Running Faster: Digital Health C-Suite Share How They Accelerated in the Face of COVID-19
Wheel CEO interviews her industry peers to hear their lessons learned about adapting rapidly to the national pandemic of 2020.
It happened so fast. One day it was business as usual, and seemingly the next day the global pandemic was upon us.
At Wheel, I remember thinking, “Okay, first we need to make some rapid decisions. Do we close the office? Do we cancel travel? How do I prepare my teams for an overnight change in how we work?”
But then it became increasingly clear that there were BIGGER, far more critical decisions to be made — about our business and industry. How could we scale faster to meet the demand for virtual care solutions? As a startup fresh off of our Series A fund raise, we were already a super agile organization, but we had to become even more adaptive and responsive than ever. It was a thrilling challenge to face, testing our leadership team and staff in incredible ways.
I wish I could say I had the foresight to predict a pandemic like COVID-19 and the opportunity it presented for Wheel to step up to the market need. But who could see this coming? I feel deep pride in having founded a company that was designed to improve healthcare access at a time just before the nation needed it the most.
And I wasn’t alone. It’s an incredible time to be a founder and leader of a digital health organization. I recently started to look around at my peers and wonder to myself, “How did they adapt to COVID? In what ways did they move at lightning speed to serve their communities and patients?” I decided to find out. These 11 inspiring visionaries of digital health companies responded to the call, and shared their experiences with me:
- RO, Zachariah Reitano, Co-Founder & CEO
- BOULDER CARE, Stephanie Papes, Founder & CEO
- CLEO, Sarahjane Sacchetti, CEO
- SCANWELL, Stephen Chen, Founder & CEO
- TRUEPILL, Sid Viswanathan, Co-Founder & President
- CLARA HEALTH, Sol Chen, Co-founder
- IMAWARE™, Jani Tuomi, Co-founder
- ATLAS HEALTH, Ethan Davidoff, Founder
- SPECIAL X, Jason Lehmbeck, Co-founder
- PARTICLE HEALTH, Troy Bannister, Founder/CEO
- CARBON HEALTH, Caesar Djavaherian, Co-Founder
Here’s the burning question I wanted to know:
What’s the one thing you’re doing faster than you ever thought possible in your organization because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Zachariah Reitano, Co-Founder & CEO
“Launching new products and services. Our team launched the first U.S.-based telehealth visit specifically dedicated to coronavirus triage, a cash pay pharmacy where over 500 generic drugs for the most common chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease) are just $5/month, and telehealth services for dermatology and weight loss. During the height of coronavirus and beyond, telehealth will be a critical solution to meeting America’s basic healthcare needs. Ro’ers have worked relentlessly to launch new, affordable telehealth services at a time when remote care is needed the most and we will continue to help in whatever way we can. I’ve never been more proud of our team.”
Stephanie Papes, Founder & CEO
“Addiction-specific regulations have imposed formidable barriers to treatment access. Practically overnight, HHS announced sweeping, unprecedented changes to eliminate these barriers during COVID19: including waiving in-person requirements to initiate medication treatment at home. Boulder’s team immediately mobilized to create a patient onboarding experience that reflects this newfound opportunity to connect to the people we care for directly, as opposed to referring providers. We added multiple new channels for patients to reach a member of their care team 24/7, spun up a marketing function and launched campaigns in 2 states, expanded our scope of clinical services to include COVID19 screening, and ramped our triage capabilities to offload frontline healthcare workers. We welcomed our first patient within 48 hours of the policy change, and continue to add new participants daily. It has been remarkable to finally be able to reach someone right away — so we can be there for them at the critical, urgent moment they’re seeking help.
As one of Premera’s COVID19 telehealth partners, we also worked to extend services from a subset of members in Alaska to ~2.3M people in multiple states, with zero patient cost-sharing. Premera and Boulder teams worked very hard from ideation around behavioral health expansion to launch in a few short weeks.”
Sarahjane Sacchetti, CEO
“I think the two areas we’re moving faster than ever before are in product and partnerships. Because we serve a very adversely affected member base of working parents from the moment they’re expecting through their child’s 5th birthday, we’ve seen a huge demand for our core products as well as opportunities to move into adjacent areas, like childcare. This opportunity has pushed us to experiment and iterate on product and partnerships much, much faster that before, and also with more focus than we’d have if we were building in a “blue sky” context — the truth is, it’s been more of a fast approaching rainstorm driving our thinking and building — and we’re racing to build the umbrella.”
Stephen Chen, Founder & CEO
“We’re a modern diagnostics company that specializes in at-home medical testing, so when news about COVID-19 broke, we immediately got to work on a test for antibodies. Because our tests are made to be used in the home, we spend a lot of time on UX, particularly usability testing and interviews. This process can take months; but in just two and a half weeks we were able to deliver the first iteration of our at-home coronavirus test, which is currently being used in a research study.”
Sid Viswanathan, Co-Founder & President
“We’re seeing acceleration across our business as a whole. We’ve always prided ourselves on being nimble and moving quickly to meet customer and patient demand. But at the end of the day, timelines and speed are often determined by our partners. With COVID-19, we’re seeing so many of our partners, including large health plans and pharmaceutical manufacturers, moving faster than ever. We know that healthcare has invariably changed and we’re all sprinting towards that new normal, together.”
Sol Chen, Co-founder
“Now more than ever, the entire healthcare industry suddenly finds itself aligned against a common enemy. While the industry as a whole has always adopted technological innovation at a slow rate (for very valid reasons), even massive organizations are now moving quickly to embrace new solutions like telemedicine, digital marketing, and the like. This has enabled us to move at an unprecedented pace in partnering with other healthcare institutions in deploying solutions to the rapidly changing demands from COVID-19.
It’s been a pretty breathless few weeks for us, but our team’s output has never been stronger, and we’re finding it rewarding to hear positive feedback from pharma companies, advocacy organizations, researchers, and — most importantly — patients, faster than before.”
Jani Tuomi, Co-founder
“We are partnering with other organizations that share a common mission to help people through this pandemic. Contracts that may have taken weeks before are being hammered out in days, as we align on the mission and spirit of business and move quickly to help those that need it.”
Ethan Davidoff, Founder
“Unfortunately many hospitals and health systems are seeing a significant reduction in revenue due to the pandemic. The need to recover reimbursement for care delivered is imperative for some to stay open and continue serving their communities. As a result, we’ve seen a triple digit increase in interest in our philanthropic reimbursement automation platform. In order to give prospective partners an overview of the expected reimbursement levels Atlas can provide, we’re now turning around a free ROI analysis report within 48 hours, instead of 7 business days. This enables us to get our partners started faster, so they can get reimbursed and keep the lights on. We’re humbled to be in a position to help both patients and hospitals at such a challenging time for both.”
Jason Lehmbeck, Co-founder
“With onset of COVID-19, families raising children with disabilities and and their care teams’ lives were turned upside down. Parents are trying to keep up with the pressures and challenges of remote learning while having to fill in as full time caregivers, therapists, and special ed teachers. Normal routines have been disrupted for the children resulting in behavioral challenges and regressions. The traditional ways in which providers can respond through high touch services is highly constrained and 1:1 virtual therapy is not equipped to meet the significant increase in demand from families. Parents and providers are eager to find new and creative ways to work together to ensure kids don’t regress on the hard earned progress they’ve made.This has opened up new possibilities to democratize access to experts and has enabled us to move faster than expected in designing and testing new models for connecting parents to the service providers and information that they need right now.”
Troy Bannister, Founder/CEO
“As soon as we realized we could play a key role in triaging COVID-19 patients via telemedicine by allowing doctors to see their medical histories, we launched our COVID Partner Program within hours, giving access to our API for free. We had a new contract, webpage, use case and press release out the next day. As a small team, there are some amazing things you can do with quick decision-making and action.”
Caesar Djavaherian, Co-Founder
“Ramping up our clinical and support teams in a matter of weeks to provide care for and monitor the health of tens of thousands of new patients in a month is something we never thought we would have to do. Our expanded care, support communications and clinical operations required hiring and onboarding nearly 100 new staff members in less than two months. Our teams have been growing faster than I ever thought possible while maintaining our high quality of care.”
Michelle Davey, CEO & Co-founder
And what about Wheel? What are we doing faster than we ever thought possible due to COVID-19? The pandemic did not change our business model, but in fact solidified it. Companies have been delighted to discover the white-labeled infrastructure Wheel provides to rapidly launch a virtual care offering. The market affirmed this unmet need — and the ability to do it affordably, compliantly, and with the highest level of quality. All the while, we stayed true to our mission of changing the way healthcare works by putting clinicians first. So how did that take shape the past few months?
- Overnight we doubled our consult volume across our partners.
- We recruited credentialed and trained 120% more clinicians in our Care Team.
- We stood up a COVID-19 Response, which included clinical protocols and training for COVID screening, triage, care navigation and virtual care for test-positive patients across thousands of clinicians and partners.
- We said yes to servicing new white-labeled market segments that showed up on our front door, like remote patient monitoring, direct-to-consumer lab testing, retail practices, and tech companies.
- We rolled out a national synchronous service line.
- We shared our internal regulatory tracker openly across the industry.
- We provided mental health services to our Care Team, of which 60% are still practicing in clinics and hospitals on the front lines.
- And we tested the grit of our amazing team of Wheelies, who stepped up to the intellectual and mental challenges of working around the clock to serve more, and serve better. We turned a dark season in our nation’s history into a moment of pride and honor for the healthcare community.
Thanks to my industry friends and colleagues for continuing to raise the bar in healthcare and inspire. The future is now, and we are more passionate than ever to continue to innovate and provide an experience that patients, clinicians, and all of us deserve.
Let’s keep up this pace and keep running faster.
If you’re interested in more information about Wheel, discover how we provide companies a rapid, turn-key way to serve more patients at scale while empowering clinicians to deliver the highest quality virtual care at Wheel.com