Dr. Kirsten Anderson is the Chief Medical Officer for the Value Care Alliance (VCA), which is a collaboration of four health systems in Connecticut (Western Connecticut Health Network, St. Vincent’s Health Partners, Griffin Health, and Middlesex Hospital), and includes 10 hospitals and more than 1,000 physicians. She is passionate about data and its role in improving patient experience and advancing population health.
What is your top priority as the Chief Medical Officer for the Value Care Alliance?
I see my role first and foremost as a change agent. I want to improve the healthcare experience for both physicians and patients, fortifying the patient-physician relationship, all while making our systems easier to navigate. What brought me to the Value Care Alliance was the opportunity to be able to work side-by-side with the providers to understand what type of change needs to happen and how to achieve that change. I’ve practiced medicine for a while, worked on the payer side, and now I’m working with the health systems in Connecticut to move towards a population health-based healthcare system.
You’ve mentioned that Population Health is not just about lowering costs, would you mind sharing your perspective?
Population health is more than just lowering costs per service through integrated delivery models. It’s about improving patient experience and promoting a more empowered patient. Data plays a huge role in making all this happen because it helps us personalize our interactions with patients and make the overall experience seamless. We also provide data to doctors so that their interactions with patients is informed by the data from electronic medical records and payers. We are all part of the same system, and data helps us (literally and figuratively) talk to each other.
Enhancing the health and wellness of the population is the VCA’s mission, what if any role does Technology play?
Interestingly, even though the VCA is made up of a network of hospitals, we are not all on the same electronic medical record system. In fact, one of our health systems has 14% of physicians still on paper! In order to work together, we partnered with SymphonyRM to deploy their HealthOS Platform, as an overlay to the electronic medical record that would allow us to communicate and coordinate care across our network. For example, having the SymphonyRM platform enables us to better identify social determinants and the needs that might affect a patient’s health – issues with transportation, food insecurity, housing insecurity, even patients who are suffering from loneliness. SymphonyRM provides the VCA community health workers, along with relevant third-party partners (i.e. food banks) with specific workflows, while also allowing us to track activity, productivity and accomplishment across the entire spectrum.
What role does SymphonyRM’s Healthcare CRM platform play in the Value Care Alliance’s population health strategy?
The traditional view of accountable care organizations (ACOs) was “let’s have one more thing for the doctors to do”, give them one more list, or give them one more task. This has all contributed to provider burnout, resulted in less time spent with patients, and a less robust relationship between the provider and the patient. One of the advantages of SymphonyRM’s system is that it removes that burden from the providers. A provider can share the task of gap closures and of accurate coding with the other office staff (even with staff that are not in the office) so they can really focus on the work of medicine. I think that’s part of the benefit from the system, as it distributes the work that is traditionally thought of as work that only the clinician can do to people who really can help the doctors. As an example, schedulers, who are non-clinical, can make appointments just like medical assistants. Nurses, to a certain extent, can also be helping directly with the patient rather than doing busy work, which really enables the team to come together to be totally involved in the care of each patient.
We love Next Best Actions – what are some of the ways your teams are using this feature?
Next Best Actions are an incredibly powerful tool for us because I can see that to meet a contractual requirement, I have another 4 weeks to close a certain care gap and I can directly contact our call center team to inform them ‘Look, we have 4 weeks to close these gaps, so I need you to call the patients to get them to see their doctor or call these patients and have them do this test.’ That Next Best Action also allows me to influence what metrics are being focused on at that time. From my perspective, it’s good to say that there’s a whole list of things a patient might need, but I can prioritize based on evidence-based recommendations.
What does the future “empowered patient” really look like?
We’ve come from a place where those of us who work in the health system tend to see things from our own perspective because we live in it and we’re here every day. I think we lose sight of the fact a brief intervention, such as a 7-minute office visit, gives us minimal opportunity to influence a patient’s long-term health. We equally have the ability outside of the office visit to influence a patient’s health, thorough asynchronous engagement on their healthcare maintenance and chronic conditions and this is an incredible opportunity we tend to forget.
By spreading out the burden of care (instead of bombarding a patient all at once) you enable a patient to feel empowered instead of overwhelmed. Maybe this month they’re doing their diabetes testing and then next month they’re doing their colonoscopy and the month after that they’re doing their mammogram. This model enables people to ingest all of the recommended screening tests in a way that works for them in a truly personalized way.
How do you also make sure the physician feels that we’re empowering them?
I think the patients think ‘Wow, my doctor is thinking about me even when I’m not even there,’ which is a really powerful message to send to a patient. It says: I (the physician) want to have a relationship with you and am thinking about you even if you’re not in front of me, which serves to strengthen that patient-physician relationship. In terms of the physicians, I think that they’re just grateful for the help in providing the right care at the right time for their patients. I don’t think that they’ll see extra help as being detrimental to their relationships. They can benefit from the fact that the patients experience the asynchronous outreach and have a sense that their, doctor is really thinking of them and making sure that their health is being taken care of even when their clinician is not in front of them.