Investing in Secure Communication Platforms - Cover

Investing in Secure Communication Platforms

This year, KLAS’ Digital Health Investment Symposium (DHIS) will bring together some of healthcare’s most innovative thinkers from more than 30 health systems, private equity firms, and strategic vendors in the digital health space—virtually.

Looking forward to the symposium, I interviewed Ryan Engle, a partner at TT Capital Partners. Ryan has spent his entire career in deal-making, as both an advisor from an investment banking perspective, and for more than 15 years as an investor. He joined the Triple Tree platform six years ago, a healthcare merchant bank that has been a proud sponsor and annual attendee of the DHIS event since its inception in 2016.

Given his experience, I was excited to hear his perspective on investing in secure communication platforms.

Riley: Why is it important to invest in secure communication platforms?

Ryan: Secure healthcare communication platforms improve the overall patient experience. Having this software solution in place allows patients to engage more with their provider. Patients are able to ask questions and receive answers in a sustainable format that increases their opportunity for medical adherence.

Patients and clinicians alike have a variety of modalities by which they communicate. Of course, everyone is talking about telehealth right now. But when people think about telehealth, they tend to think of a synchronous conversation. Certainly, there are times when it makes sense for clinicians and patients to meet “face to face”, but there are other times when different forms of communication may be preferable. For example, informing a patient of test results through a voicemail or an asynchronous video may be sufficient instead of trying to catch someone live.

Secure communication platforms ensure these vital messages are delivered securely no matter what way one prefers to communicate and makes certain that personal health information is protected.

Riley: What are some challenges facing the secure communication platforms market?

Ryan: One of the challenges is certainly that there are a lot of point solutions versus the more platform solutions. There are a number of point solutions addressing aspects of either provider-to-provider or provider-to-patient communication channels but there are very few that tie in across multiple different pain points. 

Having too many point solutions creates challenges, especially for the provider, because its much less user friendly to have to continually log into different websites rather than having one more integrated platform. 

Another challenge is platform integration with the EHR. Many of these point solutions are not integrated which leads to duplication of work and additional pain points – creating rework and redundancy that pulls clinicians away from higher-value work and contributes to burnout.

Riley: How have you seen the industry taking on these challenges?

Ryan: There are entrepreneurs and venture capital backed businesses looking to address the lack of collaboration in the space. They are either looking to build or buy those individual point solutions and bring them together into a more unified communications tool. The goal is to combine secure texting, synchronous and asynchronous video, patient portals, and appointments reminders to create this kind of collaborative provider-to-patient engagement tool.

Updox is a great example of a growth stage company advancing secure communications in healthcare. As we’ve worked with the company and invested in the business, Updox has been able to invest in its product development. Over the past five years, the company’s product suite increased its footprint from integrating with less than 20 EHRs, to now integrating with well over 100 EHRs. And with the recent surge in telehealth, Updox stood up additional capabilities that not only served its core market of independent physician practices, but also larger and even more sophisticated health systems.

Riley: What would you recommend to providers who are looking to improvements to their secure communication platforms?

Ryan: If you’re a provider looking to change your secure communications platform, you should definitely be on the lookout for the following:

  • Solutions that do more than one thing—collaborative platforms vs. point solutions
  • Solutions that integrate with the EHR 
  • Solutions that make communication more effective across a variety of modalities
  • Solutions that support both provider-to-provider and provider-to-patient interactions

Providers should also consider the lasting impact of telehealth moving forward. We still do not know what ratio of virtual to in person visits will be. But the right platforms offer options for virtual care solutions that support patient interactions in the ways that clinicians want to do it as well as the ways in which patients want to receive it.

We have also seen that patients clearly prefer to maintain their relationships with their own physicians. And so, telehealth solutions will ideally enable patients to connect with their existing primary care or specialist clinicians who are already familiar with their histories

Riley: What is the role of the investment community in secure communication platforms?

Ryan: The overall patient engagement communication space can be viewed as crowded. We as investors can help the market understand which vendors have the attributes to be successful and who may not be in the future. When analyzing an investment, we always look at the management teams, their track record, and see what customers are saying.

The investor community defines a market map of capabilities. In this evolving ecosystem we seek to ferret out what capabilities that are going to be sticky and are going to lead to lasting improvement and change. And then of course, supporting in a financial way.

Riley: What do you find most valuable about the DHIS event each year?

Ryan: I really appreciate the intimacy of DHIS. The event isn’t packed with thousands and thousands of people so it's much more personal. It's a highly curated list of key decision makers at the health system level, the innovative company level, and the investor level. 

It's been great to meet innovative companies and health systems to understand better what are their key pain points are and what sorts of solutions are they looking at address those pain points.

The conversation on secure communication platforms will continue at Virtual DHIS coming up November 19, 2020. Look out for more blogs with experts on investing topics such as artificial intelligence and social determinants of health to be published before the event.

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