Inside a new virtual-first, Epic-based, nationwide telehealth services company

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems are now offering the majority of telemedicine across the country. However, as healthcare system physicians return to their practices, patient demand has, in many cases, begun to outstrip healthcare system supply.

Some healthcare systems have contracted with third-party telemedicine providers, who often require patients to go into a separate system that is not well integrated with the healthcare systems’ other technologies. Other healthcare systems have built their own strength of virtual care providers, but are unlikely to provide comprehensive care 24/7.

To get an overview of the situation from a brand new player, IT news in healthcare interviewed dr. Lyle Berkowitz, CEO of KeyCare and general practitioner. KeyCare is a virtual first care platform built with Epic EHR and other technologies. KeyCare launched its system two months ago and provides services to BHSH Systems’ Spectrum Health West Michigan Division.

Berkowitz, a longtime leader of healthcare IT and clinical informatics, discusses how KeyCare works, its association with EHR giant Epic, $24 million in a recent Series A funding, advances at Spectrum Health’s West Michigan division of BHSH System and the future of his company and telemedicine in general.

Q: Please describe KeyCare, who uses it and what it enables through telemedicine.

A KeyCare takes a fairly simple approach to helping healthcare systems expand the virtual care services they can offer their patients.

Rather than building our own platform from scratch, we first licensed Epic Systems’ EHR and telemedicine technology and optimized it to provide a virtual augmentation of care for other healthcare systems. Second, now that our Epic instance is up and running, we’re contracting with virtual vendors, also known as virtualists, to make them available on our platform.

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The result is that Epic-based healthcare systems can now add virtual care coverage through their own doorsteps, rather than asking patients to sign up with another portal. Patients have a more seamless experience and quality is improved as data is shared bi-directionally between the KeyCare Epic instance and the healthcare system Epic instance.

We can also integrate with other EHRs via industry standard interoperability options such as CareQuality.

On the Virtualists side, we plan to partner with a variety of telehealth groups looking for a robust EHR technology platform that is easily interoperable with most healthcare systems in the United States.

With Epic’s wide-ranging EHR functionality, we can support a variety of virtual care options ranging from primary care to behavioral health to niche specialists and remote patient monitoring.

Q: Please discuss the strong connection with EHR giant Epic.

A We are part of the Epic community, which means we are Epic customers who license their electronic medical record software similar to many other healthcare systems around 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 nursing services, which impacts the features we enable on the content we create. Second, we are optimizing our instance around the concept of being of service to other Epic customers by maximizing the use of Epic’s interoperability features that enable cross-instance scheduling, data sharing, messaging, and ordering.

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The result is that we can enable support for other Epic systems in a very short amount of time with minimal IT resources required, as it is more of a configuration than an integration between two instances.

Finally, we realize that 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 work together to develop future technology improvements.

Q: You recently closed a $24 million Series A funding backed by 8VC, LRVHealth, Bold Capital and Spectrum Health Ventures. How do you intend to use the funds? How are they applied to virtual nursing?

A These funds will be used to further optimize our instance of Epic and grow our team to better serve our virtualists and healthcare partners.

Q: You started providing services to BHSH Systems’ Spectrum Health West Michigan Division in July. How is that received? What types of telemedicine services have you provided?

A It went very well. We tested Epic’s “Telehealth Anywhere” technology, which allows a patient to enter Spectrum’s digital front door – their MyChart portal – and then schedule an on-demand virtual emergency appointment with providers participating in the KeyCare instance work from Epic.

As a result, Spectrum can now offer patients 24/7 virtual emergency care in 50 states. This allows them to deliver on their promise of always being there for their patients and expand contracts with payers and employers that require this type of coverage.

And within the first two months, we’ve already helped Spectrum serve patients who have traveled more than half the United States.

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Q: What will the future of your business and telemedicine look like?

A We started with 24/7 virtual emergency care in 50 states because it was a constant demand from healthcare systems. Now that we have this up and running, we look forward to working with more healthcare systems across the US and expanding functionality.

Next we will add more special types. We should be living with behavioral therapists augmenting our health care partners before the end of this year. And we explore other specialties ranging from extended primary care to maternal care and cardiac rehabilitation to nutritionists, speech therapists and chronic disease management.

And then, over time, we plan to increase the efficiency of our virtualists by adding asynchronous support, automating the process as much as possible, and using other technologies to make care as easy and convenient as possible for both providers and patients to design.

Our vision is to enable healthcare systems to have a rich variety and depth of Virtual Care Extender teams, with a particular focus on making routine care as easy, accessible and affordable as possible for their patients.

We believe this will allow healthcare system physicians to manage a much larger panel size while reducing the number of physician visits they need to see. The outcome of this type of virtual vision of care would thus be improved access and quality for patients, less burden on physicians, and increased revenue for healthcare systems.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the author: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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