This Week in Health IT Anne Weiler
February 15, 2019

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Wellpepper completed a randomized control study which showed that digital intervention activated patients earlier in the process to produce greater gains. Moving beyond experience to better clinical outcomes. Anne Weiler and I explore innovation on this episode.

Anne Weiler CEO Wellpepper on Improving Health Outcomes with Technology

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Bill Russell:                   00:11                Welcome to this week in health it where we discuss the news information and emerging thought with leaders from across the health care industry. This is Bill Russell. Recovering healthcare CIO and creator of this week in health it, a set of podcasts and videos dedicated to training the next generation of health it leaders. This podcast is brought to you by health lyrics, helping you build agile, efficient and effective health. It let’s talk visit health to schedule your free consultation. We were recording a series of discussions with industry influencers at the Chime Himss 2019 conference. Here’s another of these great conversations. Hope you enjoy.

Bill Russell:                   00:46                You Ready? All right, great. Uh, do you wanna introduce yourself? I mean, you were a previous guest of the show, but I’ll let you introduce yourself.

Anne Weiler:                00:53                I’m, Anne Weiler, I’m the CEO and cofounder of Wellpepper. We are a platform for interactive patient facing care plans.

Bill Russell:                   01:00                I know it’s kind of wimpy move to have you introduce yourself and I get your name wrong. So this is my way of making sure I don’t get your name wrong. I know. So, uh, here we are on the HIMSS floor and, and, uh, you know, previous guests on the show. So I just wanted to stop in and see. Yeah. Um, yeah, let’s, let’s start with, I want to get into all the digital stuff, but let’s start with how’s, uh, how’s your company doing? What’s your company doing here? What do you see?

Anne Weiler:                01:23                Well, what we’re seeing, and we’re seeing that, I would say patient engagement and interactive care plans in particular have really hit the mainstream. So we’re, you know, we’re having great booth traffic and pretty big health systems who are making these platform decisions. They’ve the point solution, the days of the point solution or over, they’re realizing that they need something that can go across all their service lines, all their patient populations, which is what we do,

Bill Russell:                   01:48                right? Yeah. If you’re going to be implementing something here, here, here, and it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work at all. It’s interesting. What was your, this is just me being me. What’s your strategy? I mean, you’re in the 800 series. I mean you’re like, you guys are almost in the back corner, so you probably, you probably had a lot of meetings set up for big systems to find you where you’re at.

Anne Weiler:                02:11                Yeah, we do. Yeah, we’re back here. We’re in the personal connected health. Um, and our strategy is that this is actually quite a great location, but one of the strategies is that our partner for interactive care plan content, Mayo Clinic is just right over there. So we are right with them. And so when they’re talking about interactive care plans, they can point over to us. And then they’re also that, you know, when you’re a relatively small company, you’re, your choices are a small little kiosks with like this in an area that’s highly populated because people really care about personal health or a tiny booth. And this is much better. So I think, you know, like I would, I would like to stay in an area like this as long as I can until I can do like a 20 by 20 booth and really splashy. And

Bill Russell:                   02:56                this, this actually works. I mean I’m looking around and this is sort of like a who’s who of startups. Startups are making it. Yeah.

Anne Weiler:                03:05                Not Innovation. That’s where I feel like we’ve gotten past, not that we’re not innovative, we’re super innovative, but we’re not in the innovation. We’re in the personal connected health cause this is where people are looking for solutions for patients.

Bill Russell:                   03:17                Great. So last time you were on the show, we talked a lot about uh, let’s see, we talked about Google and Amazon and all this other stuff and Amazon’s going to change the world, change healthcare. And I see Amazon now has a pretty sizable booth. Google now

Anne Weiler:                03:30                googling Google is the one that’s making at least publicly the investments. I mean they’re hiring the CIO is than the CEOs of health systems.

Bill Russell:                   03:39                Right. So doctor Feinberg there now you, uh, who I think is brilliant. Yeah, me too. I love his take on things. Um, I’ll ask you the question that I’m not sure I could ask anybody else. Do you think he went to Google cause he looked at being at a health system as being too confining. Like he, he like he really wanted to do something that would impact the world and said, I can do it from Google.

Anne Weiler:                04:02                Yes. Um, I also think that he was offered the Amazon Berkshire Hathaway because he, there was rumors about him being shortlisted for that. Right. And I suspect because you know, he’s a very pragmatic person as well as a dynamic leader that what Google offered with having existing things that needed to be coalesced into a stronger strategy was probably more aligned then the, the other one where it’s, that’s still completely unclear what they’re doing.

Bill Russell:                   04:33                So if you were offered that job, I mean you would take that job in a heartbeat. Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean the resources that are available to you. So they’re, they’re doing great things with, uh, I mean machine learning, AI and they’re bringing all that data. This isn’t necessarily for our listeners. Our listeners are looking at me right now going, you know, I, I could barely keep up with what’s out there and now you’re talking about all this other stuff, but we are actually seeing some health systems start to utilize Google for their machine learning. And Ai, we’re definitely starting to see them use about, John Hawkins is talking about using Amazon, moving their data in there, having in Amazon process it and then just sand fire alerts down into their EHR. Yeah. Uh, and I think that is going to be, that’s going to be the trend thing, right?

Anne Weiler:                05:15                It just didn’t have the compute power before and now it’s like readily available cheap. And I think that people now feel that they understand that the cloud is not just secure, but it can be more secure than on prem. I mean, I always like to use the example of if you look at the big HIPAA breaches over the last 10 years, they were all paper being left in the wrong place or somebody selling a photocopier with records on it.

Bill Russell:                   05:37                Yeah. I think we’re going to see a push in two directions. We’re gonn see a push in the consumer direction, that’s where you guys are living in. And I think health systems more and more saying, how do we serve our consumer? They’re doing, they’re finally doing consumer surveys there. Finally. You know, how do they, how do they do are experienced, oh gosh, they hate our waiting room experience. Yup. What a shock. Yeah. What can we do to, they’re asking the question, what can we do to improve it? And uh, and I think that’s what leads them to solutions like yours. Yeah.

Anne Weiler:                06:03                That and that they’re starting to understand that the patient experience isn’t just in the waiting room. It’s every time you interact and digital is where the patients actually want to interact. And most of them are not yet at a coherent strategy. They’re, the leaders are like the leading organizations are thinking about this holistically. Like you look at Inner Mountain, they’ve hired head of digital from Disney. Understanding that your brand and your experience is everything. It’s your portal is how easy it is to get an appointment. It’s what happens after you see the doctor. What’s the follow up, which is what we focus on.

Bill Russell:                   06:38                So I’m going to cheat as a consultant. I was just asked this question to, to name the three or four health systems, digital, you know, digital, uh, success stories to the organizations that are really engaging the consumer that have a good transitions of care that have thought through how people, and you said most of those touch points are, you know, the bill is a consumer experience. It’s all of that.

Anne Weiler:                07:02                All of that. Yeah. And I, you know, I think right now probably Keiser is the leader because they were able to, you know, it’s an integrated system and they didn’t have different groups doing different things

Bill Russell:                   07:13                And they didn’t have to worry about the compensation either

Anne Weiler:                07:16                no, exactly. And they have really, really high engagement digitally with from their patients and probably it doesn’t hurt that they’re in California, you know?

Bill Russell:                   07:24                Uh, yeah. I mean, but still there across a lot of markets,

Anne Weiler:                07:27                They are. But they also, you know, their home base is a pretty tech savvy market they’re in Seattle. Also very tech savvy market where there’s not an expectation.

Bill Russell:                   07:36                Do you think they have a benefit of being able to scale a lot quicker? Because they’re able to, they have a systems that are pretty standardized already across the board.

Anne Weiler:                07:46                I think so although they do have actually innovation pockets in each geography. So we’re working with innovation group and in Seattle there. So which is also great because we don’t have to, they have to check in with the larger group but we don’t necessarily have

Bill Russell:                   08:01                so they can actually innovate in that market and then scale across the enterprise. So Kaiser, I think everyone would said no duh. Are there others? I struggled to be honest. I, I think of a handful.

Anne Weiler:                08:09                I think it’s, most of them haven’t delivered on it yet. It’s, they’re starting to think that way. Right? So that Oh, all up strategies santarros thinking that way. Intermountain’s thinking that way. Mayo Clinic of course is thinking that way.

Bill Russell:                   08:21                One of the things is that, uh, I said it was one of the trends that we identified last year that we’re keeping an eye on this year is uh, the technology roles have split into three. Within the health system there is chief innovation officer, chief digital officer and chief innovation officer. And we’re actually seeing a lot of systems hire three people depending on scale and size. And then as some CIOS from smaller systems are saying, hey, they’re looking at me for a digital strategy. What do I do? Right. And so more and more of the questions I’m getting asked is, where do I go for this digital talent? Yep. And we’re still saying outside the industry. I,

Anne Weiler:                08:56                yeah, I think they need to. Um, I’d like that the, those CIOs are asking that question though because I, you know, I came from Microsoft, it tech like those are my customers. Right. And I hate to see innovation getting taken away from them. They, that’s the I, the CIO, chief innovation officer and the chief information officer. I think they need to be more closely aligned. Maybe the same person.

Bill Russell:                   09:23                We interviewed Aneesh Chopra yesterday we talked about this topic and one of the things he said was that the CEO is just getting frustrated because they’re not making enough movement. Yup. And the CIO is looking at him going, look, we’re swamped, right they are swamped. unfortunately. the EHR workflow integration. And, you know, we just bought Wellpepper, we’ve got to bring it into our system. But that’s innovative. It is. But there’s, there’s just a whole bunch of plumbing and back room and cloud and uh, those kinds of things. And so that the, the role gets overwhelmed and then they say, hey, why aren’t we innovating? Like, like Kaiser, what you’re saying. Right. Um, and so now they’re stepping back and going, all right, it’s more than one role.

Anne Weiler:                10:09                Yeah, sure. But I, should they be peers or should one report to the other

Bill Russell:                   10:13                regarding one of the thing, if I’m talking to a CEO, I’m saying, I don’t care how you do it. Right. But the three have almost have to have like a hive mind. I mean, they’re right there and your chief strategy officer. I mean they’re, they’re like absolutely fit together.

Anne Weiler:                10:28                But you think like, so one of the challenges that we have is, you know, we are innovative. We often come in through the innovation group, but we cannot get traction until we get EMR integration and we need the it resources for that. And it’s a different group. Right. And we’re at the bottom of the list. So that’s where I would like to see a little bit more alignment there because you know, we are offering great things for patients, but until it’s integrated into the workflow.

Bill Russell:                   10:54                The other thing I tell CEOs in these conversations is you have to decide what problems are going to solve. And it can’t be 50 right. It’s gotta be right. We have these 10 problems we’re gonna solve this year. So that when they say, Hey, wellpepper’s our solution to solve this problem, it’s not a problem getting resources cause everyone goes, oh, that’s one of our 10 initiatives. Yeah. It gets back to that know.

Anne Weiler:                11:16                And that’s where I think there’s an opportunity for the CIO the two CIO’s innovation and information to better align. Yeah. You should be totally aligned them with those 10 things are so that when it comes up, it does get the resources.

Bill Russell:                   11:28                But there’s different types of innovation groups, right? Yes. There’s like, yes there are, there’s like VC innovation group. Yep. And you’re not necessarily coming in through them because they’re doing their investing. Yeah. And you’re sitting there going, all right, I’ve got my money, I’ve raised my money. Yeah. And that’s what they’re looking for. Yeah. So

Anne Weiler:                11:46                yeah, there’s, it’s, it’s, yeah. That would be an interesting maybe thing for you to write as a thought piece. Like what are the different models of innovation then they’re the ones that are trying to basically compete with the companies like me and spin things out themselves. Right. You know, that’s a hard one

Bill Russell:                   12:03                for everyone. Yeah. And then the other thing that happens is you have innovation groups that are all starting up their companies that are similar. Yeah. But they have like, you know, you’re aligned with this innovation group as a health system and then you try to sell it was very good. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and so they, they almost have limited markets. If you say, I’m going to align with this innovation team. Yeah.

Anne Weiler:                12:24                Yes. Which is, you know, we haven’t taken money from an innovation team. And if we did, we would, we would look at it very carefully. Like what is their reach? Who are they aligned with? You know, cause it will cut. It can cut your addressable market and they say, yeah, you’re aligned with these guys and you know, for in the other camp.

Bill Russell:                   12:43                That’s really interesting. Any other topics you want to talk about?

Anne Weiler:                12:46                Yes, thank you for asking. Um, so we, uh, I think you may remember this. We do a lot of research. Um, we partner with Boston University and Harvard. Um, and so we finally have the results of a randomized control trial on wellpepper published. And it was a study done out of Boston University, people with Parkinson’s age 50 to 75 and the outcomes were, so it was a control group. So people with paper and people with a digital intervention, they got the same outcomes, which is good. That means that the intervention worked. But the people who are less activated at the beginning of the study saw greater gains. So when you think about like all those people that doctor say, well, they won’t do it. They will with digital health. So we’re, I mean, one of the things we’re really strong about is making sure that we’re improving patient outcomes. It’s not just about experience. You’ve got to have that clinical validation.

Bill Russell:                   13:39                Well and hopefully people have gotten past the myth that the older generation doesn’t use technology. Yeah, they absolutely. Yeah.

Anne Weiler:                13:47                And actually our second study with Harvard is with, they call them frail seniors. Um, and that one has not been published yet in the peer review general. But I can tell you that those seniors on that program had reduced Ed visits and increase mobility compared to the control group. So totally benefits.

Bill Russell:                   14:08                I mean that’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to reading that research, So my 97 year old, I’ve talked about this three times now, the podcast. So people are getting 87 year old grandfather, or father in law moves in to live with us and uh, and you know, I’m working, I’m here at himss, said my wife is doing a lot of volunteer work. She’s out of the House and uh, we’ve given him a new friend. It’s, it’s echo, Amazon echo and it’s almost like that Saturday night live skit he’s talking to. He’s talking to it all the time and he’ll say, yeah, hey, play me some country music. Then he’ll say, hey, who who the baseball game last night? So He’s learned how to interact with it. Are you guys looking at that? And so that’s going to be a way for them to interact with their care plans.

Anne Weiler:                14:49                We actually did a focus group, uh, yesterday morning, I should have invited you. It was with Mayo Clinic on using voice and interactive care plans. We think it has huge benefit, but we also know that, uh, it’s not necessarily for every task and putting in my information hat on, you know, there’s this challenge of the data collection is different if you’re telling Alexa something then if you’re keying in a survey. So that’s a kind of a question about like these different modalities. The patient is interacting in different ways, but regardless, there’s huge value. It’s people love it. We’ve all the testing we’ve done, um, you know, the empathy is much stronger. Um, it’s easy. Um, it’s just so easy just to tell Alexa, you took your medication. Okay.

Bill Russell:                   15:36                I used to be one of those checks that, you know, you’d see those robots in the Japanese shows. Yeah, that’d be going around a lot of those here. Yeah. And I’d be like that. That would never work. And now I’m watching my father in law interact with echo and I’m like, he should, he’s like having conversations with, and we heard at the Chime fall forum that loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest challenges we have in health. And it’s, I mean, so yeah, I think robots are going to be interacting with devices. Um, there was one other question I wanted to ask you. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s the end of the show. This is what happened. Absolutely. Well, thank you again. I appreciate you coming on the show.

Speaker 1:                    16:18                I hope you enjoyed this conversation. This shows a production of this week in health it for more great content. You can check out our website or the youtube channel at Thanks for listening. That’s all for now.


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