Photo credit: Megan Bayley

Beyond the Pandemic: Embracing Something Radically Different

Kelsey Mellard

Healthcare hotspots—areas that require immediate or higher than average access to medical professionals—are not new. COVID-19 certainly demonstrated hotspot challenges on a national level, showing the glaring disparities in healthcare and its impact on human health. Some communities are well resourced while others struggle to secure personal protective equipment. 

In 2011, Dr. Atul Gwande published an article that drew national attention to this topic. That same year, I was part of the group that stood up the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to achieve better care for patients, better health for our communities, and lower costs through improvement for our health care system. There I came to understand the great opportunity posed by new technologies and alternative risk arrangements with value based care. 

From there, I went on to spend nearly a decade leading healthcare innovation across companies within the provider, payer, government, and technology industries. My goal was to eliminate barriers and improve access to patient-centered care across the nation. I had the opportunity to both watch and work on efforts that saved lives. However, functioning in the confines of the typical care journey - patients traveling to see one provider, then the next - limited those efforts to result in only incremental change. Patients nor their providers could holistically understand their care needs. So, hotspots persist and healthcare disparities, especially with specialty care, continue to distress families, increase healthcare costs, and limit provider impact and satisfaction. It became clear to me that there had to be bigger, bolder change – the system needed to be transformed. So, at the beginning of 2018, I set out to do exactly this. 

I brought together a team of experts with over 75 years of collective healthcare experience to solve for transformation. We laid out our goals: improve the quality of diagnoses through improved connectivity along the continuum of care, augment supply of specialists to better match provider needs, and reduce healthcare costs for all. In collaboration with our Chief Clinical Innovation Officer, Sohrab Gollogy, the venture was approached with clinicians and patients in mind. We grounded our work around human-centricity and convenience, staying away from the tedious processes that contribute to physician burnout. The question became, how might we empower and enhance informed care delivery and communication between primary care clinicians (PCPs) and their patients? The solution was Sitka, a full-stack telehealth solution supercharged by a specialty provider network.

The Sitka platform includes:

Although each capability poses great opportunity and a multitude of use cases, the combination of all three is where the magic happens, and where care is coordinated, comprehensive, and efficient. This system, or cycle, of action minimizes friction and maximizes access across the care continuum, allowing primary care providers to remain at the helm of patient care. 

Sitka’s accessible technology addresses healthcare inequities and allows hundreds to do the work of thousands by connecting patients to clinicians in an expedient, agile, HIPAA-compliant environment. And this, afterall, has been my goal all along -- to provide patients with easy access to physicians, transparent care that they can participate in and become their own advocates of, and to equip physicians with the tools to deliver patient care without all the scheduling and administrative hassles. 

It’s a crucial time to build innovative solutions for the complex issues within our healthcare industry. I remain committed to the transformation necessary to help address the inequities that have long plagued the medical industry to achieve better care for all.