Kevin Hutchinson joined Apervita as CEO after the company acquired Qcentive in 2019. Prior to Apervita, Hutchinson served as chief executive at several startups and stalwarts alike, including the founding CEO at Surescripts.
He also spent time working at IBM, Oracle, Medscape and MedicaLogic, which was sold to GE and ultimately became Centricity. And he is a board member or advisor to multiple technology companies.
Health Evolution interviewed Hutchinson about what attracted him to Apervita, the holy grail of activating patients to adopt digital health tools, the company’s value-centric collaboration platform, and more.
You joined Apervita in 2019 as CEO after the merger with Qcentive and you also have a long history of leading health care innovators. What attracted you to Apervita?
Hutchinson: Apervita built a technology platform that focuses on how to innovate digital measurement and with the acquisition of Qcentive’s value-based care tools that are driven by quality measures, the combination was a perfect segue into where health care was moving. So, what attracted me to Apervita is that the company is perfectly timed — and the pandemic only pushed it further ahead — for digital quality measures, value-based care and clinical pathways.
An argument has emerged in 2020 that because organizations that are heavily reliant on fee-for-service have struggled, revenue-wise, CEOs that have not already pursued value-based care should reconsider. From your perspective, is now the time for value-based care?
Hutchinson: Without question, the COVID pandemic certainly exposed the weaknesses of the traditional fee-for-service reimbursement model. Also, the tools needed to support value- based contracts for both payers and providers are available now. In the past, it was tech-driven with analytics databases and people manually trying to apply those to contract terms and payments. In the past, it could take as long as a year for payers and providers to reach settlement at the end of a contract because of all the back and forth and the quality of the algorithms doing the measurements. With years of experience in the technology market of helping both providers and payers manage value-based contracts, that makes it seem more possible than ever.
One of the big factors of value-based contracts is how to efficiently manage patient populations, and the growth of telehealth during the pandemic has opened providers’ eyes because patients are using these tools. That’s the holy grail — to get patients to adopt digital tools. Health plans, including CMS, are paying for telehealth, and now there’s an open door to managing populations through more effective means without incurring the cost of office visits.
Telehealth usage rates spiked early in the pandemic and those have since settled down, yet they remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. What are you expecting of telehealth use late in 2021 and the future?
Hutchinson: If I had that crystal ball, I would focus solely on being an investor. But I do believe telehealth will expand. Historically, the thing that gets patients to use technology is appointment scheduling. We’ve seen that over the last ten years as companies have focused on automating the appointment process. The next evolution of telehealth is integrating into EHRs, then moving into disease management or prescription compliance. So, telehealth underwent a heavy growth curve at first and we’ll see steady growth as patients get more used to these tools, scheduling appointments, participating in virtual visits and ultimately managing their health. Ultimately telehealth apps will replace the need for patient portals, or we’ll see these worlds merge together.
Circling back to Apervita’s value-centric collaboration, what should CEOs understand about that?
Hutchinson: There are three things Apervita is doing to enable the Learning Health System. The concept has been around since about 2005 or 2006 and entities such as AHRQ and IOM have been talking about it for a while. Ultimately, a Learning Health System aims to deliver better patient care via digital infrastructure. Value-based contracting is akin to the roof on the house because it’s about payment, measuring risk, getting reimbursed. But before you get to a contract, you have to digitize quality measures. We’re seeing The Joint Commission, CMS and NCQA push toward digital measures and the core of Apervita is a central engine and platform for digital measures. The Joint Commission deployed the Apervita platform to over 3,000 hospitals for quality measure reporting.
The second is clinical intelligence, which is really about pathways and this is all part clinical practice guidelines, delivering information to the point of care when physicians are making decisions. Measure performance impact those pathways and pathways impact measures. That intersection is what the Learning Health System is all about — measuring the quality of care to improve the pathway and vice versa.
The third is value-based care itself and managing value-based contracts. Being able to utilize digital measures for quality reporting in real time allows payers and providers to focus on the best performance risk terms to put into a value-based care contract.
If you think of the Learning Health System as building a house, you start with the foundation. The foundation of Apervita’s approach to supporting the Learning Health System consists of digital measures, then the walls are clinical pathways to influence decisions that drive care, and value-based payments are, again, the roof on the house.