We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Leigh Mclaughlin, MPH and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa Leigh, how do you think about risk?
1. How do I think about Risk, that’s an interesting question: I’m curious by nature and don’t often think about embarking on a new adventure as taking a risk. I genuinely look forward to learning and challenging myself. That’s how I found my passion for telehealth. In the mid 90’s I was completing my graduate education in health policy and was awarded a GHAT fellowship at the VA in VISN 20 (Pacific Northwest). We researched solving interesting regional health delivery problems including building a remote broadband program across Oregon, Washington and Alaska. They were calling it Telehealth. My mentors did not want me to work for the feds, they thought it would be a career stopper for me. However, intuitively I felt this was going to be a huge eye-opening venture. And I also was paired with a very innovative Doctor who had a vision for where we could take this “remote health care delivery” model. We provided Alaska initial funding to build the AFGHAN network, now one of the most robust telehealth networks in the country. We changed people’s lives by bringing health care services to areas that simply were not passable during winter months. On one trip to see a new clinic that my program helped to build, I flew over the Artic Circle passing a beautiful winding river, we saw a herd of roaming elk, and then landed in this incredibly remote town. Once I stepped into the clinic and listened to the team share their gratitude for having the facility and the access to health care that it now provided them, I started crying. It was so amazing to me that I was a part of the visionaries who saw that technology could reduce barriers for healthcare access. Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally? How did you get to where you are today business-wise. The extraordinary experience with the VA led me to explore more in the telehealth world. While leading a board of director’s retreat at the University of Utah Telemedicine Program they described a future state that included telehealth delivered in the home for chronic condition patients. They envisioned a plug and play model that allowed for remote patients to receive care in the comfort of their homes. This was at the turn of the century. It made total sense to me, and I began to consider how to build that model. It took a few years as I knew that a service tethered to a broadband network would not be scaleable nor would it be possible to serve all rural individuals. We waited for Cellular technology to grow toward solid videoconferencing capabilities. Then we dove in.
What should our readers know about your business?
Please tell us more about your business. Welcome Home Health solves a simple problem. We provide a helping hand that guides the patient through their entire health journey. Even today, Health care in this country, should be called: sick care. The focus is taking care of the immediate health condition, then sending the patient home with instructions on what to do next. Instructions are written in medical-ese, not understandable to most people. And seriously, I’m married to a doctor, when I get care plans, I have him walk me through exactly what I am supposed to do. Our healthy at home program uses video conferencing and patient health advocates. We engage daily with patients/individuals and caregivers to help them understand their care plans and to set achievable goals toward their recovery. We schedule their clinical appointments, engage with home health, physical therapy, durable medical equipment providers and all community resources (ex: meals on wheels) as directed in the care plan. Within 24 hours of onboarding into our program we schedule a medication review, to ensure patients are not taking medications that will have a negative effect. We’re available to patients and caregivers 24/7 because we know that people need assistance, after hours, on weekends and holidays. The goal here is to learn how to do it better, how to reduce costs in health care and how to ultimately provide 100% of the care people need 100% of the time. To do this, Welcome Home Health pays attention to the gaps in care. Every time a patient engages the health systems, we document the interaction and the outcomes. We then coalesce this data to provide analytics that will inform and ultimately promote change. We recently partnered with Olive Helps. Their AI data capture methodology with amplify patient numbers allowing us to more quickly identify care transition gaps and prove that our unique methodology solves for these problems resulting in increased on-time recovery, reduced readmissions and unnecessary use of health care services. Our ideal individual is a patient is ill, needs surgery, has their first child, gets cancer, has an ongoing behavioral health condition or is living at home and has family members who are uncomfortable with them being alone. Was it easy? No. Change is hard. Especially in Health Care. Interestingly however, individuals immediately understand the value of our service and often tell me stories of themselves or a loved one who could have used our service. We were early to the disruption to the home care model. Most health care organizations stepped up their own programs to accommodate for “beyond their doors” support. This brought some support to patients but not nearly enough. Now, with payment moving to support the entire patient journey, there is more incentive to have health systems have their nurses focus on inpatient care and to pay for services like ours. If not, how did you overcome the challenges? We found other ways to serve patients, through grants and municipal health services. We also found that building a coalition with like-minded health care companies allows health care systems to understand the change and to reap the benefits of using our services for their patients. With COVID amplifying the use of telehealth services, I believe this is a huge silver lining and CMS and other resources will move increasingly toward remote patient care payment models. What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? Pioneering is not a journey for everyone. But if you embark and are willing to follow the ups and downs, its truly rewarding to listen to a patient share their story of gratitude. To hear a PHA’s delight when they helped a patient move through a crisis. To have a new customer re-imagine their business to include our innovative program. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? We’re on a mission to chance the care transition experience for patients and payers. We moved our corporate offices to Colorado and Denver based- Catalyst HTI because of the unique bond between health providers, the Governor, government, innovators and non-profits. There is a genuine desire here to build a more productive health care systems that meets the needs of frontier, rural and urban communities as they address patient access to care 100% of the time. We’re proud to be a part of this growing community.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a monthly, visitor to the Denver community, I have fallen in love with the RiNo district. My fav restaurant is Osaka Ramen. I am a broth lover, and pre-COVID would sit at the bar, grilling the chef on the specifics of making their broths. They are amazing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout is heartfelt as these are key individuals who continue to lift us up as we continue to grow this company. Kathy Herman and Lisa Tepper for agreeing to walk this path with me and for believing in the importance of our mission. To Loren Walsh and the SheEO Community for lifting up women owned businesses and including us as a 2020 US Venture. Andrew Richards, Amend Health for “getting it” immediately and sitting me down to tell me about this guy in Denver and his dream to build a Catalyst for Change. Mike Biselli, that guy in Denver, for following his dreams and creating a community where we could all prosper and for teaching me to shout out loud. To my amazing Denver based team members. And seriously my gratitude to Denver for welcoming us with open arms.
Colin McLaughlin, images of Vanessa