Bob Crutchfield, CEO of TeleHealth Solutions, joins Health Professional Radio and examines the current state of telehealth on Health Professional Radio. Here he explores the paradigm shift in healthcare delivery during the pandemic and elaborates on his view on the new healthcare delivery model, which is becoming a more proactive, home-based care movement.

Neal Howard: Thanks for joining us for another segment. In this segment, we’re going to be speaking with Mr. Robert Crutchfield. He’s joining us here as CEO of TeleHealth Solution to discuss the current state of telehealth. Welcome to Health Professional Radio.  What is your professional background, and what is the mission of TeleHealth Solution? 

 So Neal, I’ve grown up in healthcare my entire career, and prior to joining TeleHealth, I had over ten years of experience as a general partner in an institutional venture capital firm, Harbert Growth Partners, where I led the health care practice. Prior to that, I worked for U.S Oncology Network, built and ran their pharmaceutical services division that helped position us to sell the company to McKesson. As part of that, I did develop and growth work for Cardinal Health and startups on my own. I’m a healthcare guy through and through.

The mission of TeleHealth Solution today is to close gaps in access to care where patients are the most vulnerable and exposed and need care the most. We’re concentrating on the post-acute skilled nursing facility space as well as critical access hospitals in rural communities. 

Neal Howard: Even if we all haven’t been sick, we all know that telehealth has exploded. The Covid-19 pandemic  drove a lot of patients to their Primary Care via TeleHealth, and it proved to be very successful. In your opinion, what is the state of telehealth? 

What Covid-19 did for telehealth was it took a modality of care that had been on the sideline for many years in terms of provider integration. The teledocs of the world that are consumer-facing have done well but have not integrated telehealth into a care continuum as a viable and real point of care, where we’re part of the care delivery model and care workflow. Covid enforced that.

Before Covid, telehealth was a subscription-based model, particularly in the areas we work in, the rural-acute markets, and the skilled nursing facilities. The facilities had an alternative care provider that they could access when they needed it most. This was generally  after a patient had an episodic event where they had declined to the state that we were brought in, at the last minute to try to treat that patient in place. Well, what we found is that by treating patients within the first hour or two of an episodic downward spiral, we’re able to successfully treat patients in place 95% of the time. So by integrating us into the care model and the workflows of the delivery of care, we can work collaboratively with the medical directors on the ground, the nursing providers in the skilled nursing facilities, and the patients and their families. That’s what I think Covid has done for us. 

The other interesting thing is that people think of telehealth as a technology play, and that’s partially true. We are a technology-enabled service provider, but we enter through a digital doorway with our provider the same way a doctor enters a physical doorway. Once we’re in the building and at the patient’s bedside, the manner in which we deliver care virtually is very similar to how a physical provider delivers care at the bedside. Another interesting benefit of COVID is that people are seeing how well patients respond to virtual healthcare. 

Neal Howard: All of this collaboration you’re talking about in the virtual space among different entities within a patient’s care. Is this collaboration that either was not taking place before the explosion of telehealth or taking place at such a slow pace that patients couldn’t see any of the efficiency at that stage? 

I think it was a slow movement. You had adopters of telehealth who were more mature in their thinking around the value of telehealth, and then you had slow adopters who were sort of living in a reality where the medical director on the ground comes in the building multiple times a month, a week, but not every single day.

The Medical Directors felt that telehealth was a threat. We’re not a threat to the Medical Director. In fact, we benefit the Medical Directors because if we can treat patients in place when the medical director comes in to do their rounding, the patient is in the building and is being treated where they most desire to be treated.

So we’re finding that by electronically linking in with EHRs, PCCs, and Matrix, we’re able to document care events so that providers on the ground have clear documentation of what telehealth providers did during the medical encounters that they did while the Medical Director physically was not in the building. It creates sustainability of care that’s very good for patients, and it closes gaps in access.

If a patient has to wait for more than 6-24hrs for a doctor to return a page, that is incredibly valuable time for treatment that could have been provided to the patient. It prevents that downward cycle from being where the patient can’t be stabilized, and they have to be sent to the ER. If they want to avoid hospitalizations and avoid unnecessary ER transfer, that’s the first place to start. 

Neal Howard: Prior to the pandemic, we were beginning to hear a lot of talk about distrust of healthcare providers, distrust in the medical system as a whole. Especially among our seniors. With this combination of digital health innovation, remote patient monitoring, and more seniors choosing to age in place, what about home-based health care as a digital option? Especially when it comes to the trust of the physician. 

Bob Crutchfield: Most of the distrust has come from how difficult it is to get in to see a physician. Sometimes scheduling is almost impossible, and then you have to have transportation to get there, and then you have a long wait in the waiting room. The distrust and inconvenience are similar rights for patients. Another thing, patients want access to a provider when they need it, not when it’s convenient for the provider. Virtual healthcare allows us to reach a patient in less than three minutes and move through time and space through technology enablement very efficiently. You’re spot on Neal! I think that the future for patients who want to age in place will be virtual healthcare.