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Future-Proofing the Digital Health Ecosystem
Episode

Adam Sabloff, founder and CEO of VirtualHealth.

Future-Proofing the Digital Health Ecosystem.

In this episode, we have the privilege of hosting the excellent Adam Sabloff, CEO of VirtualHealth. Adam’s story of how he got into healthcare from real estate is very interesting. He discusses how his company created the first SaaS solution purpose-built for value-based care, and how they are increasing outcomes. Adam shares his insights on proactive health, value-based care, empowering members and caregivers, and more. He also talks about handling setbacks,  keeping an eye on your North Star, telehealth, and things he’s excited about. 

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Future-Proofing the Digital Health Ecosystem

About Adam Sabloff

Adam is the Founder and CEO of VirtualHealth, the leading SASS care engagement platform serving more than nine million members across the US. 

Prior to VirtualHealth, Adam served as the VP of Development and Chief Marketing Officer for Midtown Equities, a seven billion-dollar real estate, media, and aviation conglomerate where he also oversaw its technology subsidiary, Midtown Technologies. While at Midtown, Adams spearheaded the development of the first-ever Ritz Carlton Residences in Baltimore, a concept he created with the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company. 

Through his work, Adam recognized the seniors and the chronically ill residing in Midtown’s numerous developments could benefit greatly from the next-generation care delivery and technology that would make the home an organic extension of the health care continuum. After losing a loved one to a late-stage diagnosis, Adam launched VirtualHealth to pursue his vision. Adam is a graduate of Emory University.

The Outcomes Rocket_Adam Sabloff.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

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

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket everybody! Saul Marquez is here, and today I have the privilege of hosting the excellent Adam Sabloff. He is the Founder and CEO of a VirtualHealth provider of Helios and the leading SASS care engagement platform serving more than nine million members across the US. Prior to VirtualHealth, Sabloff served as the VP of Development and Chief Marketing Officer for Midtown Equities, a seven billion-dollar real estate, media, and aviation conglomerate where he also oversaw its technology subsidiary, Midtown Technologies. While at Midtown, Adams spearheaded the development of the first ever Ritz Carlton Residences in Baltimore, a concept he created with the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company. Through his work, Adam recognized the seniors and the chronically ill residing in Midtown’s numerous developments could benefit greatly from the next generation care delivery and technology that would make the home an organic extension of the health care continuum. After losing a loved one to a late-stage diagnosis, Adam launched VirtualHealth to pursue his vision. Adam is a graduate of Emory University and, as you’ve heard, has a really great background that I think will make for a great discussion today. Adam, I’m so glad you joined us.

Adam Sabloff:
No, thanks. I’m excited to be here. I have nothing left to talk about. You just covered pretty much everything.

Saul Marquez:
And with that Outcomes Rocket listeners, thanks so much for tuning in. Adam, the bio that we have for you is succinct, but there’s so much left to cover.

Adam Sabloff:
Of course, of course.

Saul Marquez:
I’m glad you joined us today. I’m intrigued by the crossroads of something like the residences that you worked on and the level of service and attention provided there to the home health environment that’s kind of arising. So I’m excited to touch on that in the interview. But before we go there, tell us a little bit about your inspiration for getting started in this space.

Adam Sabloff:
Yeah, I mean, I really didn’t see myself getting into the health care industry. I mean, as you mentioned, I worked in the real estate industry and I was used a lot of interesting technology for property management systems and lighting systems and smart homes and some of the stuff that was popular in those days and being a Ritz Carlton product, it was pretty state-of-the-art, right? We were doing some pretty cool stuff. But one of the things we came across is a lot of the individuals who are about to spend millions of dollars buying condos, we’re concerned about their ability to stay there, basically have services as they age. So we decided to look to see if we can create a next-generation aging-in-place ecosystem. It’s funny because a lot of the things we were doing in those days are top of mind now, but one of the key components of it was the telehealth platform that we had built out. We had transportation services, nutritional meals, maintenance services. We had Johns Hopkins who was going to do care coordination, and we were using remote patient monitoring through peripherals that were internet-enabled, which, you know, this is all stuff that we’ve seen. But back then was pretty clunky and pretty early on. And we thought if you could put it all together, you can kind of replicate that senior living experience. And I just look at those days. Technology just wasn’t there in terms of I mean, first of all, in health care, it’s all about incentives. Right? So there was nobody paying for forward in those days. There’s only so many people willing to pay out of pocket. But I think one of the biggest issues is that the health care system itself is very reactive. So actually changing people’s behavior is kind of one of the more difficult things that we face as an organization.

Saul Marquez:
It’s not easy. Very fascinating. So I appreciate you highlighting the evolution and sort of you go from somebody that wants to buy a condo for a million bucks and says, well, I want to make sure I can live in this thing long enough. And now there’s the bigger picture where home health is becoming front and center and for very good reasons. So talk to us a little bit about virtual health. How are you guys adding value to the ecosystem?

Adam Sabloff:
Yeah, I mean, just to complete the story about how I got you made the jump from aging in place to health care, as you mentioned in the introduction. I mean, I did have a family member who passed away for a late-stage diagnosis, and that was my first exposure to the health care industry. I found it extremely frustrating experience, as many people do. And the one thing when the individual ultimately ended up passing away and I think the one thing that I really had difficulty with was this person was high risk. There was a 40-year smoker who ended up having lung cancer. You would think that if you’re being proactive in health care, you would suggest maybe just a basic X-ray, lung x-ray, right? And if you were able to discover this early, you know, that person would still be here, which is obviously the most important thing. But I also believe that we also would have saved the health systems and the amount of time we spent the waiting rooms and dealing with chemo and the amount of money and resources that were taxed from a system that’s overtaxed and then having the insurance companies spending millions of dollars for end of life care when again, if they had been proactive, they wouldn’t have had to spend that money, right? So for me, it was just a very simple concept of if all of our incentives are aligned and we’re all aligned to find conditions early, especially in high-risk populations, then why aren’t we being proactive and why aren’t we all working together? So that was my impetus to start Virtual Health and my inspiration, which was basically, the technology that we were using for aging in place, it also could be utilized for any type of high-risk population, obviously the elderly being a part of that, but also people who are underprivileged and underserved and using data to essentially detect those high-risk individuals and intervene at the proper moment to save the health care system money and time.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and there’s a lot of ways we could make a difference. Just connecting the dots and execution is a challenge. So talk to us about what you believe makes what you guys do different than what’s available today.

Adam Sabloff:
Well, we were purpose-built for value-based care. And I’ll tell you honestly, it probably had to do with my being naive at the time. Being a health care outsider, I think a lot of people look at the health care industry and they’re like, yeah, it’s broken. Why don’t you just modernize it wanted to upgrade this system and upgrade that system. But the reality is, is that incentives aren’t always aligned. So you have fee-for-service models, which is very reactive. I mean, it’s how the system works. Providers get paid by treatments and visits and procedures. So where is the incentive to be proactive? When value-based care was what jumpstarted that movement, but also is what put us in place because we were out there basically trying to convince organizations that they should be proactive. And they were basically saying to us why? It’s not how the system works. I mean, it’s just not how the payments are designed. So when the ACA came about and there was Medicaid expansion and transformation with the MCO model and risk sharing, all of a sudden it became about putting health care on the budget. And the health care organizations recognized that the only way to keep costs down and still provide a high level of care is to be proactive.

Adam Sabloff:
And from that moment on, we’ve gained more and more traction simply by the result of value-based care becoming front of mind in the health care industry, providers are recognizing they can make a lot more money. Payers are recognizing they could save money and for once, using community resources and being proactive, and focusing on home care and caring in the home has become a solution across the political divide, across socio-economic status. I mean, it just provides an opportunity for everybody to be healthy, healthier, and lower costs.

Saul Marquez:
It really does. And the other thing, too, that really has been left out of the equation for a long time is, is the caregiver. You think about the care of the home. It revolves around the caregiver. So whether it be a family member or somebody that’s hired, the activity that they do is sort of way beyond those point of care checkpoints, which I think has been a missing link for a long time, that home care is going to deliver. So talk to us about that.

Saul Marquez:
You know, I mean, how are you guys leveraging the caregiver and then other things to, right? Not don’t just folks there, but maybe some key things that you feel are critical in improving outcomes?

Adam Sabloff:
Yeah, I think that one of the reasons for our success is I came out of that home-based environment. I was about the members themselves and that was about the caregiver. It wasn’t until later that I started to reach into more of the care management functions and features and involved the provider. But our focus was really on empowering the member and the caregiver themselves, right? So that’s where it all started for us. And the one thing I made, the comment I made earlier about people not really changing behavior, that is an issue. So what we have to do is it really is all about data and analytics. It’s about capturing as much information outside of the doctor’s office. If you look at the system of record within the health systems where the system of record outside of health systems, right. so we gather that clinical data. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more information that you can get from the caregiver, from the home care agencies, from care managers, but then even just through tools like even something as simple as the Apple watch for passive monitors or EBV or ADT feeds and all of that stuff, you bring it all together. I mean, one example, something is just as simple as someone just had knee surgery, elderly person. They live on the third-floor walk. How do you capture that? How are you going to have to capture that? They are at risk because they’re going to have difficulty getting up and down those stairs. So we’re able to get that information and we add that all into the risk profile. And then we provide the workflows and the automation and the interventions that need to be taken at the correct time by the correct individual. So that’s how we do it. And it really is about getting payors, providers, the member themselves, caregivers, community resources, all working together in the same ecosystem. If we have to do that through integrating with other great tools out there, we do that in other places. You know, it’s just what we provide to our customers so that they can do it using our platform.

Saul Marquez:
Great examples, they’re adamant, in your view, the last few years. I mean, it sounds like things are improving as far as value-based care because at the beginning it was a buzzword even when the Affordable Care Act came out. I mean, and then we slowly started seeing ACOs and other efforts to get better. But I feel like we’ve gotten better. But I want to hear from you. Like, what’s your perspective on that?

Adam Sabloff:
It’s funny because there are probably very few people that know how little traction value-based care was getting more than I have, simply because everybody was talking about it and it was a hot topic and everyone’s writing stories about it, and you go through some of these conferences, nobody’s talking about it, but nobody was actually doing anything about it.

Saul Marquez:
Yes.

Adam Sabloff:
And some of the earlier models, they failed. I mean, things like the co-ops. In the early days, those things didn’t work, work out very well. It just speaks to the innovation of some of these startups. They’re popping up. I mean, we came in, we ended up on the payer side because they’re the ones the care management organizations or the CEOs, they’re managing risk. And it was very natural for them. But the organizations that are best suited to be doing effective, proactive care management are providers because they’re the ones who gave the relationships with the individuals. They’re not looking at numbers. You’re looking at humans. But then what the providers did is they immediately saw this ACO model and they all jumped into that. But not recognizing that in order to take a risk and actually provide outcomes, as I mentioned earlier, so much of it is outside of their purview. And it’s all in the community and they don’t have the technology to succeed in a situation like that. So a lot of them didn’t have the technology or they didn’t have staff. And it takes a lot of staff to run a model like this.

Adam Sabloff:
So they weren’t exactly effective. But I think what we’re seeing now, and this is kind of the perfect storm that we’ve been waiting for, is the unification of payer providers, these organizations to kind of sit between the take on your risk, do care management on behalf of multiple provider groups or a health system, and then share the upside and share the gains with the providers. So you have it really is the payers and providers working together. In some cases the payers taking a bigger lift and sometimes the providers taking a bigger lift. And sometimes you have organizations like community care of North Carolina that sits in the middle and facilitates for both sides. We’re seeing more and more of that. And that’s really the model that we envision when we started the organization. So I’m excited because we’ve never been busier than we are today. And this year looks like the year that value-based care truly takes hold.

Saul Marquez:
Man, that’s exciting. I appreciate you sharing that, because I remember too Adam, I was at a couple of conferences. Everybody’s talking. Well, there was a guy in on the stage that said, all right, raise your hands. And there was a room full of providers. Who here is implementing value-based care. And generally, there is like three hands out of a room of two thousand. I was like, oh, my God. So it’s great to hear from you that things are picking up. And early on, definitely, you saw, like the vertically integrated players like the Kaisers and the do it, because obviously, it makes sense for them. But now you’re saying there are more partnerships.

Adam Sabloff:
And UPMC happens to be a client of ours. So they do a fantastic job.

Saul Marquez:
Very cool. Very cool. So they get it. It’s beyond the vertically integrated payviders. There’s now more and it’s exciting to hear that from you. It’s where the future is. So let’s talk a little bit about the business. Obviously, you guys have gone through some ups and downs, some ups right now. What’s one of the biggest setbacks you’ve experienced and a key learning that came out to make you guys even better?

Adam Sabloff:
Health care is complicated. That’s the key lesson I learned early, early on. It’s become almost like a joke internally where I say it’s a lot easier to sell condos on the water in Baltimore than to sell health care technology. But it’s actually meaningful what we do. So it takes a tremendous amount of effort. You really I mean, especially if you’re bringing about change in this industry, it’s an industry that is so risk-averse and the dollars are so big and people’s lives are at risk in their health. So the concept of just jumping into the space and saying you’re all doing it wrong as you’re doing it this way, you’re also talking to people who are highly educated. You’re talking people have been doing this their entire careers. I do think that I brought a fresh perspective and I think that helped move the industry forward simply because I was an outsider. But, yeah, I mean, the first few years were very, very difficult. One story I’ll never forget is I went to a very, very small I mean, we’re dealing with millions of members now. I was talking about organization that had fifty people and they said, look, we like the concept. We like what you’re doing, but I know I’m not going to get fired for using a product nineteen ninety backed by GE. So that’s the kind of headwinds that you have to face. And then, you know, you get fifty and then you have to if you go to someone who was fifteen hundred members and they say, well you’ve never done 1500 members before, how do we know you can handle that. And it was a long, long road and a very hard road, but a very fulfilling road. That’s really what it’s about, is improving people’s lives. I mean, there’s nothing more powerful than that.

Saul Marquez:
Totally agree. And there are so many obstacles. Health care is complicated, but it’s keeping your eye on the North Star. You have to keep your eye on the north star of your business value prop, just like Adam has to be able to stay in the game because it’s not as fast as you may think if you’re new to the industry. And if you’re not, then even still right, there are the different verticals of the industry where you struggle. So Adam’s a great example of staying in the game until you find success. You know, how about mental health. I mean, we’re definitely facing a mental health wave of the pandemic. You guys play in that field?

Adam Sabloff:
One of our largest growth areas right now.

Saul Marquez:
What are you guys doing there?

Adam Sabloff:
Again, they’re doing care management specifically for mental health or behavioral issues for the ad space. They’re recognizing that how powerful the mind is in terms of physical health. And it’s one of those things where they were separated for so long, they were treated so differently, but now they’re almost it’s basically another line of business, like for some of our clients right. I mean, it’s just they recognize that they need to have specialists on that front. They realize that there are organizations that are better suited for dealing with those types of populations, but that they should still be the ones who are quarterbacking. So what they do is they delegate populations and then we serve as the bridge between the two. But all of that information, regardless of whether or not you’re a stand-alone behavioral health organization or it’s just a part of your strategy, it is an integral part these days of how organizations are identifying risk and how they’re making decisions about their patients care.

Saul Marquez:
Now, that’s awesome. Sounds like you guys are honing into that and really looking at the overall health. It’s about having those touchpoints outside of those acute episodes. And you guys are doing just that. So what are you most excited about today?

Adam Sabloff:
I’m most excited about the gains of digital health. And for all the negativity around COVID and all the things the havoc it’s wreak, it shone a light on the potential of some of these digital health initiatives, telehealth being one of them. Like I said, we had to tell our platform in twenty twelve. Nobody used it, pulled it out, and then all of a sudden we converted all of our clients. And you’ll be interesting if we can have a telehealth-enabled care management platform. We were like, OK, that sounds like a great idea. And a week later it was up and running and they’re like, how did you do that? It was just like we were trying to tell you guys this early on, but also all the connected devices and the wearables.

Adam Sabloff:
And like I said, once again, I can’t say it enough. Behavior change is the hardest part of health care. And if you can just capture the data passively and then you can get that through a lot of these different apps that are popping up, a lot of different wearables, even things like you’re talking about behavioral health, isolation, Alexa, Amazon, Alexa can be very helpful with some of the apps that are developed there. But from our perspective, all of those are just tools right there, just data points. And what we do is we take all of that and we make it all actionable. We bring it into the whole person record. And all those data points just get combined with, like I said, the tip of the iceberg, the clinical stuff. I think the most important thing is that these gains in digital health can’t be short lived. They can’t be something. We’re not going back to this proactive community, technology-driven, technology-enabled health care system I think it is here to stay. Problem is, is that historically, right? All these organizations have had a million systems that didn’t talk to each other. And then interoperability was always the issue internally. You see that with like some of the management technologies, utilization management. But now you Have all these disjointed digital health solutions that just got adopted overnight because of what was going on In the industry, in the world, what the pandemic. But when you have A platform like ours and we’re very early adopters of digital health, we’re able to handle the interoperability of the internal systems. But we can also provide that bridge and that intersection for the digital health tools as well. And I think that that wearable passive data is more valuable than any data we’re getting elsewhere. you’re going to have trend and track the ability to to get real-time heart rates and blood pressure and all that kind of stuff. So to me, that’s the most exciting part. I’ve been waiting for this moment is think everyone who’s been dabbling in digital health over the years has been waiting for this moment because it will change the world.

Saul Marquez:
I will say that it is exciting and you guys have taking a lot of care to really provide this intelligent care management platform. So for anybody listening that’s interested in engaging or just figuring out how you could help them, what’s the best way they could get in touch with you and where can they learn more?

Adam Sabloff:
Oh, I would definitely say go to our website, which is VirtualHealth.com. And that’s the funny thing, too. A lot of people are out there and they use the terms virtual health to explain kind of what’s going on out there. So we are a company virtualhealth. So, yeah, virtualhealth.com is where most of the information lives. We also have pretty good LinkedIn profile. And obviously, you can find me there. We’re not a stranger to the industry. So we’re at conferences and hopefully will be we’ll be getting back on the planes pretty soon and life will get back to normal.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, for sure. Well, listen, Adam, thanks for sharing the framework that you guys have that really I mean, does improve outcomes and can help a lot of people. Thank you. This has been fantastic. And looking forward to staying in touch.

Adam Sabloff:
My pleasure. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • Health care is complicated.
  • It takes a tremendous amount of effort to bring about change in this industry. 
  • Health care is a risk-averse industry. 
  • There’s nothing more powerful than improving people’s lives. 
  • Keep your eye on your North Star.
  • Stay in the game until you find success.
  • Behavior change is the hardest part of healthcare. 
  • This proactive community, technology-driven, technology-enabled health care system is here to stay. 

 

Resources

Website: https://www.virtualhealth.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/virtualhealth

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabloff