As part of our Innovators in Healthcare series, CapitolVitals recently spoke with Faris Ghawi, Chief Executive Officer of Vytalize Health.

Vytalize Health, based in Hoboken, New Jersey, describes itself as a modernized primary care practice focused on Medicare beneficiaries.  The company provides expanded primary care services with a focus on prevention, chronic disease management, and behavioral health.

First and foremost, the mission of this company is to deliver quality care to the patients they serve, but the CEO also points to another goal:  bringing doctor’s offices in line with new payment models promoted by Medicare, such as its shared savings program.

How do they accomplish this? Through a strategy that employs both new and old methods.

Patients working with Vytalize Health receive personal tablets that allow them to videoconference with a medical support team with the touch of a button. Instead of an answering machine, patients are able to interact with medical professionals in real time, 24/7.

While Vytalize Health employs technology to better manage care for their patients, they offer traditional in-clinic services as well as in-person house calls to monitor patients’ health and provide treatment.

Here are 4 key takeaways from our conversation with Ghawi.

Medicare is an important driver of change.  Ghawi believes that the prevention-based model his company has put in practice will benefit everyone: patients, providers and taxpayers.  And he believes that it wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a shift in policy at the national level.  According to Ghawi, “It’s definitely driven by Medicare and the regulations.  If the regulations hadn’t changed, none of this would be possible. Before there was no upside, the economics didn’t work.”

Incentives are driving change in company cultures.  New payment models are intended to change the financial calculation when it comes to delivering healthcare and if you ask Ghawi, they are working.  “Our goal is to improve quality and keep patients out of the hospital.  We don’t run a mill here, we aren’t trying to see as many patients as possible,” said Ghawi.  He added, “by keeping people out of the hospital, we get compensated for it.  How we deliver care, the culture, and compensation — all of these things have to be aligned to make it work.”

Introducing change to an older population requires slow and steady progress. We asked Ghawi what he learned as they stood up their company.  He pointed out that you need to carefully move beneficiaries along a ladder in terms of their comfort level with technology.  They started out with more complex solutions and realized starting simple was a better approach.  And it’s important to take that time; to make sure Medicare beneficiaries are comfortable using technology.  Otherwise they risk missing out on its benefits.  His company doesn’t miss a chance to help a beneficiary grow more accustomed with their solutions.  Every in-clinic or home visit is a chance to ease a patient further along; up another rung of the technology ladder.

Keeping primary care doctors involved is key.  Ghawi noted that making sure a patient’s primary care physician is also bought into the technology and program is critical to success.  “As a business we started out on direct-to-consumer basis.  We were marketing directly to patients.  That didn’t get us very far.  We only started to get pick up when they started to hear from their own physicians.  When the message comes from the primary care doctor to their patient, it is so much more effective.”

To learn more about the work that Vytalize Health is doing in this space, visit their website at www.vytalizehealth.com.

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Bobby Clark is Of Counsel at Winning Strategies Washington, a DC-based government relations firm, and a co-founder of Concordis: Strategy and Analytics. He previously served as a senior health policy for a senior member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, and most recently for the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration.

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