Q&A with Steve Hendrix of m.Care: Improving outcomes with accessibility

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AVIA Marketplace is the leading online resource for accurate, unbiased information about digital health companies and solutions. Our goal: To empower hospitals and health systems with the information they need to match with vendors who can meet their unique needs. We asked the top companies in the virtual visits space about their solutions and what they think the future of digital health looks like. No sponsored content or advertorials—just transparency and insights that decision-makers can use. 

Developed by LifeScience Technologies, the highly configurable m.Care® virtual care platform utilizes more than 60 software applets to engage patients in their care process, remotely monitor their condition, and serve as an early warning system for potential issues. Care teams manage at-home care through the Care Management Portal, where they can assign activities and education, monitor physiologic data and oversee treatment plan adherence. With advanced analytics and predictive modeling, providers can promptly respond at the first sign of trouble with asynchronous engagement or HIPAA-compliant video chat.

LifeScience Technologies president Steve Hendrix boasts over 35 years of business development and management experience and has worked in technology and healthcare for most of his career. As one of LifeScience Technologies’ cofounders, Steve is passionate about healthcare innovation and improving patient outcomes.

Q: Can you tell us about your company and the challenges you are solving within the virtual visit space?

A: We are LifeScience Technologies, a healthcare technology company and the developer of the m.Care® virtual care platform.

During COVID, we all saw the benefits of being able to treat patients remotely or virtually. Healthcare delivery has changed forever, and now the challenge is in providing an engaging and easy-to-use technology platform that meets the needs of populations and individuals.

Access to and communication with the patient’s care team is critical, and patient adherence to care plans is crucial to improving outcomes. For some patients, it is not financially feasible to supply expensive equipment like Bluetooth scales, connected blood pressure cuffs or wearable devices. Social determinants of health are another key consideration when delivering a solution to meet the needs of entire populations.

The m.Care platform is designed for ease of use and to encourage and support patient engagement. Our platform supports both synchronous and asynchronous communication–all HIPAA-compliant with data encrypted. Our objectives are to drive better patient outcomes and patient satisfaction through a robust and highly configurable virtual care platform that can accommodate as many patients as possible, with accessibility features that include voice commands in multiple languages for patients who are physically unable to use other means to report data.

Q: How does your company differentiate from other virtual visit vendors?

A: m.Care offers some significant benefits over other virtual visit vendors and solutions, including: 

  • Voice commands. For people with physical challenges or limited tech literacy, the ability to simply use their voices to “drive” the application is very powerful and fulfills a need that usually goes unmet. The ability to simply speak into our app and say things like: “My blood pressure is 120 over 70,” or “I weigh 170 pounds today,” or “I had a Big Mac and French fries for lunch,” is a true differentiator and game changer.
  • Configurability and customization options. The ability to “bake in” client protocols and workflows and establish alerts that are configurable at both the population and individual patient level are truly unique. 
  • Device-agnostic. We do not push our own branded devices or those from any single manufacturer. We allow our clients the ability to choose best-of-breed when it comes to deploying medical devices and wearables, and we can quickly add new devices when clients request them
  • AI/predictive modeling. m.Care monitors patient biomarkers and characteristics to help identify early signs of deterioration, so that care teams can proactively intervene.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes your company has seen around how health systems are approaching virtual visits, given the changes in the landscape over the past couple of years?

A: Health systems are certainly more open to RPM and virtual care discussions, but still somewhat slow to adapt to the changing landscape. Reimbursement is also still a big challenge, but the ship is starting to turn, albeit slowly.

Q: What does an ideal client look like? How are health systems best organized for success in standing up virtual visit capabilities?

A: The ideal health system client has a well-funded dedicated team to support their virtual care strategy–this kind of centralized services organization for virtual care is the key to success. The team needs to include an executive sponsor, clinicians, operations, IT, and care management.

Q: What impact have you seen from your clients who have prioritized virtual visits?

A: We collaborated with one of our longstanding clients on a 12-month study of 1,800 Medicare Advantage patients and the results were amazing. We saw a reduction of over 50 percent in readmissions and emergency room visits. Patient compliance was over 93 percent and patient satisfaction scores topped 98 percent, with the overall cost of care reduced by about 30 percent. The population was mostly older seniors with an average age of 75, concentrated in rural locations. So even with a geographically and technically challenged population, we were able to achieve these outstanding results, which are consistent among other clients as well. 

Q: What major functional enhancements and/or product investments are you making in the near term to keep up with the evolution of virtual visits?

A: We have a number of current projects and planned future enhancements for the m.Care platform. 

  • Leveraging AI is high on our product roadmap. We’re hard at work on these initiatives:
    • Predictive agents. We currently have predictive agents for sepsis, asthma and mood analysis, and we plan to continue working with our clients to build out additional predictive agents.
    • Deviceless heart rate detection. Our development team is currently engaged with a leading children’s hospital to test our ability to successfully measure an individual’s heart and respiratory rate with a single five second video clip. No special equipment is needed other than a camera in a standard mobile device.
    • Working with two different technology partners on integrating their speech AI into the m.Care platform so we can analyze patient voices and assess risk for depression, anxiety, and possibly even heart disease.

  • We are expanding our footprint to support behavioral and mental health conditions.  The m.Care platform can engage with and monitor patients experiencing depression, anxiety, substance use, and other behavioral and mental health challenges.

  • We are also researching neurology applications for the m.Care technology stack. Our ability to capture eye gaze detection, facial features recognition, and image mapping could be used in a wide variety of settings, including concussion management, PTSD, stroke and seizures, among other things.
Q: How is your company partnering with clients as reimbursements and use cases shift?

A: We work closely with our clients to support them as reimbursement rules change or new reimbursement codes are approved. Use cases continue to evolve, especially now with Remote Therapeutic Monitoring (RTM) codes available for billing.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities health systems should be thinking about this coming year when it comes to virtual visits?

A: Health systems should take a holistic view of patient care, including physical, behavioral, and mental health. The ability to “stack” multiple care plans to support whole-person care is critical. We also believe that moving forward, it’s extremely important for health systems to focus on using predictive technology to provide proactive care.

Q: How do you see virtual visits evolving in 2023 and beyond?

A: In the future, we anticipate that the role of artificial intelligence will continue to grow within the virtual visit space. Bluetooth medical devices and wearables will become even more sophisticated and less costly, which will reduce barriers to entry for RPM and virtual care, and we’ll see more at-home testing with kits and more affordable smart devices.

The smartphone camera and microphone are going to become much more valuable tools for early identification and diagnosis. This technology will be used to establish baselines for an individual’s medical condition, so issues can be detected more easily.

Virtual programs will also need to incorporate social determinants of health into patient care plans and expand into wraparound services, such as food and transportation. Platforms will also need to integrate with other solution providers to create seamless experiences for health system clients and patients. Effective virtual care programs should include solutions and services such as speech AI, behavioral science, nutrition, physical therapy, and more.

We also believe that in the next two to five years, virtual reality will play a key role in virtual care, especially when it comes to patient recovery and rehabilitation. 

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