All around the world, people have referred to 2020 as “The Great Pause,” and will likely remember it as such: a year when life as we know it screeched to a halt as we all grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. A time to mourn. A time to reflect. A time to wait.
But for certain industries, 2020 was the opposite. It was a year when research and development sped up in an effort to respond to new obstacles created by the novel coronavirus. A time to experiment. A time to rigorously focus. A time to keep one’s nose to the grindstone. For Anthony Lange, senior vice president and head of healthcare and life sciences at Virtusa Corporation, “The Great Acceleration” would be a more accurate moniker.
Virtusa guides its clients toward executing successful end-to-end digital business transformation services, and as Lange points out, he was starting to see companies begin to flirt with the digitization of healthcare before COVID-19.
“Pre-pandemic, there was a little bit of telehealth,” says Lange, also touching on companies that wanted to prove the worth of their data-collecting medical devices. “I think everyone was talking about it, dabbling in it, doing research, a little bit of development. And we were seeing an uptick in contracts associated with value-based care. But from my perspective, there was not widespread adoption.”
Of course, when March of 2020 rolled around, telehealth suddenly became the rule rather than the exception. “More people started using telehealth because they had to,” Lange says. “The explosion is well-documented. But right now, it’s still a fairly one-way communication where the physician is asking questions. I see our customers wanting to provide a much richer remote experience for patients.”
“I think [the virtual care experience is] what everyone’s trying to figure out right now. And it’s really tricky. Personally, I think value-based care is the answer, rather than an encounter-based model.”
As an example, on the patient end, Lange brings up his eighty-five-year-old mother, who has had a handful of virtual doctor’s visits since the pandemic began.
“I’m not sure they were overly valuable for her,” Lange says with a laugh. “But imagine if there was a simple device that could connect to an iPad while checking her blood pressure and other vitals, then share the data with the doctor while he’s talking with her. Then we’ve got something.”
Every day, Virtusa is developing technological advancements to deliver the kind of expansive remote healthcare experience Lange and his team envision. The company’s initiatives have only sped up since COVID-19 changed the world.
“My team and I have never worked so hard,” says Lange, noting that the workload became even heavier as they had to contend with the logistical hurdles that came with moving three-thousand people from an office to working completely at home.
Obstacles aside, the team remained focused on six core principles that guided all of their technology. First, the remote healthcare experience needs to be virtual and personal. Second, resiliency across the board—in everything from supply chains to adapting to the pandemic and what life will look like once it’s over. Third, building capability (i.e. cross-training Virtusa’s employees on the new technologies being created).
Fourth, utilization of data—how to share it safely and appropriately in a way that helps the patient and Virtusa’s clients. Fifth, driving a better experience and taking out the friction for everyone involved collaborating with Pega. And sixth, acceleration to the Cloud, including the modernization of existing applications and platforms, and making them more accessible and available.
All six of these principles have gone into the development of vLife, a Cloud-based platform on Amazon Web Services that provides technology enabled tools to the healthcare industry built in partnership with companies like Pega. Thanks to a clinical data lake of 815 billion health records, Virtusa’s clients can conduct population health analysis, track disease progression, and even make predictions across four key therapeutic areas: orthopedics, oncology, type 2 diabetes, and renal disease.
“Right now, [telehealth is] still a fairly one-way communication where the physician is asking questions. I see our customers wanting to provide a much richer remote experience for patients.”
But Lange recognizes that an enhanced virtual healthcare experience doesn’t just rely on new technology. There also needs to be a complete overhaul of current reimbursement models.
“I think that’s what everyone’s trying to figure out right now,” he says. “And it’s really tricky. Personally, I think value-based care is the answer, rather than an encounter-based model.” He ponders what an alternative model would look like if large tech companies were the ones paying practitioners. “Imagine Amazon saying, ‘Here’s Amazon Health,’ just like there’s Amazon Prime. You pay monthly or annually for a certain amount of always-available health services or advice. You purchase medical devices and medications on Amazon, connected to your doctor. I think there’s a model there somewhere from a subscription perspective.”
In keeping with his earlier remarks, Lange concedes that this is pure speculation. There’s no one person or organization that currently has the answer for a new reimbursement model. But he believes that finding one is equally as important as developing technology in the vein of vLife that makes for a richer healthcare experience for all involved—not just patients, but practitioners and payers, as well. He also doesn’t think the need will go away once the pandemic is over.
“I’ve read a lot about what happened after the 1918 Spanish Flu,” he says. “It took a while for things to get back to normal, and even then, it wasn’t completely the same. And I think we’ll see that here. It won’t be like the during pandemic, but it won’t be exactly like it was before the pandemic, either. I don’t think we’re going back to where we were.”
But with the plans on Lange’s drawing board, maybe we can move on to something better.
“Healthcare is so personal, and organizations across the healthcare ecosystem need to do everything they can to give consumers, patients, and members a compassionate, personalized, and seamless experience during every point of contact. However, too many aspects of the healthcare journey continue to be confusing and disjointed, and the industry still struggles to provide frictionless end-to-end experiences. Using a fully unified suite of healthcare applications provides a more collaborative, transparent environment that will not only make it easier to interact with patients and members, it will—most importantly—help create better health and business outcomes.” —Dave Irish, Vice President of Sales for Healthcare & Life Sciences, Pega Systems
“As Anthony Lange has rightly put forward, ‘enhanced virtual healthcare experience doesn’t just rely on new technology. There also needs to be a complete overhaul of current reimbursement models.’ It is essential that we should delve beyond the surface and put consumers at the center. The preponderance of siloed solutions could just be adding more noise. We must get better at interrogating the consumer experience (CX) and move beyond the norms of incremental solutions. There is no easy path and no silver bullets—it requires strong leadership, commitment, and a willingness to make lasting consumer relationships.”—Vaibhav Srivastava, Senior Vice President of Client Services, Virtusa