For Deb Gage, president and CEO of Medecision, making virtual health possible is a personal mission.
By Deb Gage, President and CEO, Medecision
Note from the editor: This post was originally published in October 2020 and was last updated in February 2021.
At Medecision, we had to quickly pivot in March when the pandemic forced everyone home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We watched our future vision unfold and accelerate each day. We were lucky that our vision and our platform were already created to bring consumers and their caregivers together in a virtual digital healthcare experience. Today, more than 95 health plans and care delivery organizations use Aerial—our integrated health management platform—to manage costs and care for more than 50 million Americans who have their care financed under commercial, Medicare and Medicaid programs.
For me and many of my fellow Liberators, this is personal. I want for myself and my family what every American wants: a system where we can access healthcare readily, easily and cost effectively. Where we have a single portable record with our health history and personal preferences that includes everything from how to communicate with me to my personal circumstances that impact my health to my preferences for the end of my life. I want a system that is easy, focused on my time, my needs and my family.
Here’s my story. It gets me up every single day to improve healthcare.
Introducing Digital Ray
A few years ago, as my mother was passing at the age of 83, she grabbed my hand and looked me in the eyes and lovingly said, “Please bring your dad to live with you in Texas. He cannot live alone here in Florida.” My parents met at age 16, married at 18, and enjoyed more than 60 years in a loving relationship. My mother wanted to make sure dad was connected and close to his family. However, my dad, Ray, had a different plan after my mother’s death. My dad is a very social person. Like many Americans, he wants to stay in his home and community where he has a large network of friends and neighbors who care for him. They stop by his home to check in and bring him groceries and dinners, and they invite him to social events (now outdoors). I understand that these things are important to his happiness. I know he is not lonely, and I realize that he is happier there than he would be living with me in Texas.
That said, he’s aging. He’s 88. He had a quadruple bypass nine years ago, he has knee pain and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago. It took some creativity, but eventually I forged a path with my dad and created what we together call “Digital Ray.” Digital Ray is a whole system of connected technology to monitor his activities and health status, and to communicate with him in a number of ways. For him, it means being more active with technology, which he has embraced fully. I’m convinced it’s keeping him connected socially as well as medically, and I know he is better off because of it. For me, it’s peace of mind.
Connecting Ray to His Care Teams
Creating Digital Ray has been a journey, and it’s created a complicated set of technology support requirements. We installed a Nest camera where I can see his family room and kitchen. I can watch his daily activity, including what and when he’s eating and if he’s taking his medications as prescribed. Using his Apple Watch, iPad and iPhone, we track his steps and monitor his heart rate. When he stumbled in his garden a few weeks ago, we both—much to our surprise—discovered his Apple Watch has a fall monitor that alerted him and asked if he needed to call 911. We use a digital blood pressure monitor and digital weight scale. Soon we’ll be installing new iPhone-connected hearing aids. All of these devices are connected to his iPad and my devices in real time. He has a video Alexa where he can use voice commands for music and weather, to video chat with me and others, and so much more. These devices keep us connected virtually in a way that gives us all the comfort knowing that if/when something happens and he needs help, we’ll know.
We also created a network of virtual healthcare professionals around Digital Ray. His primary care doctor can watch videos of his gait and is able to connect with us 24/7 via phone, fax and email. In this way, Digital Ray is at home, riding his golf cart around the neighborhood and walking his dog. He is social, mobile and at happily aging on his terms.
But you shouldn’t have to have a technology CEO as your daughter to stay comfortable in your own home in the face of aging, disease progression and now COVID-19. The Digital Ray concept needs to become the norm for all Americans. It’s not only a better experience, but all of us in healthcare know that it also improves outcomes and lowers costs—the Triple Aim! The need for a digital and virtual care experience for all became a requirement this past March as the pandemic changed our lives. It’s exciting to see the innovation, passion and purpose with which our entire system has responded to address these barriers.
Getting to Digital Ray Faster
Some of the most essential components of this universal American appeal to get care easily, virtually and in a connected system of care have existed for decades. However, they were not adopted due to barriers of interoperability and misaligned economic incentives. Thankfully, in the midst of the pandemic, many organizations are now rapidly accelerating the delegation of risk to providers as they adopt and use new technology. Every day I hear another story of how our health plan and health system clients are changing seemingly overnight to team-based care, telemedicine and more. This shift in where care is delivered and how consumers experience the healthcare system—a system that has been steeped in silos of financial and reimbursement processes and has too often seen disconnects between diagnosis and treatment—is exciting. We have miles to go, but what we are seeing is a rapid increase in the speed of innovation. Now, this is getting really exciting.
At the same time, the rapid and widespread adoption of new systems and settings of care—our homes, virtual visits, monitoring devices—are further complicating and fragmenting the data and systems needed for holistic care management. We have telehealth visits happening with little or no patient history and limited return of information back to the primary care teams and systems of record. We have our elderly and chronically ill at home largely without monitoring devices or access to essential foods and medications. We are better than this in America—we need Digital Ray for all!
Don’t we all want a comprehensive view of each patient and member?
With the complexity of care delivery continuing to become more specialized, more carved out, and more disaggregated by plans and providers, how can we achieve a comprehensive view of an individual when critical data about their history, conditions, medications and social systems are contained in disparate systems? Electronic medical records, claims systems, home care systems, pharmacy management systems and more all have a primary purpose to diagnose, treat or reimburse. They are essential systems, but they are not care management systems.
What is needed is a single comprehensive interactive consumer data and monitoring system that will allow a collaborative care team to diagnose, treat and manage consumer health as a team sport. That’s where we come in with the Aerial platform and our vision of Digital Ray. We began creating Aerial as an ecosystem platform years ago. In 2020, we realized the vision of a single integrated system to gather all available health, socioeconomic and other relevant data in a system that provides a real-time interactive electronic personal health record for care team consumption across all settings of care. Our new video engagement and campaign features will accelerate consumer, caregiver and clinician collaboration virtually, seamlessly and holistically.
An Oasis in the Patient Journey
As the healthcare industry continues to expand where care is delivered and who it’s delivered by, the need for care management systems that integrate data to present a real-time and comprehensive consumer record is critical. The new care management systems have intelligent alerts to identify the next best treatment and action for use by a care team quarterback. These systems are a necessity for effective team-based care, for seamless care transitions, for revenue optimization in a value-based care world, and to drive collaboration with and engagement of consumers and their care teams.
Aerial is the nation’s leading integrated virtual care management platform providing these features and personalized experiences. It’s powered by advanced health data science—it features evidence-based protocols and intuitive workflow systems, and it enables and supports virtual care models. Aerial connects all the dots—the technology, the data and the people—to deliver great outcomes, a better experience and lower costs. You can learn more about Aerial by clicking here.
Isn’t this what we all want? Don’t we all want a team of healthcare professionals and our personal caregivers seamlessly connected together to share insight and information and to diagnose and manage our health journey?
I do, and thankfully this vision is now a reality with Aerial.