On Tuesday, July 21, Cleveland Clinic held its second webinar in the Transformation Tuesdays virtual series on telehealth. Segueing into the part of virtual health where telemedicine meets remote monitoring, experts gathered to discuss “building the digital doctor’s office” and enabling connected, data-advised clinician input from the comfort of home. Connected device adoption is an element of virtual care the health ecosystem has been looking to bolster for years but hadn’t seen widespread success until COVID-19. Though this pandemic has changed the nature of reality, it has provided a great amount of opportunity in this space. From the alarming necessity of these devices, we draw inspiration for how care should be defined and transformed moving forward. Moderated by Adam Myers, MD, Chief Population Health and Director, Cleveland Clinic Community Care, panelists Sami Inkinen, CEO & Founder, Virta Health, Dedi Gilad, CEO & Co-Founder, TytoCare, and Inder Singh, CEO & Founder, Kinsa talked connected tech, its contributions to community and population health, and current applications keeping people home and healthy.
Our discussion began with a brief introduction of all panel members and their contribution to the digital health space. Inkinen, CEO of diabetes management company Virta Health, detailed his team’s goal of reversing type II diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. Managing this chronic disease population through their personalized, data-integrated platform, Virta’s methods for diabetes reversal are two-fold: safe medication removal enabled by technology and effective, sustainable carbohydrate restriction. With physicians employed to deliver care virtually in all 50 states and connected tech to keep visits informed, Virta is well on its way toward this goal.
Kinsa, a health technology company whose mission is to help individuals and communities stop the spread of infectious illness, has been primed for situations like COVID-19 since its founding in 2012. Triaging illness in the home through the use of a connected thermometer, individuals and families are able to get more information than a mere temperature readout. Individuals are asked a serious of questions about accompanying symptoms to provide personalized guidance for next steps in the care path. Most important to the environment of today is the technology’s ability to curb spread and draw actionable insights within communities. Mapping location-specific illness levels, Kinsa aggregates anonymous information to aid a quicker reaction. Said Singh on the larger impact of Kinsa’s platform and connected devices as a whole, “There are technologies today that do profound things, not just for the individual, but for public health, population health, and we need to be taking advantage of it.”
Working to mitigate the limitations clinicians and patients see conducting an exam virtually, TytoCare and its suite of data-collecting devices are making virtual interactions more clinically holistic and valuable. Their platform includes tools to image the throat, ear, skin, auscultation of the heart, as well as the tongue and stomach, and collect some basic vital signs like temperature reading, heart rate, and soon oxygenation in the blood. Integrated with AI and ML to survey the data collected, TytoCare, too, is able to predictive model and risk-stratify when it comes to disease. Said Gilad of Tyto’s drive, “Tyto’s mission from the get-go was to transfer this very basic primary care interaction from the physical to the digital. We were less about the preventive – although we do collect very unique data that can for sure help in the prediction of pandemics or outbreaks. But our main focus remains on allowing the clinician to get outside the four walls and really touch, listen, and look into the patient in a much more profound and clinical way.”
The panel discussed briefly the traditional public health mindset and the shift required to be more proactive in situations like COVID-19. Said Singh on the topic, “What's missing from our public health equation is a focus on early warning. Today, we are biased toward accurate diagnostic data, as opposed to early data that might help us respond quicker in the population sense.” As healthcare advances to make use of the connected tech and its predictive modeling capabilities, there is tremendous room to grow in our public health insights – both in and beyond times of crisis.
The conversation also lent itself to a discussion of the longevity of the remote care model and the shift from episodic to continuous remote care. Said Inkinen on the application for those individuals living with chronic disease, “The first evolution of telemedicine, if you will, was very episodic. If you needed to talk to a doctor, you picked up your phone or your smartphone or your computer and got in touch. But what is happening now, and has already happened in the way we deliver care at Virta, is the next phase – what we call Continuous Remote Care. We continuously and proactively monitor our patients remotely and proactively interact either synchronously or asynchronously with the patients two to four times a day.” Though discussing type II diabetic patients in particular who require more frequent touchpoints, the group agreed the implications go beyond this subset of individuals. Monitoring health from a distance to deliver care before an episode is necessary is applicable to all types of patients interested in optimal wellbeing.
As typical with any discussion of virtual health, the panel continued on to detail remedies of connection issues and widespread access in more remote areas of the country and world, reimbursement for continuous service, and the integration of the “human touch.” Our panelists then wrapped their discussion with some final take-aways. Said Inkinen, “While the arrival of the future has accelerated by two to four years, in terms of utilization of telemedicine and the new ways of delivering care, we are not going to go back to the past when Covid-19 is over. I feel very strongly that this is one of the silver linings of COVID-19. It is a good thing for society and patients, and everyone involved in healthcare.” Along the same lines, Gilad commented, “Things will not go back to what they used to be. I think this is the era of making [these devices] part of the care delivery model.” Singh wrapped with two final points, “The success of these kinds of telemedicine tools will be directly dependent on an amazing experience for both the end-user and provider – we need to make sure user experience is great for both.” Gilad continued, “The second point I'll make is, it's not just about better care of the individual. It's about better care of the population too. With a network of these devices, we can do things never imagined in the past, like real-time detection of outbreaks. They can help us contain them when they're a flame rather than an inferno – with [connected tech], we can save lives and livelihoods.”
Skilled in the ways of remote monitoring and passionate about individual and community health, our panelists look forward to an increasingly connected future and their contributions by way of ever-advancing platforms. To view the full discussion and learn more about the opportunities that lie at the intersection of telehealth and data-enabled technology, click here. We want to thank Virta Health, TytoCare, and Kinsa for their insights and participation in this session. In the month of August, we’ll be transitioning our virtual conversations to cover healthcare’s other buzzword: AI. Be sure to join us for our first webinar of this series from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (ET) on Tuesday, August 11, for an in-depth look at AI’s most advanced applications across the health spectrum.