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Turn on the TV! Your doctor wants to talk to you (Part 1)

Written by Andrew Le, MD

PublishedOctober 25, 2021

Welcome to the CEO Corner, where Buoy CEO and Cofounder Andrew Le, MD sits down with industry leaders to chat about the provocative topics of healthcare today. Andrew recently spoke with Carina Edwards, CEO of Quil. Named by Becker’s Healthcare as one “Female Health IT Leaders to Know” in 2019 and by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business as the 2021 “Most Innovative Woman of the Year in Healthcare”, she has dedicated her career to helping others leverage IT to improve health outcomes. They talk about the joy of developing the best solutions and why taking a page from the entertainment industry can be an effective way to engage patients.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Andrew Le, MD: I'm excited to be chatting with you today, Carina. Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are today.

Carina Edwards: Before I took over as CEO at Quil, I worked in healthcare IT serving providers for about 23 years. Quil is a digital health joint venture between Comcast NBCUniversal, and Independence Blue Cross. We are on a mission to help people organize and navigate their health lives. We do that in partnership with their providers, their loved ones, and in some instances—due to COVID—payers and employers.

Andrew: In your daily work, what is the thing you love most, when it feels like you’re not really working at all?

Carina: For me, the joy is looking at the data to see how our solutions are working to help clinicians on the front lines as well as patients. We do all these experiments and AB testing as we bring new solutions to market. It's fun to see what sticks and why. We celebrate failures as well as successes. It also brings me joy to be in an inclusive environment, surrounding myself with a diverse team and being transparent with them as we scale and grow.

Andrew: I couldn't agree with you more about having an inclusive and diverse team. I also love the opportunity to provide value and then figure out how to scale it. Counter to that, what keeps you up at night?

Carina: There is so much money flowing into the digital health space now. There is a ton of innovation. I'm excited about the data we can bring to bear through the CARES Act to get insights across solutions.

Yet I question how many agendas and objectives we need. There's a point solution for everything. I see how easily we can get lost in the noise and not have the impact we want because so many people are tackling problems from multiple vantage points. It’s all positive, but we must think about problem solving from the industry's perspective.

“I see how easily we can get lost in the noise and not have the impact we want because so many people are tackling problems from multiple vantage points.”

Carina Edwards, Quil Health CEO

Andrew: How is Quil separating itself from the noise?

Carina: Everything we do is grounded in our mission to help people navigate their health lives in partnership with their providers, payers, employers, and loved ones. What makes our approach different is that we are truly bringing the lessons from the entertainment industry to healthcare. We are lucky to have NBC Universal resources and connections. Because of that, we are able to bring a whole new level of engagement in video and articles in short snippets. So far, the outcomes are amazing. We're seeing a 26 percent reduction in readmissions and 97 percent less patient anxiety before their procedures. And that leads to better clinical outcomes.

We all wear multiple hats. I'm a patient, a spouse, a caregiver to four people over 80. When my loved ones have issues, I have to log on to 17 sites to find the 15 things I need. Sometimes Dr. Google is easier. But it's a tricky road to go down when we start self-diagnosing. For that reason, The holy grail is engaging a person in their care. That’s nothing new. Fundamentally, it’s having the right information at the right time and offering something compelling and personal to each patient. Does it inspire them? Does it empower them? Can they invite people along on the journey?

We're not a startup. I describe Quil as an R&D innovation offshoot of two large organizations. Although we're independent, when needed, we can leverage significant resources. I lean on Comcast because they have scalable technology partners. And they're an entertainment giant. They have unique insights into the problems that we're trying to solve, the patient/member perspective, where the value and risk are shifting, and how to get better quality across the system. We bring all of those insights into the solutions we develop for our clients.

"We're seeing a 26 percent reduction in readmissions and 97 percent less patient anxiety before their procedures."

Carina Edwards, Quil Health CEO

Andrew: Those are significant outcomes from the platform you have built. Can you give me an example of how you layer entertainment into the patient experience to drive those outcomes?

Carina: We have an enterprise-wide partnership with Penn Medicine. Right now, we're focusing on surgical procedures in the MSK service line, as well as in bariatric, ENT, oncology, cardiology, and other departments. Providers need to engage patients 30, 60, 90 days after a procedure. But they also think about utilization and patient preparedness coming into the system.

We created personalized patient journeys in the Penn system. Just like everybody else, we used evidence-based content, but we uniquely translated it into fun, 15-second introductions. When the patient first comes onto the Quil platform, they're greeted by their doctor. The doctor says, “As I told you in the office, this is a guide on what to do next.” It feels like their doctor is talking to them on their phone.

The average age of the MSK patient is 65plus. We're engaging a population that's loving this new technology. COVID accelerated their digital savviness. We walk them through their prep but only provide information when they need it. We're not giving them the 82 things they need to do to recover from surgery. We tell them the three things they need to know today. After 14 days, when someone's ready for a surgery, they get a text reminder. They can invite their family and friends to share their journey so they can prepare the house, get their drive scheduled, etc.

When they're in the hospital, we’ve partnered with the interactive patient system in the room. When they're ready to discharge, they watch their instructions on the TV. Their discharge plan goes through a text message to their phone. Later, they get a text message about pain. We ask them how they're doing. They can do their physical therapy on the TV or on their phone.

At the core, we are getting people engaged in their journey. They are showing up in the right frame of mind. Then we get them home as fast as possible because, ultimately, that’s where they want to be.

In Part 2 of the conversation, Carina talks about the accessibility of healthcare technology and why she is focusing on trust in digital interactions. Plus, she shares her best advice for healthcare IT leaders today.

About the participants:

Carina Edwards is the CEO of Quil, the joint venture of Independence Health Group and Comcast, where she leads the development of personalized and interactive health journeys for consumers and their caregivers.

Andrew Le, MD, is the CEO and Cofounder of Buoy Health.