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Advancing New Ways to Improve Overall Health Through Oral Health
Episode

Mariya Filipova Chief Innovation Officer at CareQuest Innovation Partners

Advancing New Ways to Improve Overall Health Through Oral Health

 

What should health professionals do right now? We need to bridge silos in healthcare actively!

 

In this episode, Mariya Filipova, CIO of CareQuest Innovation Partners, discusses supporting innovative solutions that effectively bridge the gap between dental and medical care. Oral health impacts our general health, which is why the Innovation Partners department seeks integrated, equitable, and accessible care solutions. At CareQuest, Mariya oversees a millionaire early-stage impact investing fund and an accelerator called SMILE Health. She discusses changing systems toward flexibility, agility, and integration, as well as the challenge that lack of patient awareness from providers and investors causes. Finally, she talks about what that change could look like in the near future. 

Tune in to this episode to learn about innovation improving general health, starting from oral health!

 

Mariya wants to extend an invitation to all of the listeners! A special showcase of the 5 transformative startups that they have been accelerating through SMILE Health will happen this month. They are hosting a demo day at the Boston Museum of Science on September 13th, so if you are interested in attending in person or virtually, contact Mariya! 

Advancing New Ways to Improve Overall Health Through Oral Health

About Mariya Filipova:

Mariya Filipova is the chief innovation officer of CareQuest Innovation Partners. In her role, she oversees innovation, incubation, and investment activities aimed at developing solutions that advance oral health access, equity, and integration for underserved populations.

 

Formerly vice president of innovation at Anthem Inc., Mariya led efforts in scaling emerging technologies and new business models to accelerate Anthem’s transformation to a digital-first enterprise. Mariya’s vision and leadership in these areas resulted in the development of several breakthrough solutions and programs, including the $5 million XPRIZE Rapid COVID-19 Testing competition (in partnership with seven Blue Cross Blue Shield plans) to identify and validate fast, frequent, cheap, and easy-to-use testing solutions for SARS-CoV-2, and Anthem’s Digital Data Sandbox — among the largest certified de-identified commercial data sets.

Mariya served as one of the founding members of the Health Utility Network, a coalition of insurance companies, hospital networks, financial services, and technology companies developing blockchain solutions for health care. Prior to Anthem, Mariya drove the development of Deloitte’s Future of Work Center of Excellence, a portfolio of investments across the Americas, APAC, and EMEA that used exponential technologies (e.g., blockchain and artificial intelligence) to redefine the future of work. Mariya has also been recognized by Business Insider (“Insider’s 30 under 40”) and the Harvard Business School Association of Boston.

Mariya holds a master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s in economics, summa cum laude, from Mount Holyoke College.

 

Outcomes Rocket Podcast__Mariya Filipova: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Outcomes Rocket Podcast__Mariya Filipova: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody! Saul Marquez with the Outcomes Rocket here welcoming you back to another episode of our podcast. Today, I am privileged to have the outstanding Mariya Filipova on the podcast. She is a serial intrapreneur, activated patient with a track record of building and scaling businesses within established organizations. Her work allows organizations to dynamically sense, validate and deploy new solutions and disruptive business models. She is the chief innovation officer at the largest oral health grant maker in the country and a leading research in health improvement organization, CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. Mariya leads the for-profit arm of the institute, CareQuest Innovation Partners, where she oversees a 4 million early-stage impact investing fund, a first-of-its-kind accelerator, SMILE Health, as well as a number of partnerships and market-ready solutions aimed at improving oral health for all. She served as the VP of Innovation at Anthem, now known as Ella Vance Health, the second largest health insurer in the US. She was recognized by Business Insider as one of 30 leaders under 40 transforming healthcare and also serves on the board of Harvard Business School Association in Boston. We’re going to have a great talk on her work. And with that, I want to invite you to the podcast, Mariya, thanks for joining us.

Mariya Filipova:
Thank you for having me, Saul. Great to be here.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. So, look, we’re going to dive into the very interesting intrapreneurial work, the work that you’re doing in oral health, impact investing, and beyond. But before we dive into all that great stuff, Mariya, why don’t you share with us what inspires your work in healthcare?

Mariya Filipova:
Well, for many of us, being in healthcare is a personal decision. healthcare continues to be very personal, and it’s one of the industries that is very, very local. For me, the real transformation as a healthcare leader happened in 2018 when I was diagnosed with a very unique, giant kidney tumor. And when I say giant, I really mean the size of a football. It was one of those experiences where I was asymptomatic, living my life, too busy being a consulting executive. And I still remember that Tuesday when I was on my way to catch a flight to Sydney, and I thought, I’m just going to squeeze in on one of my doctor’s appointments, the annual visit that we all tend to push further to the next week and the next week. And so it was one of those visits where the doctor just said, you know what, we probably need to get an ultrasound, and then an MRI followed, and then another MRI and then multiple doctor visits figured out that I had a substantial tumor angiomyolipoma, 26 by 28 by 18 centimeters.

Saul Marquez:
Holy smokes.

Mariya Filipova:
In my abdomen. So my entire anatomy was shifted to make room for this mass.

Saul Marquez:
Were you feeling sick? I mean, were you feeling symptoms?

Mariya Filipova:
It’s, that’s the thing. I was asymptomatic and I was living, again, a consulting lifestyle. I was on a plane, on the road a lot, and it was my first realization of the power of the human body to arrive at some sort of equilibrium, even when there are external foreign things in you. And that was really the first awakening that I had and gave me a front-row seat as a patient that was in a very end-of-one type of situation, whether those types of tumors don’t necessarily grow more than three centimeters. And at 30, I was absolutely in one of those, let’s call it unique situation, where medical literature or experience really didn’t have any options for me. And so that was the point where I really needed to take on a much more active role in my own health and in the care that I was receiving. And again, fast forward years later, I am fully recovered, managed to keep both my kidneys and I am exceptionally grateful to the amazing team of physicians, surgeons, oncologists in Mass General here in Boston who made that happen. But again, this, that Tuesday morning, that flight that I missed is still very real. And in my mind that any time I get on a call with somebody and they said, you know what, we haven’t done this before, right? What you’re trying to do is not really how we do things here. And that’s what triggers that patient in me that says that’s not good enough. So that’s what fuels me as a patient and as an executive transforming things in healthcare today.

Saul Marquez:
Well, Mariya, I’m glad you’re here with us. What a traumatic experience. And, you know, you navigated that very difficult situation. You’re you made it alive, and that’s given you a new set of, I’m sure, beliefs and frameworks and standards to do what you do. And so you are bold in your approach and obviously pushing the boundaries to help us grow to where we need to go as a healthcare system. Let’s dig in a little bit on CareQuest and some of the work that you do there. What would you say the company and the organization do to add value to the healthcare ecosystem?

Mariya Filipova:
CareQuest is a very unique portfolio of assets and a very unique umbrella of an organization that is deeply committed to its mission of improving oral health for all. And as you mentioned in your intro, I am serving as the executive of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, which is the nonprofit that’s behind one of the leading research on oral health, integrated care, how oral health impacts our overall health and our, and the ability to really build capacity at local community level to allow for equitable, accessible, and integrated care. And within that umbrella organization of the nonprofit, we have seated a for-profit entity that allows us to be agile, quick, and really support the cutting-edge innovations that could transform health through oral health solutions. What’s really mindboggling to me as a patient and executive is that even though up to 80% of clinical outcomes are driven by non-clinical factors like your nutrition, where you live, your lifestyle, your dental care, we still as a system pay very little attention to that interconnected nature of all these factors. And so at CareQuest Innovation Partners, the reason for that organization is truly to validate and scale those innovative solutions that bridge the gap, the silo, between dental and medical care, and do that effectively, not only for the commercial markets and for the people like you and me, Saul, but for the most hard to reach areas and underserved communities, right? And so that continues to be the mission that drives the organization that happens to be very strongly aligned with my own personal beliefs as a transformation catalyst and somebody who is looking to bridge silos, actively bridge silos in healthcare.

Saul Marquez:
Great. Mariya, I appreciate you sharing that. And you know that connection between oral health and physical health and mental health, it’s like, why don’t we connect the dots better here, people, right? And so, and honestly, like when you and I first talked about before our interview a couple of weeks ago, you know, the light bulb went off. I’m like, oh, my God. Well, of course, right? Mental health, physical health, the gut biome, physical health, it’s another entry point, and what happens in your oral health is very significant so, but it’s important that we highlight that. And so, share with us a little bit about how, what you guys are doing there to improve healthcare outcomes.

Mariya Filipova:
I mean, the first thing is, and you said it right, the first thing we try to do is we try to bring the mouth back into the body when it comes to our, when it comes to contextualizing health and care. And so when we think about oral health and its connection to diabetes management and cardiovascular health, and for those of your listeners who are considering becoming mothers or pregnant, pregnancies, they are connecting connections between oral care and preterm labor. And so there are so many established clinical linkages between the care we take, our oral health, and our overall health in some of the most costly, pervasive, chronic diseases. And so to me, I see my role not necessarily as continuously looking for those linkages, I think they are there. My role is really to be able to action those clinical connections in a meaningful way that a provider, a health plan, or frankly, even a patient could do something about, right? And so when we talk about things like another example on the clinical side is sleep health. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common undiagnosed conditions in the US today. It impacts your mental health, it impacts your cardiovascular health, and yet the treatment is, compliance is terrible because as you can imagine, it includes one of those very clunky CPAP machines and they do a great job in treating the condition. However, compliance is rough, right? It’s tough to get and get to bed with that contraption on your face. And so there are multiple options that allow us to bring the tools of treatments from the dental office, something as simple as a mandibular device, like a mouthguard, that keeps your airway open and allows you to get some of that needed oxygen to your brain rather than having the CPAP machine. And we don’t necessarily, we, as a healthcare system community and extended care team don’t necessarily bring all of these options to the patients because we all look through the lens of our own individual silos, specialized silos. So that’s, again, very broad strokes. That’s one of the things we’re really looking to do.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, for sure. I love that. Thank you, Mariya. And look, we’re all guilty of, and I was just thinking about this while you were sharing with us all, Mariya, the siloed nature. I mean, there’s a different, like health plans are different than dental plans. You know, like dentists that are physicians are different than even a cranial maxillofacial physician, that does work in the same arena, it’s so siloed, and I love that you guys are working to bring it all together. And so these types of activities, mental health, for example, had its uphill battle. I feel like more people are starting to understand the linkages, but when you’re taking on these types of shifts in thinking and status quo, it comes with challenges. Can you share with any setbacks you’ve experienced and a key learning that’s come from that?

Mariya Filipova:
Well, frankly, the first and most pervasive setback is really awareness and patient awareness, patient empowerment. And that translates actually across the board dentists and physicians, even when they’re trying to do the right thing, change is difficult. Our systems, the way we have set up our EHRs, our workflows are not set up to be agile or flexible. And so change is hard, especially for a system that was designed to be ultra-specialized and complex, right? And so to me, that’s the first barrier. The other barrier is that I actually believe that dental care and integrated care between dental and medical care is one of the most overlooked opportunity in health today, even from an investor point of view. And so as an investor in startups and as a board member in some of these early-stage startups, I’m looking at, let’s say even though the total spend dental accounts for about 4% of the total spend in care between 2019 and 2021, is when I think we did the analysis, only 1% to 1.2% of investments goes in dental solutions. And so there is a distinct mismatch between the investment funding. I think the pendulum is swinging. I think that’s definitely changing, but I do believe that that awareness not only applies to patients’ providers, but also to the investor community. And that’s my other invitation to the listeners out there who are investors who are looking at digital health. You’re looking at health overall to think about those integrated health opportunities, same thing with entrepreneurs. We want your brilliant ideas that might apply in retail, that might apply in medical care, we want to see them on the dental side as well.

Saul Marquez:
That’s a great call-out. Folks, have you considered the dental space? It is healthcare and I know you’re thinking about it. If you have questions on it, there happens to be a 40 million early-stage impact investing fund that Mariya is in charge of. Make sure you check out the show notes of our podcast today, and you explore the options that are there because there’s some opportunities there and I think some unturned stones in a potentially sleepy market. So great, great callouts there. Mariya, you know, you spent a lot of your career in innovation. What would you say is one healthcare trend or tech that’s going to change healthcare as we know it today?

Mariya Filipova:
It might sound as a broken record, but I do believe that integration across silos is what we need. We need more cross-disciplinary thinkers who are brave enough to look across the narrowly ingrained training and status quo that they’ve had in the last couple of years, so that’s number one. I also believe that integration across disciplines applies for technologies as well. I see the convergence of AI, blockchain, AR, and VR coming together in service of that one use case because at the end of the day, the patient truly doesn’t care whether we’re solving their pain point with blockchain, AI, or quantum computing or frankly, pencil and paper, as long as the solution works, as long as they’re getting the care that they need in an equitable and integrated way. So to me, I would look not only at a single technology, but I would look at how technologies come together in service of the pain points that we need to get solved for.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and you know, that really inspires some thought in me. And folks, think about it this way, too. You have a business, you have a focus. But what if you expanded the focus of that business to include an integrated approach across maybe an angle that you haven’t thought about? There could potentially be a windfall opportunity there for you in the approach. So a great call-out, Mariya, I really appreciate that insightful approach. Hey, you know, just as an aside, what are your thoughts on NFTs?

Mariya Filipova:
I’m still looking for the QR use case. There’s some opportunities when it comes to mental care. So I believe in AR-VR, as a way to aid in mental health. One of the companies in our SMILE Health Accelerator is in fact using AR-VR to substitute or completely replace local anesthesia for some outpatient procedures. And so I think the opportunity for what we now call Web 3.0 or meta is there. But again, it needs to be grounded on what is the utility, the instant utility that we would derive from it today. And in healthcare, we don’t have the privilege to say, oopsy, my bad, right? This is, the stakes are too high to try something that we’re not 100% clear on the utility or clinical validity.

Saul Marquez:
That’s fair, thank you. Well, look, this has been an awesome interview. I’ve really enjoyed your thoughts here, Mariya, and folks, I know you have too. Why don’t you leave us with the closing thought and then the best place where the listeners could connect with you, follow your work, learn more about the Impact Investing Fund, etc.

Mariya Filipova:
The closing thought would probably be connected to, it really goes back to embracing experimentation as the fastest way to learn and drive change at scale. The biggest difference between healthcare and some of the other industries is that other industries like retail and leaders like Amazon and Apple have figured out a way how to leverage data to reliably, safely, and quickly experiment and kill things that don’t work. And so my parting thought and invitation to the healthcare leaders out there is to really rethink the utility of experimentation and remind them that if an experiment works 100% of the time and that’s not really an experiment. So that’s my parting thought and would love to continue the conversation. For those of you who are looking to get involved in the work around accelerating early-stage startups, please go to CareQuestInnovation.com/SMILE and you could reach me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Saul Marquez:
I love it, Mariya, really appreciate your closing thoughts there, And folks, as I mentioned earlier, we’ll leave all of the ways to connect with Mariya to learn more about CareQuest in the show notes. So make sure you go there, click on them, it’ll lead you straight to where you want to go and what you want to learn. Mariya, really appreciate you and the work you’re doing and for sharing your story.

Mariya Filipova:
Thank you.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • CareQuest is a very unique portfolio of assets and an umbrella of an organization that is deeply committed to its mission of improving oral health for all.
  • There are many established clinical linkages between our oral health and our overall health in some of the most costly, pervasive, chronic diseases.
  • Currently, only 1% to 1.2% of investments go into dental solutions.
  • Embracing experimentation is the fastest way to learn and drive change at scale.

Resources:

  • Connect with Mariya Filipova on LinkedIn
  • Follow Mariya Filipova on Twitter
  • Follow CareQuest on LinkedIn
  • Discover the CareQuest Website 
  • Get involved in the work around accelerating early-stage startups with SMILE Health.

Want to attend SMILE Health Demo Day? Check it out here.