// Insights

How Suppliers Can Become Central in Helping Patients Manage Chronic Care

Sean Johnson
Founding Partner

A common pain point among providers and patients is the episodic, single-channel nature of primary care; it’s inconvenient, costly, and results in less-than-optimal outcomes––a Triple Aim miss for the US healthcare system.

Many Americans see their primary care provider once a year.  And although patients living with chronic health conditions see providers more often, the visit frequency falls short of standard of care recommendations outlined by disease management groups, such as the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

As an example, ADA standards underscore the importance of daily care in areas of patient monitoring and coaching - specifically around nutrition therapy, physical activity, smoking cessation, and psychosocial care - to avoid downstream, adverse medical events.

Healthcare system stakeholders have taken notice of the disconnect and, as a result, are making significant strides towards real-time, omni-channel care delivery - care delivery that would be more convenient, less costly, and result in improved outcomes––a Triple Aim success for US healthcare.

Why Medical Supply Companies Could Become the Focal Point in a New Care Paradigm

All of this represents an incredible opportunity for medical suppliers.

The need for home medical equipment is on the rise. By being in a patient’s home, companies are able to insert themselves directly into the middle of the patient’s care plan. Patients appreciate the convenience and payors appreciate the reduced costs.

But it also can mean improved care. To the degree medical supply companies fully leverage and connect smart hardware with software solutions, patients, their families, and providers can move away from episodic, point-in-time measurements and move toward a constant, ongoing stream of actionable data. That means faster feedback loops and improved outcomes.

It likely could also mean providers are able to serve more customers, even while providing higher quality care. A world exists where in-person visits could become less frequent, leveraging telemedicine solutions augmented by wearable and smart devices. More frequent touch points, with better data, more conveniently.

There is a transition taking place towards at-home care and value based care models. A medical device-enabled modality is perfectly suited to this new reality.

Medical supply companies looking to cement their place with existing insurance contracts - or to secure new ones - would be wise to consider the possibilities this technology enables. Being able to leverage meaningful, actionable data to coach patients towards improved disease management would be a valuable part of the value proposition for payors.

Examples of this in action

There is already evidence of an appetite for these types of solutions with customers, even without provider recommendations.

Consider Levels Health, a startup backed by some premier investors in Silicon Valley. They have built a software solution on top of Abbott Labs’ continuous glucose monitors to provide normal patients with insight into their lifestyle and its impact on their metabolic health. Customers are happily paying nearly $200 a month for the privilege.

Hear more in Manifold's interview with Levels Health.

Other examples of major healthcare players making bets and getting involved in the space include AdaptHealth’s 2020 acquisition of Solara, Teladoc’s 2020 acquisition of Livongo, Humana’s 2021 acquisition of Kindred at Home, and Owen & Minor’s 2022 acquisition of Apria.

How to get started

As always, we typically recommend starting by talking with customers. Specifically we recommend chatting with the various stakeholders in your ecosystem - health systems, providers, payors, and patients. You’ll likely uncover what types of information would be most valuable from a monitoring standpoint, as it relates to your existing or potential service offerings.

From there it makes sense to examine the feasibility of potential solutions. Some medical equipment is already a “smart device”, but that can mean many things. Some are much more open than others. In the Levels example, the platform actually integrates and ingests data from Abbott’s own mobile app, not with the glucose monitor itself.  This means the user has to have both apps installed on their device.

Understanding what can and can’t be done, even if it requires some creative solutions like the above, will be critical in developing a plan. What format is the data in? How do you retrieve it? Industry experts can help in this process, particularly in understanding the technical aspects of these devices.

It will be critical to think through the user journey, both from the provider and the patient side. Solutions like these will be a lot more like consumer products, and there are numerous considerations:

  • They require the provider to want the data, meaning it needs to be delivered at a cadence and in a format that works for them. Tight integration with an EMR is likely.
  • They require the provider to be enabled and motivated to educate the patient on the need for such a solution. Sales enablement tools will be helpful, as will a simple way to drive the patient to the platform. SMS and email cadences will be critical, as will a simple way to get patient consent.
  • Creating an elegant and intuitive onboarding process will be essential, as any friction in the process will hurt adherence (even if the provider is pushing them to adopt.)
  • Finally, once the patient adopts, creating an appropriate and natural set of triggers to turn use into a habit will be important. Many wearable devices fail to go from the aha moment to the habit moment due to a lack of appropriate trigger architectures.

Finally, you want to be able to justify the program development and spend. There are likely two main sources of revenue.

  1. Directly with providers. Providers are increasingly using a new billing code for remote patient monitoring, and there are three sub-codes underneath it. Notify the provider that they are able to outsource remote patient monitoring to you and demonstrate your capabilities. They can then pay you through one or two of those sub-codes and keep the third at no cost to them. Leading with a value based care value prop can be helpful - reminding them that such an approach allows their patients to be connected with them throughout the year.

  2. With the payor. This involves more upside, but also more risk. You can make the case that through remote patient monitoring, aggregation of the data, and tying that to downstream events, you can produce better outcomes, which will ultimately benefit the payors.

Value based care is here, and smart medical devices and medical supply companies can position themselves to take advantage. By making a strategic bet on this and positioning yourself well now, you can be at the forefront of the movement.