Fast Forward with Ben Zaniello, Chief Medical Officer, PointClickCare

In this Fast Forward interview, Home Health Care News sits down with PointClickCare Chief Medical Officer Ben Zaniello to learn about the top ways health care professionals are using integrated care coordination solutions to improve health outcomes across the entire care continuum. He also shares insight into the shift from cures to prevention, and he explains how COVID-19’s impact will shape the home health and home care industry going forward.

HHCN: What is your current title and company, and how long have you been in that role?

Zaniello: I am the chief medical officer at PointClickCare, and I’ve been here for about six months.

What was the path that led you to this role?

I came on with PointClickCare as part of the acquisition of Collective Medical, which was an acute hospital care collaboration company for which I served as CMO for about five years. My background is a little meandering. I was part of the irrational exuberance of the internet ’90s. When I came out of Stanford, 100% of grads went into computer science-oriented fields, so I did too. But soon it felt very mercenary to me. At the time, I was mostly helping Ford and Boeing sell more machines. Wanting to do something with greater social impact, I decided to go to medical school. Unfortunately, I had no doctors in my family to tell me it was a terrible idea. I went anyway and, long story short, while I still love practicing medicine (I’m an infectious disease doc and still see patients), I missed the economies of scale that you have with software. I missed the opportunity to impact a lot of lives at the same time.

I went back into software, but of course, the right fit was health care tech. I worked for a large health system, Providence, on the West Coast for several years before seeing the impact that one particular company was making on care coordination. Providence invested in a small startup called Collective, and their approach to care coordination, particularly for vulnerable patients, seniors and safety-net patients was revolutionary. I joined Collective and then, fortunately, Collective and PointClickCare became one, bringing the largest post-acute network together with the largest acute network six months ago.

Fast forward, where do you see yourself and PointClickCare three years from now?

All health care involves the entire care continuum. My role at PointClickCare is to ensure that everyone who touches a patient is informed and supported through the data, workflow and tools we provide.

What do you think will be the most significant challenge in achieving that goal during the next few years?

There’s a lot of software out there, particularly in the care collaboration and population health space. A lot of people are interested in doing some of the work we do, and while I think we’re the best at it, that can be distracting and sometimes prevents progress.

In the grander scheme of things, I want to make interoperability not just a checkmark or goal, but a means of providing better patient care. Whether it concerns HIPAA, data breaches or competitive pressures, the easy move in health care is to continue siloing and withholding data. Ultimately, that’s bad for patient care and it’s a challenge we must overcome.

What do you see as the greatest potential source of health care disruption in the next three years?

The easy answer to this is always data — data in terms of access, breaking down the silos and sharing it with others; but realizing the insights in the data is very difficult in health care. For every patient visit and every hospital stay, we have millions of data points from vitals and lab results, but very few of them are insightful or actionable.

I think from a disruptive perspective, we want to get the right insights into the right hands. So many of the decisions made in health care today are from a health plan or ACO perspective, but even a provider perspective is based on old data or limited data. I think the opportunity there lies in making the insights derived from that data accessible to the people who provide the care.

What do you see as the most exciting economic or bottom-line opportunity during this time?

The shift from cures to prevention. There has always been a lot of talk and some amount of action around value-based care, but it is the single best pathway to align incentives for cheaper and better care. For the most part, the financial incentives have not been there. It’s taken COVID-19, for example, to focus the attention on better reimbursement around telehealth, which for so many conditions is a less expensive, equally effective way to provide care.

What do you foresee as the greatest technological advancement on the horizon with respect to PointClickCare?

I always focus on the advancement itself as opposed to the tech that facilitates it. There are so many examples, but I think aging longer and with a higher quality of life in later years is a different paradigm of care than we’re used to. Whether it’s assisted living or senior living, people want to be more connected with the outside world. These are no longer silos where you “park old people.” This is where people go because they can continue to maximize their lives and the quality of their lives through these communities.

What do you think will be the greatest social influence on health care in the short term?

It already happened. It was COVID-19. From a health care perspective, from an aging perspective and from a post-acute perspective, COVID-19 has changed and will continue to change how we provide and pay for care. While the pandemic itself has obviously been an awful experience for everyone, it was the deus ex machina finally forcing us to change how we practice medicine, and I think that’s a good thing.

What consumer product or service do you think will have the greatest impact on the industry during this time?

We always had an expectation that younger generations would drive greater consumer engagement as they age. I think what we actually found is that the user interface in so many of these applications is so easy that our senior population is getting more engaged.

Again, going back to that idea of interconnectedness and seamless care, that has ratcheted up their interest and expectations around health care software. The downside to all the sharing that those applications do, of course, is privacy, but I think there’s greater awareness of this now. The upside of sharing, from a health care perspective, means more informed care and more personalized care, and that’s exciting.

Complete the sentence. Three years from now I hope care delivery will be …

More informed about you as a patient, and more accessible to you as a patient and as a person.

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