RamaOnHealthcare June 2, 2020
In part one of this series, RamaOnHealthcare and Mohan Nair explore the implications of COVID-19 on the industry as a whole.
Rama sat with Mohan Nair, SVP/Chief Innovation Officer of Cambia Health Solutions, to uncover his recent considerations with the COVID-19 impact to innovation. Being one of the longest standing Chief Innovation Officers in the country, his impressions were relevant to RamaonHealthcare as to the readers.
RamaOnHealthcare: How should Chief Innovations Officers think clearly during this time?
Chief Innovation Officers cannot seek approval from the very part of the organization that their charters demand change from. Ironic but true, only 24% of Chief Innovation Officers report to the CEO. The rest rely on operational endorsements unless the leaders are enlightened to transform the system. They must be independent thinkers who bring the future to the present and have the courage to actually be fired in their attempt. They must be charged with a vision and cause beyond the present and they must be able to muster the skills and talents of those around them to make them heroes. When a CINO asked me how to justify their job to their superiors, I know the end is not only near, it is passed. CINOs are the challenging voice and team B of the enterprise and must be able to design, test and build and ship products better than the enterprise can. If not, we are always suggesting to the enterprise what innovation is and we are the suggestion box of innovation to the enterprise that continues to balance all factors necessary but never having the opportunity and threat of ingenuity. Great leaders know that innovation must be everywhere but in the meantime, we have to get it somewhere!
RamaOnHealthcare: How should innovators view COVID-19 as an accelerator to the future?
Disruption is ok and relevant but what COVID-19 has taught us is that wholesale transformation is more powerful. Customers stopped coming and markets stopped working in one month and we are wondering what will start the momentum again. This is an incredible time for CINOs to awaken their imagination when the world has stopped turning and spinning. Instead of asking what will start first and how to cope, innovators must be designing the things that race us forward when the gates open. In the case of those precious few who can build vaccines, or other solutions and the like for the cure, they are innovating. Others must create the future we chose to live in with health.
Your question can be addressed as an optimist or a pessimist. But the innovator must be a pragmatist first. Solutions will be needed when and where our community suffers. Social distancing is not the same as physical distancing. There is an opportunity there. We hear information is flowing but now it is flooding our minds with incongruent data and we seem “data obese” and “information starved”. We grasp at every word of any seemingly appropriate expert in hopes to find clues to how to safeguard ourselves but we must learn to build our future in healthcare.
RamaOnHealthcare: Is this a perfect time for innovators to take charge?
Innovators like challenging situations and this is no exception even though this is very challenging in economic, social, business and Health perspectives and it is difficult to parse the present in future terms as there seems no playbook. But innovators like it when they get to write their own playbook. Innovators like it when things they assumed are no longer. For example, will in-office visits run like before or will a portion of it stay as telehealth visits. Given many telehealth calls are brain health related, will this open new opportunities for such visits to be a new form of accountable care delivery? With healthcare funding changing under COVID-19, will the reimbursements and payment methods remain and flourish. Moreover, the consumer just figured out they may be the center of their own care and not the hospital, the country or their doctor. They now see themselves in community care and health. They also see that its one vison away from suffering death. One moment becomes enlightened view of life going forward.
RamaOnHealthcare: Can you innovate when people lose jobs, markets seem to be unstable and the future of the business you serve may be in question? Does it slow down our innovations?
It accelerates the demand for innovation. In challenging times, innovation is one of the subjects I find that challenging as well. Any one moment in time, I can feel fear, motivations and also just tire of the stress of the weight of my thoughts. But if we don’t lead with innovative ideas and make solutions that others need, we will be victims of the situation we never changed. So the instability does tire me and would others but the difference is our ability to bring that fear to be led by our dream of what can be and to make that happen.
RamaOnHealthcare: So how do we think forward with such pressure for the present? Is that not the enemy of innovation?
I agree. If your goal is not to get COVID-19 today, you can really focuses your attention and your energies. I appreciate that in many of us, as we all suffer from today’s pressures. I too must remind myself that the false assumption that there will be a tomorrow makes me plan for ahead and dream forward. But we speak so much of data and how it drives our thinking but no one can tell us what tomorrow will bring. Too many people can tell me what is possible based on regression analysis, stock portfolios, the weather and the like. But no one today has lived tomorrow. If that is an assumption, then I, as an innovator, can create my tomorrow. The enemy of the future design is always the present. But frankly the opportunity of the future is found is just doing something that creates the future rather than preparing to react to all the possible things that may occur. Healthcare has the unique opportunity to complete its promise to society with COVID-19. Innovators in healthcare must rally to bring about the future we want not what we think will be left after COVID-19. There seems no way COVID-19 will be forgotten for generations. For as many people who say they predicted it, many books I have read say in text that pandemics were cured in the past and hence these books spoke of an unlikely event that we are actually experiencing today.
But science alone cannot solve the crises we face in healthcare. We have to mobilize all the elements of our culture and people to bring solutions that make healthcare our responsibility. Any innovation that harnesses the new learnings of the consumer and brings it scale will attempt to complete the innovators dream.
RamaOnHealthcare: What is the role for companies like Cambia Health Solutions in the COVID-19 challenge?
We are a parent to 25 plus businesses all seeking to catalyze a cause that ensures that healthcare is person and family focused, and is economically sustainable. As a health solutions company, we moved quickly to ease access to care for our members. Just a few of our actions: Waiving pre-authorization and cost sharing for testing and recognized treatment for members diagnosed with COVID-19; expanding virtual care options so members could access their regular providers; allowing for early prescription drug refills.
RamaOnHealthcare: You serve several key companies large and small? How are they?
We also host employer groups who custodian the health and wellness of consumers and their families. These employer groups are also affected by the current impact to our economy.We’re working with employers, including devising new solutions, such as grace periods, payment options and leave of absence policies so they can continue employee coverage. Employers are also seeking new ways to gain financial resources available and we are helping them see those options. Providers are also in the COVID-19 challenge and need our support and admiration for their work with patients. Hence, paying for telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visit. Also, we have expedited claims to pay an average of seven days and also trying to ease their administrative load.
The pandemic has awakened both leap innovations and incremental innovations that bring value to consumers remotely and also help the entire value-chain that provides value to the consumer.
RamaOnHealthcare: Our communities are challenged with hunger, poverty and socially challenges? What does your innovation mind address this?
Through company and foundation funding, we directed about $10 million to food insecurity, access to critical health services, palliative care services, stable housing and economic recovery. Many institutions like us, are serving their communities with funding to bring to this very challenging need. Thinking as an innovator, the basis for our work is in service of all people.
RamaOnHealthcare: Advice to innovators?
My mind is focused less on institutional value, although important and necessary, but directed to the dining table of the families we serve. Innovation is about changing the conversation and life at the dining table of the families we serve.
I am not able to tell innovators how to engage given COVID-19. We have heroes everywhere and I am honored to see caregivers in healthcare doing what they do so well – saving us from COVID-19. There is so much to be grateful for and as much sorrow from those who have suffered with this pandemic.
COVID-19 also teaches us that we can innovate fast and targeted; that we can find solutions accelerated within the bounds of scientific honesty; that we can get digital faster than we expected; that our world is virtual now and we must be the best in the virtual world or we lose. That the virtual experience becomes paramount in our work with at-home customers. We also have now realized that businesses are human businesses and if we ignore humanity we lose.