Before Rich Berner came on board as CEO of Complia Health six months ago, he had already spent 25 years as a health care strategist with a focus on technology, most recently at MDLIVE, where he led the industry transition to consumer-focused health care online. His role at the technology solutions provider for home health and hospice is to help expand Complia Health’s solutions, disrupt the industry and lead through the current health care shift. HomeCare talked with him about the shift, technology, and what it will mean for the future of care in the home.
HOMECARE: Is there anything that's been surprising to you in your six months now in this space?
RICH BERNER: Well, I joined Complia Health because I believe that next phase of disruption in health care is going to be in the chronic and chronic condition management space, and in particular with the aging population in the United States. I joined Complia Health because I felt like they had a great team and a great set of clients that were leading this disruption. I think the biggest surprise has been how fast and how much change is coming into the post-acute market space—even more so than I anticipated.
HOMECARE: Is that because COVID-19 has been an accelerant?
BERNER: COVID was definitely an accelerant. But I think the government and health care providers
and payers have been focusing for over a decade now on trying to move towards value-based care and trying to move towards population health management. I think there's a general recognition that, while we've made a lot of progress in the doctor’s office and in the acute care setting, there's a growing desire from consumers to get healthcare on their terms in their homes. And there's a growing recognition that the outcomes you can drive are better when you provide care at home and you can actually do it at a lower cost as well, with higher consumer satisfaction. So I think there's a growing recognition that we should be trying to do more in the home. And I think that's what's driving it. COVID helped accelerate the art of the possible, but there was already a growing recognition that we need to provide more care.
HOMECARE: This is kind of a big 10,000-foot-view question, but how does technology help achieve those outcomes and particularly give you flexibility in where care can be delivered?
BERNER: Interestingly, even though I come at this as a technologist, I've spent most of my career trying to get internal teams and clients to stop talking about technology and focus on once we're trying to drive. And the reality is that, while we've made a lot of progress, health care is still 10 to 20 years behind other industries in its use of technology to improve the clinician experience and the consumer experience. So we can just look at what other industries have done, such as shopping and banking and travel. If we created consumer and clinician experiences that were similar to what people are able to do in every other aspect of their life, the health care mix would be better for all involved. The outcomes would be better and the cost would be lower.
HOMECARE: Do you have a vision of what that looks like?
BERNER: Absolutely. We need a single platform to connect consumers, administrators, caregivers and their families, and we need to automate as much of the care as possible. As much of the care that can be done remotely, we should be doing it remotely. And when it needs to be done in person, it should be as high quality and on the consumer's terms as much as possible. So we need to create a platform that … anticipates proactively and predictably what the consumer's needs are—not only the care they need, but the health management—and then routes them appropriately to the right level of care based on their preferences. So that could be a chat bot, that could be a phone call with a nurse, it could be an online visit with a physician, it could be a remote visit with a therapist, or it could be an in-person visit with a care provider.
HOMECARE: Is that doable? Can we get there with all the talk about silos and interoperability issues? How do we get to that spot?
BERNER: The short answer is yes, we can get there. It has taken much longer than I thought it would take, but to the previously discussed point, I think there's a growing awareness of what it takes and a willingness for people to work together. So if you think about the post-acute space, you see home health agencies more and more getting into personal care services, you see hospice agencies getting into home health, you see personal care services getting into home health and hospice—all three types of agencies recognize that we have to move away from managing the episode to manage the patient more broadly. And the payers absolutely believe that, as we've seen with some of the (mergers and acquisition) that's been going on with payers. So I think everybody knows what the answer is, and there's more willingness to break down some of the silos that have been there in the past. And, most importantly, those silos won't break down unless reimbursement leads the way. … With the changes that you've seen coming out in the past few years, as well as what they're talking about doing as far as significant investments in home health and homecare, you're, you're going to see an acceleration of achieving that vision. I think we’ll see more progress in the next five years than we’ve seen in the last 15 years.