In a recent Tech Talks conversation, CEO & Co-founder Michelle Davey reveals five critical themes that are shifting healthcare and impacting telehealth businesses of the future.
The onset of a global pandemic has illuminated the power and value of technology and healthcare working together via telemedicine. Whether it’s increased access to care, care triage support, or care management, telehealth has become a pivotal component of the continuum of care and our modern healthcare system.
In a timely interview, Wheel CEO & Co-founder, Michelle Davey, appeared on the Computer Futures’ Tech Talks podcast with host Danny Cohen to discuss the future of healthcare in a post-COVID world.
As a leader and founding member of the Wheel team, Michelle has deep visibility into emerging trends in healthcare and a passion for solving big problems in the industry today.
In an insightful and inspirational conversation, Michelle pinpoints five essential changes to healthcare and telemedicine in a post-COVID world that every healthcare executive needs to be aware of as they grow and scale a virtual care business.
1. Collaboration over competition
For true innovation to happen, collaboration needs to be put above the competition. That means private companies partnering with government agencies, startups and large companies coming together, and tech giants teaming up with healthcare brands to solve the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry.
COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to a collaborative mission, with companies asking themselves and each other, “How do we effectively combat a global crisis like COVID-19?” And, “How can we move healthcare forward in ways we never thought possible?”
Open source ventilator production with companies like Ford stepping in, Walmart and Doctor on Demand providing employee telemedicine care, and Philips and the American Telemedicine Association partnering to help further telehealth adoption all illustrate this type of corporate collaboration in healthcare.
Competitive healthcare companies of the future won’t be afraid of partnering in pursuit of a greater goal.
2. Telehealth infrastructure is needed
Digital health companies have been missing the foundational infrastructure all businesses and industries need to scale—stunting growth and limiting real innovation.
In order to effectively manage a pandemic like COVID, there is a base level of coordination, expertise, and nationwide policies required. The same is true in telehealth.
Virtual care on a national scale not only requires a robust and secure technology platform, but also the management of a remote-and-ready clinical workforce across states with wildly different regulations and practice restrictions.
To efficiently deliver comprehensive telehealth across the nation, the healthcare industry must build and leverage the foundational infrastructure to support such services. Once those baseline elements are in place, virtual care companies will be able to grow and thrive like never before.
Michelle recognized this two years ago and founded Wheel to address these very issues. Wheel is the first and only technology solution providing leading virtual care companies a rapid, turnkey way to serve more patients at scale—while empowering clinicians to deliver the highest quality care.
3. Clinicians need to come first
COVID-19 has prompted an encouraging call-to-arms among clinicians, with thousands volunteering to provide aid in pandemic hotspots like New York and more still providing virtual care for the first time in their careers.
Despite this overwhelming rise to the occasion, clinicians have been burning out and opting out at unprecedented numbers. Less people are going to medical school. There’s mounting student loan debt. And clinician administrative burdens are greater than ever.
To meet the needs of our healthcare system AND protect those who provide patient care, we as an industry must put clinicians first—and stop treating clinicians as commodities.
Today’s virtual care companies must ask themselves, “What can we do to enable clinicians to serve more patients at a higher quality of care?”
4. Telemedicine is the front door of healthcare
Historically, telemedicine has been known as a separate and supplemental branch of healthcare. Moving forward, telehealth will be known as “just healthcare.”
A natural analogy is the mobile banking industry. Ten years ago, we used to call it “mobile banking.” Now, 98% of our banking transactions occur on our smartphones. Mobile banking is just known as “banking.”
Modern healthcare companies must consider telemedicine as the front door of healthcare. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the adoption of virtual healthcare. But in the near future, it will be known as a normal and often initial means of receiving care.
5. Telemedicine can fulfill the continuum of care
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the need for clinician training programs to help educate on the latest research, protocols, and treatment guidelines. With help from the CDC, other virtual care companies, and government health entities, we’ve been able to optimize training so that clinicians can deliver the highest quality of care—from screening patients and triage to patient education and ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 patients within their own home.
Virtual care is providing essential support throughout all aspects of the care continuum in the context of COVID-19 and can flex beyond the pandemic to chronic condition management, urgent care, and nearly all other clinical domains.
Tomorrow’s telehealth companies will need to consider how they can support care from initial consults through care management in order to remain competitive.
Listen to the complete podcast interview on Computer Future’s Tech Talks and find the full transcript of the discussion below.
So good morning, good afternoon or evening, wherever you are and welcome to our version of The Voice [TECH Talks], a real opportunity to share and highlight the voices of those who are truly changing and disrupting the industry using technology.
Very, very little bit about me, not to bore all of you. My name is Danny Cohen, I'm the head of Computer Futures. I've been with our group for nearly 19 years. We're a specialist staffing firm within technology. We're actually part of a larger group called Specialist Staffing Group, which is a UK listed company. And I'm also the co-founder of Breaking the Glass. Breaking the Glass is a large U.S. community focused on supporting D&I with a specific focus on women in technology.
So with no further ado, I'd like to introduce the star of the show Michelle Davey, Co-founder and CEO of Wheel Healthcare. Michelle, thank you very much for joining us today. I'd love, and I'm sure all the listeners in the audience would love to hear a little bit about yourself. First, I'd love to hear your story before you joined Wheel. Or setup Wheel or how you founded Wheel. If that's cool with you.
Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
So my professional career has been rooted in recruiting and operations from companies like Medtronic, to Favor, to Google. But stepping further back, I actually grew up in a rural part of Texas, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, when it was still a really small town and unfortunately, because of the size of our town and the proximity it was to some of the larger towns, we didn't have access to the medical care that many need in this community.
So for over 14 years, I went undiagnosed with an autoimmune condition and so for me, something that I've been passionate about very, very much throughout my life, is access to care and access to quality care within that. So stepping back into my professional career, I actually started my career in healthcare sales.
I was here to innovate healthcare. I wanted to drive the changes. I quickly realized in the roles that I was in, that wasn't going to happen.
And I actually found my way to Google in a recruiting world and so that was really where I got intimate with recruiting and building organizations. And then I joined a startup where I then got intimate with 1099 workforces and the gig economy and future of work in the height of the gig economy back in 2014. And then after that, we were acquired by a local grocery chain called HEB. After that, I took a step back and tried to figure out what for me did I want to do next? Where did I kind of want to move it and shake up an industry? And that's where I found telehealth. For me, telehealth was the moment where my professional career and my personal goals really aligned.
So I joined a telemedicine startup as the Head of Operations in global talent. And I started kind of trying to build a telemedicine network. [I] quickly realized, I thought, you know, 'Easy, I've hired 1000s of people in my life. How hard can it be to hire clinicians? -- Turns out, it's really difficult.
And so I partnered really closely with our general counsel because of the amount of regulations in the industry. And we went heads down on this problem for well over four months. And we kind of picked our heads up after four months and started asking other people in the community, other telehealth founders, other telehealth providers and asking how they were doing this? And the recurring theme came out that access to the talent was the #1 problem that they were having and would have been the #1 problem that they had to scale. And so for us, that was kind of a light bulb moment where we said, you know what, this is something that with his health regulatory background and my recruiting and operations background paired together, we can go and start this!
So in January of 2018, we founded what was then 'Enzyme' where we started as a two-sided matching platform. I call it the 'Hired.com' of telemedicine, but we quickly realized after doing that and that was a model that worked really well, that it wasn't just the finding, the talent that was kind of the tip of the iceberg. It was also all of the management and the operations that went into managing those networks. That was really important and that's kind of how we evolved to Wheel today.
I ask everyone who I meet when I really want to get to know them, their 'why?' Because, you know, we can figure out 'what' and the 'how.' But it's the 'why' that makes the difference. I mean, the fact that you truly have the passion, it's truly affected you. You have the personal story and you truly understand that and that makes a huge difference, especially to the value that you offer to the market. So, well done and congratulations.
Who knew that having a chronic health condition would help you change the world?! Silver lining, eh? So there you go! Well, thank you, Michelle, for that and I appreciate you being so open and telling us your story. So what have you, Michelle, been observing in the industry lately? Due to the unique position of Wheel at the intersection of the telehealth industry.
Yeah. There's been so much happening in this industry. I often say that we've innovated more in the last two months than we have in the last 10 years combined.
So I think that first and foremost comes with the amount of innovation that's happening in the space for that innovation to happen is really around the collaboration that's happening on a different level.
So not only is it private companies interacting with the government, interacting with startups, to large corporations to help tech giants, to tech giants. All of those people are coming together, putting collaboration over competition for the first time ever.
And starting to look at how can we move, not only COVID, and how do we combat what's happening across the world, but how do we start to move healthcare forward in ways that we never would have thought possible before?
I always say to staff, be proactive in your plan, have a plan, execute, have a vision, etc. Do you think a lot of what has happened is due to the reaction to the situation today? You know, you talk about collaboration. Do you think that would have naturally happened? Or do you think because of circumstances, do you think that's the reasoning behind that?
Yeah, I think it's definitely because of circumstances. I mean sure, there was some level of collaboration happening in this space but it's sometimes hard to put like I said, the collaboration over competition because we all have bottom lines that we have to abide. And so, I think what happened was this moment where we all were asking ourselves whether you're in healthcare or just a patient or anyone, it's like,
- 'What can I do?'
- 'What can I do to help combat this?'
- 'How do I make a difference in the world at this moment?'
And so I think that was a reaction to the current situation, but I do believe it's going to continue and continue to drive that collaboration, which is what healthcare has really been lacking overall in the last kind of 10 to 15 years.
Thank you. Hopefully, the world leaders can take some note and solace from what you're doing and what everyone seems to be doing right now. I hope that as well. [Laughter] Fingers crossed.
So just regarding the name 'Wheel.' I'd love to know why, why the name 'Wheel?'
Yeah. Absolutely. So as I mentioned earlier, we started as 'Enzyme,' and Enzyme, quite frankly, was just a domain name that was available and we used it because an enzyme is a catalyst, but the reason that we went with 'Wheel,' as I talked about, our business has really evolved and kind of where we're trying to move healthcare forward.
The invention of the wheel was actually invented so that one human could move something that they may not be able to move themselves and so the idea of Wheel is that we all have to come together to move healthcare forward and 'Wheel' is the pinnacle of doing that.
Wow, amazing and it's very simple, but completely makes complete sense. So love that.
Thank you very much and we used to actually have internally a career program called 'Velocity.' You know, moving fast in a certain direction. I like enzyme as well. Like the catalyst to your success but, Wheel just sounds so fitting to where we are today. So thank you very much for that.
And just regarding the projects you're working on. I'd just love to know a little bit more in-depth. Like what does Wheel do and how can they really make a difference in the future of healthcare?
Yeah, we do quite a bit. I think to unpack that. But on one thing, we're really building the infrastructure for the future of healthcare and so, you think about businesses and industries across the world.
They all have an infrastructure layer so that companies can scale on top of that. One of those places that didn't have it was digital health and healthcare. We're firm believers that even pre-COVID that telemedicine is going to be the future of healthcare and quite frankly, IS healthcare of the future. And so building the infrastructure behind that is important. So on one side, we have clinicians who have historically been, unfortunately, commoditized in this industry and really kind of the burden both from the administration and the tech burden has been placed on their hands, which has incredible numbers around burnout, including the fact that they are the highest rate of suicide over active military.
Oh, wow. I never knew that.
That's where there's a problem. I think that's one kind of canary in the coal mine. And so what we really do at Wheel, is put the clinician first. So we really concentrate on the clinician. What can we do to enable them to serve more patients and higher quality of care? So we often say here that virtual-care clinicians or great virtual-care clinicians aren't found, they're made.
So we put a lot of emphasis around training them, educating them on telemedicine, educating them on the regulations that sometimes most people don't want them to know. And then we kind of do our due diligence with the companies to ensure that they are protected as well. The companies that they're working with are the best. And from a compliance standpoint, are up to snuff so that the clinicians are protected on that side. So we not only are we really focused around clinicians but enabling the infrastructure from a technology that allows companies and new partners who are either coming into this space as telemedicine vendors or adding virtual care as a part of their offering. Whether it's healthcare systems or tech giants, it allows them to scale up virtual care quickly.
But still, have that high quality, high touch, that us, from patients we expect.
I love it. And you know, it just obviously for myself, I'm always someone who likes to relate. You can always relate to someone on one scale or the other and when you talked about clinicians first, funny enough, our company is called Computer Futures but I'm all about sticky messages and identity. So people get behind it and believe in it and funny enough, our identity is 'candidates first.'
So because, you know, I did, about a year and a half ago, 100 meeting challenge where I flew to 8 states and meet 100 of our customers to identify really, what is going to make us different in the technology-recruitment space? And it's the same thing that they probably say to every recruitment company. It's like, you send out the best candidates, we'll hire them. You take care of them, we'll always be there for you and I was like, 'OK.' So candidates first but then I kind of went off piece a little bit went 'clients forever.' So CF 2.0, but you know, that's me.
But I love that, I really do. So could you talk a little bit about the business model and the clinicians first a little bit more in-depth, because it's so brilliant that it's going to make a difference. It sounds like in what you're doing.
Yeah, so I think the important thing to remember about clinicians is that it's a finite number of a pool. So less and less people are going to medical school. There's mounting student loan debt coming in. More and more people are leaving the industry than ever. You can make more money as a plumber, than a pediatrician these days. So I think it goes to speak about some of the holes we have there. So going into that for us it's not only about our training of them and ensuring that they're really aligning their career for the future of healthcare as well, but it's also about taking care of them over time, ensuring that when they are serving patients, whether that's in a hospital or virtually, that they still have that level of high-quality touch that they would want to have and so I think the really big piece of that for our business is removing that bureaucracy, everything from removing the barriers for them to practice, whether that's helping them with the credentialing or helping them get licensed in more states to making sure that our technology is built. So it's easy for them to serve the patient and serve the patient effectively.
Wow, OK. Amazing! And if you look at today, and obviously, I think I'm going to get the elephant out of the room, even though I've been in this room for literally seven weeks, and I'm going to try to remove the elephant, which is COVID and unprecedented times. But given Wheel's model, philosophy, you as the leader, it's a pretty good time to have this company around. So what are you doing to help with COVID, specifically, the business model? How, are we using a lot more business come in? Are you seeing, businesses change very quickly? Is transformation happening within the digital space that you're in right now?
Yeah, absolutely. I think the beauty of what COVID brought, is not that our business model changed at all, but it really solidified our hypothesis and the mission that we have is one that is important and one that is going to move healthcare forward and so we're doing a number of different things around COVID. So in the early days, we stood up large training programs for hundreds of clinicians around COVID so that they could triage and educate patients at a whole different level. We worked closely with the CDC and a number of companies on those guidelines to put together for those clinicians and so we also continued as new data came out, was to optimize those trainings so that they were up to date with the newest data, the newest protocols and that they were delivering, again, the highest quality of care, whether that was just educating them, screening them, triaging them.
One of the things we've also really moved into is around testing. So testing is one of the largest problems that we've had in the United States and access to that testing. So we've done a lot, not only enabling testing providers to get out to patients and scale their operations but also about treating patients in the home. So for patients who maybe test 'positive' but aren't in a serious case where they need to go into a hospital, our clinicians are actually managing them at home and ensuring that they are taken care of to the point where then they can recover from COVID as well.
So there's a number of different things that we're doing across the industry and I think it just does, again, to solidify that our business model was one that was really bringing healthcare into the future.
It really is. I mean, I was going to ask the next question is, you know, if you look at the future, do you think telehealth is here to stay? It feels like a very loaded question. I'd love to hear your views on it.
Yeah, absolutely. I often say that you can relate telemedicine to mobile banking. So 10 years ago or I think now it's like maybe ten to twelve years ago we used to call it 'mobile banking.' Now, today, 98% of transactions happen through our smartphone and so that's how I believe telemedicine is today. We call it telemedicine as a separate thing. Very soon. And I think COVID really sped that up.
This is just healthcare. This is the front door of healthcare.
Yeah, what normal was yesterday, is definitely not going to be normal in the future.
Well, firstly, thank you so much. I think I'd just like to ask you I'd like to wrap up because, I think there's so much you've given me and it's funny when you talk about what was, you know, the banking space and mobile. We do a lot of mobile recruitment and we see the companies even now, 10 years later, still nowhere near to where they want to be, especially, when you talk about 98% percent of people have a tablet in their hands, and you're right, it probably is gonna be just called, as you said, 'healthcare.'
Michelle, thank you so much for your time. Again, I know I've said 'wow' a few times, but I truly mean it and it's because it's pretty inspirational and aspirational to myself and I'm sure many people who will be watching this to see someone really lead the way in something so, which is quite new, and very exciting, obviously always scary as well, but it sounds like you're doing a fantastic job. And, you know, honestly, I'm honored and humbled that you did agree to join and I'd just like to ask you one final I don't know if it's a thought-provoking question.
But I'd love to know, as a woman, who is an IT leader, who is a leader in technology, disrupted the world positively, is there a final comment or words of wisdom to both those who are seeing the light and possibilities to those who may be struggling right now, need a bit of Michelle in their life?
Yeah, that's a great question. I think one of the things that I would say is working towards that goal every single day. While it's a big goal at the end of the tunnel, it's always about putting one foot in front of the other and making sure that every single day you're working towards accomplishing that goal. You don't have to bite it off all in one and I think that really helps me get to the place that I'm at today.
I love that. Yeah. I mean, you have to have a vision. You have to have a dream and you have to work towards. I think some people, you know, one of my bosses years ago said people want something in 10 years but aren't willing to work one year for it.
Yeah, I remember trying to give a training and I was trying my best to talk about the future. And I said, you know, it's going to take 30 years to build a spacecraft on Mars. Imagine the engineer who comes in, "Oh, I can't wait to see in 30 years my spacecraft." Yeah, I don't know if that's going to get people excited. So breaking it down to very clear milestones and so forth, but it sounds like you've done an amazing job in such a short time and it sounds like the people you know, you've put the people first and the clinicians first.
You know, you're hiring great talent and I know as a company, you're growing quite aggressively as well. So look just for me to finish off, Again, thank you, I think I've said it more times. I've said it all year. I really appreciate you taking the time out, given how busy you really are, and obviously, to everyone watching, please, this will be on our Computer Futures website, LinkedIn, Twitter, and will be on our Specialist Staffing Group main website. I know my other recruitment brands Real Staffing, which is the seventh-largest recruitment company in healthcare, will want it all over their page too. So they've kind of asked me if they can. I don't blame them, but it's pretty amazing to meet you and this is our second time meeting and you blow me away.
I really appreciate everything you've said and you truly are the voice of reason and the future. So thank you very much, Michelle.
I appreciate it.