HealthChangers Podcast Celebrates Health Care Transformation for Second Anniversary

April 9, 2019

Two years ago, we launched the HealthChangers Podcast. Our goal was to spotlight the challenges facing health care today and the innovations and innovators that are changing the health care landscape. We have had the opportunity to talk with doctors, entrepreneurs, policymakers and patients. Since then, HealthChangers was also recognized as a finalist for best podcast in PR News’ Platinum Awards. To mark our two-year anniversary, we are listening back to some highlights from three podcasts featuring people who are transforming health care.

Leslie Constans: Welcome to the HealthChangers Podcast presented by Cambia Health Solutions, where we share real stories of health care transformation from those experiencing it and those helping to make health care more personalized. I'm your host, Leslie.

Many listeners tuned in for our episode on health care hackathons, “The Power of Hackathons in Health Care: HealthChangers Podcast.” Over the last several years, businesses and companies looking to innovate have turned to the idea of hackathons. Initially, hackathons were kind of extreme brainstorming sessions among software engineers who were trying to solve IT problems.

But the concept has evolved and found a place in many fields including health care. Our guests for the hackathon episode were Dan Anolik and Northon Rodrigues, two engineers who were instrumental in starting a hackathon to solve health care problems. We talked about how sometimes people come to hackathons with a passion to address a personal frustration they have had with the health care system.

I asked Dan for examples; let's take a listen.

Hackathons: Teamwork and Breaking Down Barriers

Dan Anolik: There are several examples I could think of. One of them is around review data. Within HealthSparq, a Cambia company, there's a concept of reviewing providers. We think of it sometimes as Yelp for health care, right?

LC: Yes, I was just going to say that.

DA: Which you actually want to see, these are not just standard number ratings. You want to see what real people really have to say about these providers because what is a good fit for you isn't necessarily what is a good fit for somebody else. You want some content with a little more substance to it. There's been quite a few extensions similar to this where after someone has seen a provider they get a prompt to leave a review, similar to what you might see in a Yelp or Google push notification, when you go to a restaurant, “You want to give us some feedback on that?” It can really help other people.

We provide cost transparency and cost analytics. What is this really going to cost me out of pocket? And there's been a number of innovations to help make this data more accurate. How do we make that timelier for what these procedures really are and what it's going to cost me out of pocket?

Coming out of a hackathon last year, we integrated natural language into the search tools.

LC: What does that mean?

DA: This means that similar to what you might be used to with Google, you can type questions, or you don't have to know the health care esoteric terminology. You can just say “I'm looking for a kid doctor.” We want to be able to turn that into the appropriate pediatrician search for what you're looking for. Or, “How much is a knee replacement” or something else? We want to be able to turn that question into some useful data to help guide you on your search.

LC: Northon, I know you've been involved in the hackathon since the very beginning. It was your idea, you've brought them to life here. And you also wrote a blog post about some of the benefits and the value of this process to the organization. Can you talk a little bit about that blog post? And you had an interesting analogy.

Northon Rodrigues: We call it the ATP effect. Now, ATP is just a unit of energy. And the cool thing about ATP is that there are two ways to create energy, which is using fermentation or adding oxygen. Now, when using fermentation for each molecule of energy, it generates two ATPs. But the moment you put oxygen, this same process generates 38 ATPs.

The huge difference here is what the hackathon brings to any organization is that transformation where you no longer get linear effect. You get such an exponential impact for the return on investment in your innovation or productivity and building teamwork across the floor.

It's very interesting because sometimes when you know someone, and you work closely with someone else, you can get a lot more done. But if you don't know somebody across the floor, you're not as apt to help them out. As the hackathon breaks the barriers and the walls between departments, you see the entire organization working much better and be more productive.

“Hackathons bring transformation where you no longer get linear effect. You get an exponential impact for the return on investment in your innovation or productivity and building teamwork across the floor.”

LC: That was Northon Rodrigues, one of the engineers who spearheaded the hackathon for the health care idea. I spoke with him and Dan Anolik for our episode on health care hackathons.

As we continue with our look back at the second year of HealthChangers, we are going to listen to two listener favorites that were part of our celebration of Cambia's 100th anniversary. To mark that milestone, we decided to do something that matched the company's innovative history and spirit and we invited StoryCorps to come in and host one-on-ones with more than 70 people across the company.

Their stories brought to life Cambia's Cause, which is to serve as a catalyst to transform health care and make it more person-focused. The first StoryCorps conversation that we'll listen back to features, Rob Coppedge, the CEO of Echo Health Ventures, focused on startup investments and Ben Albert, CEO and co-founder of Upfront Healthcare, for the episode, “HealthChangers Podcast: Two Innovators on Breaking Down Silos in Health Care.”

Strategic Investments: Mission to Change Health Care

Rob Coppedge: When we started, one of the things we aspired to was to break down that silo between investment being that thing done by the treasury team over here on the side. Instead, venture investing or private equity investing as a tactic to drive the kind of transformation that we have wanted to see. It had to become much more core and central to the business.

Ben Albert: Yeah, I mean I think that makes a lot of sense. Anybody can go write checks. We have that several times. It's actually not check writing that's hard. It's, “How do we do the hard work better? And how do we become better partners to the companies we want to start?” I tell you, that is infinitely more difficult than figuring out how to manage a lot of money.

It has led us to really try to invest in that partnership by building out a team that serves as the concierge, if you will, for folks like you to navigate through.

RC: Every large organization in health care who is trying to make impactful change is complicated just by nature. But how have you learned from the investments you have made? How do you keep getting better about the way you're supporting the investments, but also helping grow them?

“There are things you're seeing in Silicon Valley that do apply to health care. But you have to really understand health care from a deep level to help reduce costs and improve quality.”

BA: If you look at a lot of folks who've been investing in health care companies for a long time they get cynical or dismissive of things pretty quickly because we've seen them fail before.

But if we are going to go do the transformative work that I think we are being tasked with, we cannot just lean on that set of skills or that reflex. That is a place where I have struggled too. I've tried to get better at sort of saying okay, I see the 10 ways this won't work. I got to get better at finding the two or three ways that it will. That is a skill set that I think I have worked on here, and I have gotten better at it.

RC: So how do you access companies with the latest technology or the latest and greatest thing in health care? There are great technology platforms out there. There are great elements to some of the core things you're seeing in Silicon Valley that do apply to health care. But that does not mean you can just transport them into health care. You have to really understand health care from a deep level to try and make some of these great things that will reduce costs and improve quality stick.

BA: I think our team and I take much more of a consumer focus lens than we would if we were outside the building, outside of the Echo Health Ventures organization. “How will it change the game for the consumer?” “How will it change their journey?” And nobody, I think, cares if that comes in the form of a new app or an analytics tool or a mobile technology. They care to solve very specific personal challenges and address family needs. How do we make health care better?

LC: That was Rob Coppedge and Ben Albert who spoke together for StoryCorps and shared their journeys as entrepreneurs.

As we continue our look back at the second year of HealthChangers, we'll take a listen to another listener favorite from our StoryCorps sessions. This is a conversation between Brodie Dychinco and Laura Stevenson for the “HealthChangers Podcast: Telehealth Aids Unexpected Delivery,” episode. Listen in.

Telehealth Brings Health Care Full Circle

Brodie Dychinco: Everything went smooth until two weeks before the due date, my wife says, “I think it’s time we head to the hospital.” As we are walking through the kitchen she tells me that she thinks that the baby is coming at that very moment. And she tells me to hurry up and take her to the hospital. And knowing her, she does not over exaggerate things, I truly believed that the baby was coming. I told her that we don't want to have this baby on the freeway. I think we would rather have this baby at home, so let's just get ready for a home birth.

I ended up calling 911. The emergency operator told me to get some towels and I remember listening to the operator's instructions and what I was doing was essentially just calling out random body parts as they were emerging. [laughter]

Laura Stevenson: That's crazy and incredible. [laughter]

“I didn’t know it then, but I was actually receiving virtual care for my son's birth. It's completely ironic that my experience back then is shaping how I do my work today.”

BD: Looking back, I don't think I would have been as calm if I didn't have the operator’s voice on the phone. One of my responsibilities now at Cambia is to lead the virtual care strategy for the company.

LS: Absolutely, it’s amazing how life comes full circle that way sometimes, right?

BD: I could really see that the vast majority of care could actually now be delivered in a way that doesn't require someone to leave their own home.

I don't know whether baby deliveries and those types of things will increase in number, especially the unplanned home births. I see trends to telehealth and technology as becoming more commonplace. Care can be done from virtually anywhere, connecting people that are not physically in the same place with each other. I'm excited for the future of how delivery of health care is going to have such a convenient aspect to it where you don't need to be traveling and waiting in waiting rooms, sitting around with a bunch of other sick people, potentially catching illnesses from other people while you're trying to care for your own. That's a pretty amazing future.

LC: I hope you've enjoyed our episode marking the second anniversary of HealthChangers. We appreciate everyone who has listened in over the last two years, whether you've just discovered our podcast or whether you've been listening all along. We hope you'll stay tuned as we share new insights and innovations in the years to come.

You can find more information on all of our episodes at cambiahealth.com. You can also follow us on Twitter, @Cambia. Please subscribe to HealthChangers on iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review. Thanks for listening.

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