Key Takeaways

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Cardiovascular diseases are collectively the leading cause of mortality across multiple demographics — men, women, and most ethnic groups. They pose significant threats to individual lives, but also to the sustainability of the larger healthcare ecosystem.

How are these challenges changing care models? And, importantly, how are innovators in healthcare helping address them?

In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, our guest Ian Koons, CEO and co-founder of Karoo Health, discusses the state of cardiac care, how spending on heart conditions is shifting value-based care (VBC), and the role of digital health for helping cardiologists support their patients.

Cardiology patients are often left to their own devices for managing care

Of all chronic conditions, heart-related diseases are some of the most complex to manage and treat. Cardiology patients often have to balance significant lifestyle changes, robust treatment plans, and regular appointments with specialists. 

However, these same individuals usually receive little communication or support outside of short visits with their doctors. According to Koons, “These are patients who wait six weeks for an appointment, only to be told by their cardiologist to ‘work out, be healthy, and I’ll see you later.’ ”

As a result, a lot of individuals managing cardiac conditions end up admitting themselves to the hospital when they experience symptoms or side effects — even when they don’t necessarily need to be there. Koons explains, “[Cardiology] patients are really left alone to their own devices, and many of them wind up in the ED … we’ve spoken to several cardiologists. One in particular was on call and had 75 admissions in a single weekend. They know the majority of patients with support outside of the four walls don’t need to be there.”

Ultimately, spikes in unneeded admissions cause more spending. But they can also disrupt clinicians’ schedules, place more burden on care teams, and put more stress on the larger healthcare system.

Discover how Memora Health’s platform supports patients facing chronic conditions.

Costly cardiovascular conditions are driving shifts in value-based care

Cardiovascular conditions are driving transformation in care models themselves. And a lot of the reason why this is happening has to do with cost. One statistic placed total U.S. annual spending on heart disease at $407 billion.

Koons proposes these concentrated costs might be pushing VBC in a new direction. He says, “Version 1.0 of value-based care was diverting everything to the primary care provider. But, as we’ve gotten sicker as a population, spending has been more concentrated on certain conditions … It’s unfair to put [the burden of care and spending] on the primary care provider.”

As a result, VBC frameworks are weighing the impact of specialist care. Koons explains, “Value-based care 2.0 is getting sliced up more by disease state of what the key driver of the spending is and managing that throughout the continuity of care … to better manage that patient from the onset.”

Memora Health’s intelligent care enablement technology leans into advancing care coordination by guiding patients with clinician-curated Care Programs personalized to their specific journeys.

Digital health can play a crucial role in driving better cardiac care

Just as with other areas of healthcare, digital health is playing an increasingly important role in advancing cardiac care. And it’s doing so in more than one way.

Take Karoo Health as an example. This Memora-supported technology is specifically built to arm cardiologists with the right tools to prioritize patients and intervene effectively. Koons explains, “We make it overly simplistic from a clinical workflow. Cardiologists are busy. They’ve got patients. They’ve got procedures … Through our technology embedded in the EHR, we risk-stratify patients, and those patients are flagged in the upcoming patient roster.”

The essential ingredient in making platforms like this one work is by understanding the important role clinicians play in their patients’ lives — and being mindful of operational friction to ensure they can work in a more streamlined way. Koons adds, “We try to amplify the clinical expertise of our partner cardiologists to manage risk among their patient populations.”

Enabling care teams to deliver more connected care innately puts the patient at the center of care models. As clinicians encounter less operational friction and individuals fewer barriers to successful care journeys, outcomes improve, spending reduces, and the larger healthcare ecosystem can become more sustainable.

By understanding the issues both care teams and patients face during cardiovascular care journeys, digital health developers can create solutions that will have greater impact across the board. And as stakeholders at every level encounter better experiences, the entire healthcare industry can become more efficient, compassionate, and effective.