While the promise and failures of health tech innovations have been well documented in recent years, the turbulent world caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is rewriting the rules. Opinions about health tech are changing right before our eyes, according to Mike Biselli, health tech entrepreneur, chief community officer at BurstIQ, and host of the Passionate Pioneers Podcast. Mike discusses the rapidly changing opportunities for health tech to play a key role in the new healthcare ecosystem, including the long-awaited removal of regulatory hurdles for telehealth, and the oncoming possibilities of blockchain.
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about health care. But how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that health care is still all about humans and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of health care together, and here’s some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to “The Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with co-hosts Jared Johnson and Scott Zeitzer. On today’s episode, we’re talking to Mike Biselli, a health-tech entrepreneur and chief community officer at BurstIQ, which is a HIPAA and GDPR-compliant platform creating health profiles for people, places, and things, empowering the interactions between them. He’s also the host of “The Passionate Pioneers” podcast, I’ve definitely taken a listen to that, recommend you do so as well. And he’s a good friend to our program. Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show, especially during the midst of everything that’s going on right now.
Mike: Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here and an honor, and I’m looking forward to our conversation today.
Michael: Absolutely, absolutely. So let’s dive right in. How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you, your work, and your clients?
Mike: Well, yeah, a very timely question obviously. It has been one heck of a week and the past couple weeks, as well, but it just seems to get more stressful by the day. It has impacted every aspect of I think personal and professional life, and I think we can all just call it as it is, this is unprecedented, this is a novel virus that none of us have ever seen, and it’s impacting business models, it’s impacting the mental well-being of many community members across this country, and it’s impacting our clients as well.
But I will say, in the midst of this chaos, it is amazing to see true leaders do exactly what they’re built to do and lead. We’re seeing some incredible pushes for new innovative ways to deliver care amidst this crisis. And I know we’ll dive into that a little bit today but, as I always say, amidst great chaos, there’s always great opportunity. And we’re already starting to see amazing forms of leadership popping up all over our nation, it’s truly humbling.
Michael: You know, one of the things that we like to focus on here on the show, and I know on your show as well, but it’s that hopefulness that we all have and why we’re in this industry of wanting to see things continue to improve, wanting to see things continue to change. And it is very reassuring to see that happening right now, you know, people are stepping up in amazing ways.
And jumping into the concept of health technology, and we’ll kind of take a look at this maybe a little historically before we jump into, again, like what’s happening today, but it’s historically brought a lot of promise around transforming care delivery. What do you think are some of tech’s successes and failures in this space?
Mike: Well, let’s get the failures out of the way because I always love to…I’m a, you know, half-glass-full kind of guy, so let’s get those out of the way first. Absolutely. And let me set the stage a bit. So, I was fortunate to study and play college football at Stanford during the 90s. What was happening during that exact time and literally in the Bay Area right down the street and amongst my community? The internet was being turned on. And it was chaos. Right? It was unbelievable how many things…people were trying different business models, different technologies, different ideas. Lots of flying lots of dying, right?
So this kind of moment in time and healthcare, and then, health-tech innovation reminds me of that time while studying at Stanford. It’s a natural part of the innovation life cycle. You’re gonna have attrition, you’re gonna have a lot of failures, but out of those failures come a lot of successes, right, for our sports fans. When we think about Michael Jordan and what he oh he says, the reason why he hit so many game-winning shots is because he missed so many other shots as well. Right? And so, taking those chances and allowing for failure is a natural part in evolution to create and adopt innovation.
But more specific, some of the failures, I mean wearables. Right? I think it’s gonna come back around but I think it was very disjointed when it came out at first, as many of us know on this show. You had kind the spike, people would buy it, they would maybe interact with it for 1 to 3 months, and then, a significant fall off. Right? And so, we need to think about game mechanics around all of that, what does that mean for sustained engagement, incentivization. Right? Things of that nature. So I think that’s one example of failures. Obviously, patient portals were a disaster, it’s just were a mess. I mean I know many of us can agree to that.
But I think some of the successes as well as we’re really starting to see an incredible community around AI predictive analytics as well, I think we’re starting to see the power of data within our industry and what that can mean for the health of our citizens. An area I live in we’ll talk a little bit more in depth here on the show is blockchain and what that actually means. People are still trying to wrap their head around what it is and what it’s gonna do to this industry.
And I think recently we’ve seen some massive successes at the federal-policy level, right, talking about what HHS just delivered mere weeks ago, about information blocking and interoperability and patients having rights to their data. Those types of big policy changes I think are gonna have a trickle-down effect to the innovator, to the startups, to the disruptors, and I think it’s gonna be an exciting time ahead.
Scott: Yeah, I agree with you 100%. It’s amazing what’s happening now. And, you know, you’re gonna fall down every now and then, you pick back up. We’ll have future failures in terms of stuff that comes out. But that’s part of it, you know. You start to get better at kind of understanding how things roll out, when they’re gonna take off, when they’re having some difficulty. From my perspective, health-tech startups, when they first started, everything was gonna be a win. Everything, you know. And now I think we’re a little smarter in terms of having a little bit better idea about what we think is gonna make it, what we think may not make it, or just setting better expectations. What are your thoughts about that?
Mike: Yeah, I think you’re 100% spot-on, I think the expectations are starting to get more refined and being pragmatic in the marketplace. For instance, I think our startup entrepreneurs have heard loud and clear, “Do not add another click to my workflow.” Right? We’re starting to see people recognizing the burnout that we’re seeing in the industry and not continuing to add more of that clerical kind of administrative workflow. How can you be a part of what’s already there? Make it seamless.
You know, one entrepreneur that I worked with over at Sopris Health natural language-processing application, and he was the former CTO for iTriage, his name’s Patrick Leonard. And I love how he frames things up, he says, “We, as entrepreneurs and we as startups, we need to actually work to put technology in the background and almost make it invisible and get back to really helping our providers have that provider-to-patient experience.” And I think there’s a lot of startups that are working hard on that. This is not easy, this is very complex. But I think the expectations of understanding what can work within the marketplace and within the industry are becoming more refined and more clear and we’re seeing the response from our entrepreneurs accordingly.
Scott: Yeah, you know, I go back to expectations, expectations. I remember talking to some surgeons who I’ve known for a very long time. And when a lot of the EMRs and EHRs came out, there was this expectation like, “Don’t worry, it won’t even change what you’re doing.” And it’s not, you know, “Right,” it’s like, “no, that’s not true.” But if you set expectations and you start talking about the benefits, perhaps the extra cost or time to learn something or hire someone to help with either of a transition or ongoing implementation really does make sense. We work on a lot of different systems that involve AI, Watson, major data points, etc. And I do go back to that, you know, expectation thing. Are there other things that you think that providers should be paying attention to, you know, regarding health tech?
Mike: Oh, 100%. And we’re already seeing what I’m about to kind of share for our provide our community, and we’re only gonna continue to see its acceleration. And what do I mean by that? Patients are now consumers. This will only continue to accelerate, they will only continue to demand more and more services, like, you know, you always hear the cliche, “Uber for health care,” or this for that, “Uber for this, Uber for that,” it’s true, it’s coming to this industry. Whether the orthodoxy and the status-quo type of mindset personas in our industry, whether they like it or not, status quo is going to continue to be blown up.
You know, put it this in perspective, what people don’t realize sometimes is the millennial generation who were pretty much born with a smartphone in their hand is now the largest generation living in our nation, bigger than the baby boomers. And they are going to continue to demand this. They, as they continue to grow older, are going to be the largest buying segment in our economy. These are the things that they demand and expect.
And so, I think our providers need to start paying attention to that and get in front of it. Reactionary care is not something that is sustainable anymore, especially as we continue to navigate towards value-based care. And I’m, you know, trying to push that as fast as possible with all my work. And we have to react accordingly and there are tools and technologies to do that, from everything what’s in your pocket as a smartphone and wearables to IoT otherwise. There are ways to address that and really deliver what the patient, who is now the consumer, is going to demand and expect today and moving forward.
Scott: I couldn’t agree more. So many of our conversations on our podcasts always come down to very basic things, expectations like I just brought up, but also the consumerization of health care. Just, from my perspective, if you ignore it, it sets your own peril, shall we say.
Michael: You talked some about like what providers should be expecting, you know, not everybody’s gonna be excited about these new changes. You talked about some that are maybe a little bit or resistant to it. How do you handle that group of people?
Mike: It’s a great question. And we have to still bring them along. Change is hard, right? It’s not easy for anyone, and especially in an industry that is based on science, that is, you know, based on efficacy and “Do no harm.” I get it, it’s a difficult juxtaposition between what we know is right and pushing the envelope to try new and innovative ideas. I get it. But we have to also create environments and mindsets to allow the opportunity to discover new ways and new technologies and innovations.
One thing that I speak about a lot on my public-speaking and my motivational addresses around the country at conferences is the following, to answer this question we’re pointed, “It’s not necessarily about the technology and innovation, it’s already there. For the people that are resistant to change, it’s the mindset.” And what we need to do within this industry, the senior-level executive leadership in all types of organizations, payers, providers, academia, non-profits, the startups themselves, large companies, everybody from the top needs to change the mindset, meaning, “Fail but fail fast. Take opportunities to try new things. And if it does fail, you’re not penalized.” Right? This is how the startup world just lives and exists, this is our every day, this is how we do operate.
But this needs to now permeate into the, as I like to call, the incumbent environment. The big large providers and payers and the establishment of this industry. We have to start changing the mindset from the C-suite and senior leadership and allow that to trickle down through our organizations.
Now again, I always put the caveat on it and the asterisk and it’s this, I’m not saying to do this at risking patient’s health, not at all, but there are ways to create environments, create walled gardens, create sand boxes to try new things, to try new ideas, to test assumptions, and to fail and fail fast. And I think, if we continue to empower our senior and executive leaders across the nation to start changing culture and the mindset, that’s gonna have a huge downstream impact of how we can start taking more opportunities to push the envelope.
Jared: So, Mike, tell us what you’re seeing in health tech during the whole outbreak, during the COVID-19 outbreak. How is it being used to assist healthcare during the pandemic?
Mike: Yeah, well, I think, you know, a couple things…and I know we’ll talk a little bit high-level at this, given some of the other conversations you’ll be having with your other podcast guests, but telehealth, this has been a huge explosion. Just this week alone, you know, the week of March 16th, we’re seeing, you know, emergency declarations from CMS and HHS, the federal government getting waivers in place, being able to practice across state lines, reimbursement, otherwise we’re starting to see a huge ramp up of telehealth providers. For instance, where I’m from, in Denver, Colorado, one of our fantastic companies here that has headquarters, CirrusMD, they’re exploding right now in regards to growth.
And these are good things. I think now that telehealth, the genie’s out of the bottle, I don’t think it’s ever gonna go back, which is one of those things that I feel can be a phoenix that can rise from these current ashes that we’re seeing happening with this epidemic. I also think that, you know, being able to think of new and novel ways and ideas to leverage IoT, distance learning, things of that nature, I think we’ll continue to see the innovators think of new and creative ways to react to this pandemic.
Jared: I think just the rate of change is something that’s still just astonishing to me. Like you mentioned how quickly things are changing, like week by week, almost day by day now. And that’s one thing that, as I’ve been looking back over the last, say, 5 to 10 years, that I’ve been more heavily involved in the health tech scene, man, there has not been a time like this that I’ve ever seen where things are changing so frequently, where new ideas are coming about.
And some of that has got to do with the infrastructure that was in place to begin with in terms of how quickly a company or a service could be spun up to address a particular need, like what’s happening right now with the outbreak. So like I’m just curious, like from your standpoint, like how are opinions about health tech changing right before our eyes? Are you seeing the same thing? Is it just accelerated or are people finally saying like, “Now we’ve gotta give it a chance,” like how are opinions changing overall?
Mike: I think it’s changing rapidly. Again, you know, at the time of this recording, this podcast, we’re seeing this pandemic outbreak, I think the opinions are changing rapidly. And the opinions are changing out of the sheer need of necessity. We just have to do this in order to like answer the call, as citizens of this nation. And so, again, we’re starting to notice telemedicine and telehealth applications just exploding I think in regards to how the providers are looking at these applications is changing, as you mentioned, by the day.
And so, you know, therefore, I’m actually personally really excited and humbled by our work at BurstIQ, you mentioned, at the top of who we are and what we’re building. We’re an infrastructure play and we’re bringing blockchain to healthcare. And people are still trying to wrap their heads around, “What is blockchain?” And I believe it has the power to help and the ability and the opportunity to help to answer the call for this crisis. What we’re doing at BurstIQ is we’re a permission-based data network that’s allowing health systems, payers, digital-health companies, pharma companies, life-science companies, governments to unlock the full potential around health-related data, which is very obviously sensitive. And we have to treat it as such.
And so, we’re really focused on building these longitudinal profiles, as you mentioned, at the top of people, places, devices, things, processes, and connect all of those profiles to each other using machine learning, AI, and kind of a secure blockchain framework underneath all of that. And so, through that, what we’re seeing exploding in our current environment at BurstIQ is this notion of a digital front-door experience. We’re starting to see the need to connect these disparate and massive datasets and deliver it in an elegant fashion to help, exactly, as I mentioned earlier, think of telehealth, think of using telehealth for mental well-being and mental health across our country during this time. We need to be able to start creating that infrastructure to allow those highways to open up the data in a secure and safe environment.
Jared: So, what do providers need to hear from us right now? Because it sounds like, you know, the innovation isn’t gonna stop, if anything, it’s just accelerating. And I’m excited about that as well, and I know Michael and Scott are too. We’re excited to hear that things are innovating and that, ultimately, care can be improved. What do providers need to hear from the health-tech industry overall right now? Like during the pandemic, just during what’s gonna come after that, what do they need to hear from us?
Mike: Yeah, I think it’s not just now with the crisis but even afterwards is, “We need you.” we need to be seated next to each other at the same table thinking through the opportunities to deliver elegant and seamless care. And again, as I mentioned earlier, so we can all get back to that very sacred and intimate provider-patient experience. There’s nothing that can replace that, that can happen through a telehealth experience, there’s nothing wrong with that. That can happen through an asynchronous text-message scenario. There’s many ways to get back to that sacred, you know, scenario of a provider and a patient engagement and interaction.
Those definitions are changing and changing rapidly but we need the provider who’s at the table in order to continue to figure out how to answer that call for them. That’s our job as health-tech innovators, disruptors, and startups is to bring them along with us, and then, make sure that they are seated at the front alongside the patient. We always have to remember, as innovators and as startup disruptors and builders of these new technologies and innovations, those are the folks that we have to stay laser-focused on in all that we do.
Michael: Mike, you’re mentioning some of these big changes that are happening right now that we wanna see continue happening after this, a lot of times, when we talk about that big innovation world, we’re generally thinking like, “This is what the big-hospital mega system is gonna do. This is how this major network, or that major network, is gonna get through.” We end up working with a lot of smaller practices, and that could be anywhere from just a couple providers, you know, up to 20 or 30, or whatever that may be, but they’re definitely at very different scales from some of those like mega healthcare systems. You know, so, are there particular technologies or innovations or changes that are happening right now that you think would like directly relate to that group of people?
Mike: Oh, absolutely. I was fortunate to…I just finished my term but I was a board member for Medical Group Management Association, or MGMA, a 90-plus-year-old organization and association serving medical practices and those providers across the United States. And it was fascinating to hear from our members, through my time while with MGMA, to exactly your question is, “How do we not just think about the big large systems but what do we think about that practice with three docs in the middle of Kansas?”
If we actually look at the geography of the United States and then where the majority of our citizens live, it’s still within rural environments. Right? And so, we need to continue to keep our eye on the ball to think about, “How do we support that three-person practice in the middle of Kansas?” for instance. Right? “How do we continue to open up pathways to connect to those patients in new and unique and novel ways?” Right?
And especially keeping patients out of the brick and mortar, even in the urban setting. Right? Again, going back to what we said earlier, a lot of these, the younger generations are going to demand and expect to meet the consumer where they’re at. And that could be literally in an auditorium while listening to a lecture at their university and asynchronously texting their dermatologists about a lesion on their arm. Right? That’s deliverance of care in a specific environment.
And so, we need to start thinking about how can we, as entrepreneurs and innovators, enable all of that from, again, that three-person clinic in remote part of Kansas to, you know, Stanford University in the middle of Silicon Valley.
Michael: It’s interesting because, as all of this is rolling out, you know, everybody’s…as this epidemic is all across the world, you know, everybody’s having conversations with family members in other parts of the United States. So, we live here in New Orleans, my wife’s family is up in rural Tennessee, and so, the interaction that New Orleans is having, it’s being hit very hard, versus sort of the middle of nowhere in Tennessee. Beautiful place but very rural, very remote. And so, how healthcare distributes is really fascinating to see. And there are those concerns, you know, the sort of that like last-mile connectivity, you know, that everybody’s always worried about, “Are my in-law’s gonna be taken care of? Are they gonna get the same opportunity that we’re getting here in New Orleans?”
Mike: I couldn’t agree more. It’s, you know, these are bigger questions for this specific podcast right now, but I mean those are big infrastructure questions that we need to be thinking about at the highest levels of our federal government to the large telcos or otherwise. From my perspective, this is just my opinion, I believe that we should, as a nation and as a society, we should be looking at broadband the same way as running water. It should be on the same plane. I mean that’s how vital it is. And to have the digital divide that resides in some of our communities across the nation is shameful. And again, from my perspective, it should be on the same playing field as running water, electricity, or otherwise.
Scott: I’ll chime in on that and agree wholeheartedly, think about how much easier it would be able to take care of, from a telemedicine perspective, those very rural areas. Hopefully, we’ll get there, hopefully, people are thinking about it.
Mike: Oh, again, with this [inaudible 00:23:44] some of the feedback, [inaudible 00:23:47] that I highly admire, is that some of the phoenixes that’ll be rising out of these ashes is, hopefully, some of this that we’re talking about right now. Expanded broadband to deliver, you know, telehealth and services in the digital environment. I remain positive and hopeful that we’re gonna answer the calls as a country.
Michael: Absolutely. I think all of us are very very hopeful on how we’re gonna come out of this. And, Mike, thank you so much. I think there’s so much more we could talk about around all of this. I really appreciate your time and I wish you the absolute best through all this, you and your family. Be well and thank you, again, so much for coming on the show.
Mike: Absolutely. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here. And to all of your listeners, head on over to passionatepioneers.com or find us on your favorite podcast players, simply search “Passionate Pioneers with Mike Biselli.” We will be discussing your podcast over there to have our listeners come over and check out all of the wonderful work that you guys are doing for our nation and our industry as well. So, keep up the good fight, we need all of you now more than ever. And thank you so much for spending time with me today. It is an honor and I appreciate everything you’re doing.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning in to “The Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” This program is brought to you by P3 Inbound, marketing for ortho, spine, and neural practices. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.