous care. Low-ratios and highly trained clinicians treat the sickest patients with the best tools available. For patients and families, these high-stakes moments are tense, but they are reassured through the constant contact with clinicians and relationships that develop.
Contrast this with the experience when patients go home. While it would be inappropriate and impossible to provide the same level of care as we see in the ICU, the sense of reassurance is lost. Appointments with specialists take months to schedule, patients are left on their own to get tests done and understand their complex medication regiments while dealing with new side-effects. Patients have a completely different feeling about the health system from home: distant and overwhelmed.
The current care model is an even greater challenge for patients managing chronic and high-acuity conditions. Today’s overwhelmed and fragmented healthcare system leaves no room for error and leaves patients without the care they need. Even at its best, the current care model takes years to get patients to well established guideline therapies.
Fixing The Care Model for Patient Treatment at Home
With new technology, a model of care that provides the same feelings of reassurance in the ICU can be recreated at home. We can guide patients through their complex care program with digital tools, explaining and organizing medications, lab tests, vital signs, and symptoms on a continuous basis. This new model of care incorporates smart care pathways that are designed by physicians and personalized for every patient. Automation and AI-powered monitoring enable these systems to be cost-effective and scalable.
One might think a new reimbursement model is what is needed for change to happen, but even the fee-for-service model rewards longitudinal care. More longitudinal follow-up means a chance to provide procedures when they matter most – proactively or in real-time, rather than when it’s too late. This is both good business and good care.
In the case of heart failure, a disease that impacts more than 6 million Americans, the U.S. healthcare system continues to fail these patients. Medications, implantable medical devices, and even mechanical circulatory support are available to patients; however, these interventions are drastically underutilized. Less than 25% of heart failure patients are on guideline directed medical therapy and less than 1% receive the target doses of prescribed medications. Implantable cardiac defibrillators are only implanted in 60% of patients that should have them. Only a fraction of patients that might benefit from a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), or transplant receive one. Patients are only referred for advanced therapy if they happen to be seen either through hospitalization or an appointment at the right moment.
The referral model needs to be revised to put the patient at the center of care. The health system should connect the right team members and the patient, based on the clinical pathways. Moving towards this care model allows us to focus on the patient, allowing the clinician to follow up at exactly the right moment to avoid hospital admissions or poor outcomes.
This is the opportunity we need to seize to transform healthcare. Our battered healthcare workforce is desperate for a new way to optimize care between visits, magnify the reach of clinicians, and expand the capabilities of specialists so they can work smarter. When combined with AI, virtual care can allow providers to scale treatment and reach more patients, giving them the right care at the right time.
A true system of care helps health systems bring together technology with medicine to provide the continuous care that every patient needs. This care model will extend the capacity and reach of providers so they can treat more patients more effectively with better outcomes. This exciting intersection between healthcare and tech will be the birthplace of the best solutions to the most complex problems and will enable health systems to bring the best medical science to every patient.
Tom Stanis is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Story Health, a health technology startup that brings together virtual care and artificial intelligence to revolutionize treatment and extend the reach of specialists into the home for people with complex medical conditions. Tom is an experienced engineer who has worked in healthcare technology, overseeing the development of software products, including medical devices, care systems, and research platforms. Prior to founding Story Health, Tom was co-founder and Head of Software at Verily Life Sciences, Alphabet’s healthcare division. Tom is an advocate and thought leader in identifying the threatening gaps in treatment of high-acuity patients and is to build solutions that transform the healthcare system.