Leaders Series: Katherine Kuzmeskas @ SimplyVital Health

Issue 25— March 29th, 2017

This series highlights the unique stories of leaders from various communities across the growing digital currency and blockchain technology industry. The goal is to showcase the fantastic work these leaders are all doing at different levels of their respective organizations, and to encourage more people at all stages of their careers join the revolution we’re creating, together!

Katherine Kuzmeskas is the founder and CEO at SimplyVital Health, Inc.

She’s been working in blockchain for over 10 months, and in healthcare for the past five years.

How did you get into blockchain technology?

I heard about blockchain similar to how others in healthcare did — around April or May 2016 when there were many publications and research papers about how healthcare could learn from FinTech in blockchain application. At that point forward, I read just about everything that existed on blockchain and how it could be applied in healthcare. The (potential) promise of blockchain technology regarding accessibility to medical records is what really piqued my interest. At that point, we had a clear vision of our role in supporting value based care in healthcare, and I realized that the current and future applications of blockchain would be an asset to our platform. 
When deciding how to best pursue the technology for my own business, I assessed blockchain companies in the space to understand what they were doing and what services they offered companies. After ~2 months of research and speaking with existing blockchain companies, I decided to bring the blockchain technology development in house, as this is what best fit our company’s vision regarding our development potential and desired growth. I heard about the BTC Media Blockchain in Healthcare Hackathon and used this as an avenue to gain validation of our platform. I also used this as an opportunity to screen our now CTO for his blockchain skills and interest in working in the start up world. The Hackathon went well for us — we were one of the winners! (Our prize was Bitcoin!)

Winning the Hackathon was great validation of our platform, vision, and pathway of how we intend to leverage blockchain technology to streamline value based care.

What did you do before you got into this?

Before founding SimplyVital Health, I was the program manager of the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at Yale New Haven Hospital. In that role, among many other things I managed their value based care program for joint replacement and managed the design of the nation’s first Spine gainsharing program. Prior to the Center for Musculoskeletal Care, I was a strategic planner for the Yale New Haven Health System where I developed and automated medicine and surgery service line market and business development analyses and co-designed a four-state physician database. Before being recruited to Yale New Haven Health, I designed and led the development and deployment of a care management platform for Connecticut’s largest health center network; they still use the platform for their daily patient rounding and other health centers around the nation have asked to purchase it!

What’s been the most interesting experience you’ve had in your role so far?

For blockchain, learning about the widespread interest, curiosity, vision/hope, and skepticism of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies specifically in healthcare has been really exciting. I presented at the TCBI Blockchain in Healthcare Summit on March 20 and was astounded and impressed by the representation of healthcare professionals, from physicians, to health insurance analysts, to even Congressman David Schweikert from the US House of Representatives!

Overall for our company, I am most surprised by the overwhelming interest in our platform outside of our initial, specific focus. We are in conversation with providers about every aspect of improving costs and coordination in value based care programs. I thought the initial interest in our platform was going to be more narrow, but the need for more efficient management and coordination across value based care programs is clear.

What problem is SimplyVital Health solving? Why do you feel passionate about this?

Our company is tackling the inefficiencies around value based care. Value based care is the transition of our healthcare system from reimbursement for quantity to reimbursement for quality. Astonishing to those outside of healthcare, this is actually a paradigm shift in how healthcare is managed and delivered today. Unfortunately, most clinical teams and the technologies they use are not optimized for success in value based care as they were organized to succeed in a fee-for-service environment (receiving payment for every visit, test, screening, etc.)

My passion for value based care is two-fold:

First, I strongly believe, and have seen first-hand, that value based care is the direction health care needs to go in order to provide better care for patients and to control costs. However, I have not seen many effective, efficient, cost-savings approaches to value based care programs. We developed our platform based on 10 months of customer research and testing ideas on ways to streamline value based care programs.

And second, after hearing physicians, nurses, and care coordinators say over and over again that they just want clarity and a view of how their patients are doing throughout their care journey, I wanted to create something to help them. With value based care accelerating, clarity of the patient’s journey is paramount for success. With the prevalence of Electronic Medical Records (EMR), you would think this is a non-issue, but unfortunately the way EMRs were developed and are managed, there is a massive issue and misunderstanding around data ownership and the competition/fear created by sharing too much patient data. Value based care programs are a positive way to start bringing down those barriers.

As you think about the evolution of the bitcoin and blockchain space, what is one thing you think the business ecosystem or community is missing today?

I think the over-prevalence of Proof of Concepts and lack of actual applications is what is missing today, and I think the hype and future promise of blockchain is the culprit. What we have decided to do instead is recognize that while we have the capabilities to do more advanced application of blockchain technology, we think it is more important to get the technology actively used, in a non-PoC format, to more quickly spread knowledge of the technology. As such, we have been intentional in how we are using blockchain. Because our application is approachable and already proven, we are onboarding our first hospital customer in May (actual, clinical facing application, not a PoC project).

We, in the blockchain community, are all in agreement that true transformation using blockchain technology is a long-term project, similar to the Internet (though, arguably faster than Internet adoption given the rate at which technology moves now). Healthcare is a notoriously cautious field when compared to consumer markets, and while many of us in healthcare desire dramatic change, the radical promise of blockchain will take time to be appreciated and fully adopted. But to accelerate this, we need to get active, real applications in the hands of providers and healthcare leaders; low hanging fruit opportunities. The sustained, continued research is important, but if every healthcare blockchain company is just iterating PoCs we are limiting the speed of education and adoption.

As you think about this industry, what do you think will happen in the short term that will blow people’s minds?

I think that in the short term, blockchain has the capability to transform processes that can be streamlined utilizing the technology in its proven state right now. Wyre is a good example of a company doing just that in FinTech. I also think blockchain technology for consumer platforms will reach adoption faster than enterprise technologies, but that’s pretty standard.

What do you think will be disappointing?

I think the disconnect of the speed at which people want the transformation and the reality of when it is most likely to occur will result in disappointment. There is still much to be learned and proven of blockchain’s potential, and this will take time. It will take incremental improvements and adoptions of technology that is already in the hands of users. I just hope that with incremental advancements we can continue to hold the interest in the promise of the technology.

What changes do you think bitcoin or blockchain will accelerate in our world?

Supply chain processes, from medical device utilization to claims management, are wrought with inefficiencies and are ripe for massive overhaul, and therefore I think blockchain can accelerate the much needed change.

Connect with Katherine on LinkedIn!