Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems now provide the majority of telehealth across the country. However, while health system physicians are going back to their office-based routine, patient demand in many cases has started to outstrip the health system supply.
Some health systems have contracted with third-party telemedicine vendors that often require patients to go into a separate system that is not well-integrated with the health systems’ other technologies. Other health systems have built up their own virtual care provider strength but are unlikely to provide 24/7, comprehensive coverage.
To get a perspective on the situation from a brand-new player, Healthcare IT News interviewed Dr. Lyle Berkowitz, CEO of KeyCare and a primary care physician. KeyCare is a virtual-first care platform built with Epic EHR and other technologies. KeyCare launched its system two months ago, providing services to BHSH System’s Spectrum Health West Michigan Division.
Berkowitz, a longtime health IT and clinical informatics leader, discusses how KeyCare works, the connection with EHR giant Epic, $24 million in a recent series A funding, progress with BHSH System’s Spectrum Health West Michigan Division, and what the future of his company and of telehealth in general may look like.
Q: Please describe KeyCare, who uses it and what it enables through telehealth.
A. KeyCare is taking a pretty simple approach to helping health systems expand the virtual care services they can offer to their patients.
First, instead of building our own platform from scratch, we licensed the EHR and telehealth technology from Epic Systems and have optimized it for providing virtual care augmentation to other health systems. Second, now that our Epic instance is up and running, we are contracting with virtual providers, also known as virtualists, so they can be available on our platform.
The result is that Epic-based health systems now can add virtual care coverage via their own front doors, rather than asking patients to sign up to someone else’s portal. Patients have a more seamless experience, and quality is enhanced because data is shared bi-directionally between the KeyCare Epic instance and the health system’s Epic instance.
We also can integrate with other EHRs via industry-standard interoperability options like CareQuality.
On the virtualists’ side, we are planning to partner with a variety of telehealth groups that are looking for a robust EHR technology platform that is easily interoperable with the majority of health systems in the United States.
Using Epic’s wide-ranging EHR functionality, we can support a wide variety of virtual care options, ranging from primary care, to behavioral health, to niche specialists, to remote patient monitoring.
Q: Please discuss the strong connection with EHR giant Epic.
A. We are part of the Epic community, meaning we are Epic clients that license their electronic health record software similar to many other health systems across the world. However, we have a slightly different focus than most of their other clients.
First, we are optimizing our instance of Epic for virtual care services, which affects what features we turn on, to the content that we build. Second, we are optimizing our instance around the concept of being of service to other Epic clients by maximizing use of Epic’s interoperability features that allow for cross-instance scheduling, data sharing, messaging and ordering.
The result is that we can turn on support for other Epic systems in a very short amount of time with minimal IT resources required since it’s a configuration rather than an integration between two instances.
Finally, we realize we are doing something new in the Epic community, but Epic has been a great partner in helping us maximize use of their technology and working collaboratively in helping to evolve future technology enhancements.
Q: You recently closed on $24 million in series A funding backed by 8VC, LRVHealth, Bold Capital and Spectrum Health Ventures. How do you plan to use the funds? How will they be applied to virtual care?
A. These funds will be used to further optimize our instance of Epic, as well as build out our team to better serve our virtualist and health system partners.
Q: You launched in July by providing services to BHSH System’s Spectrum Health West Michigan Division. How is that coming along? What kinds of telehealth services have you been providing?
A. It’s gone very well. We have proven out Epic’s “Telehealth Anywhere” technology that allows a patient to enter Spectrum’s digital front door – their MyChart portal – and then make an on-demand virtual urgent care appointment with providers working on the KeyCare instance of Epic.
The result has been that Spectrum now can offer their patients 24/7, 50-state virtual urgent care coverage. This allows them to fulfill their promise to always be there for their patients, as well as expand contracts with payers and employers that require that type of coverage.
And within the first two months, we already have helped Spectrum take care of patients traveling over half of the United States.
Q: What will the future of your company and telehealth look like?
A. We started with 24/7, 50-state virtual urgent care coverage because that was a constant request from health systems. Now that we have that up and running, we are looking forward to partnering with more and more health systems across the U.S., as well as expanding functionality.
Next, we will be adding in additional specialty types. We should be live with behavioral health therapists augmenting our health system partners before the end of this year. And we are exploring other specialties that range from extended primary care support, to maternal care, to cardiac rehab, to dietitians, to speech therapists, to chronic care management.
And then, over time, we plan to increase the efficiency of our virtualists by adding in asynchronous support, automating as much of the process as possible, and using other technologies to make care as easy and convenient as possible for both providers and patients.
Our vision is that we will allow health systems to have a rich variety and depth of virtual care extender teams, with a special focus on making routine care as easy, accessible and affordable as possible for their patients.
We believe this will allow health system physicians to manage a much larger panel size while simultaneously decreasing the number of office-based visits they need to see. The result of this type of virtual care vision would thus be increased access and quality for patients, decreased burden on physicians and increased revenue for health systems.