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  • Jeff Stern

What Does a Rhino Do During a Pandemic?

When HIMSS was canceled this year, I knew my life was about to change, but I had no idea how — or how much.


I knew I couldn’t sit around and wait for things to get better and I needed to find a way to support the healthcare community that has taken care of me and my family for the past twenty years. See, I was raised as a Rhino. …


Like so many others, I look up to my Dad, who was a bit of a legend in the food distribution business. He came from nothing (cleaning motel rooms with my Mom) and was given a chance to work for a small food distribution company in Oklahoma based on a friend’s recommendation and just retired in January after a decorated 43-year career.


One of my favorite and most proud moments growing up was going to visit my dad at his office. I thought it was cool that he had his own office, but I also got to see a bunch of rhino “toy” statues scattered around his office. I am sure he told me a million times, but I never really understood why he had all of the rhinos and why he would get them as gifts on every special occasion until I got my first job, and he gifted me a book called Rhinoceros Success.


The book is 122 pages and reads like a children’s book, but like my Dad, it had a profound effect on me. The message was simple: rhinos have tough skin and charge at everything in life full speed. They don’t sit around like cows, “cows are happy laying in the sun all day chewing their cud.”


I knew this was an especially important time for me to be a Rhino, and virtual care was an obvious place to look for a company that would play a critical role during and after COVID-19. I have been interested in virtual care for years — so interested that I even started a company to modernize clinical trials by using virtual care technology to eliminate the need for patients to travel to research sites for visits that didn’t require a physical exam or in-person drug administration. Let’s just say… I was a couple of years early. When re-evaluating virtual care this spring, I was no longer too early. COVID-19 had changed everything. But it wasn’t just that so much of healthcare had gone virtual — a few other things became clear to me, too:


Hundreds of Companies Have Been Stood Up Overnight

The virtual health landscape today reminds me of the electronic medical record (EMR) days right after the Meaningful Use (MU) incentive program was announced a decade ago. A telehealth or remote patient monitoring (RPM) platform is much easier and quicker to stand up than an EMR system, and that would mean more companies would be stood up overnight. I knew I wasn’t interested in a company that was built purely for the pandemic. Like what happened in the EMR industry, I think a lot of the virtual care companies today will be gone in 12–24 months, leaving a select few to provide relevant solutions.


Point Solutions Are Too Limited

If a health system or provider organization selects a company for telehealth, and another for remote patient monitoring, and another for diabetes management, etc. this leaves them to manage multiple solutions, while their patients carry multiple apps to manage their healthcare, and it is almost impossible to deliver exceptional consumer experiences across highly fragmented apps. In many cases, the same population for the weight loss program, diabetes prevention program, and the remote patient monitoring program are the same. So why not manage all of them through a single platform/application?


Patients Care About Human Relationships

Human connections matter, especially in an uncertain time like a pandemic. We as patients want to discuss and have our healthcare journey managed by our trusted providers and their care team. Calling a 1–800 number to speak to a randomly assigned clinician about my healthcare would be like a random financial planner calling and speaking to me about my retirement plans — it would make me very uncomfortable because they lack the contextual data about me: my personal goals, my history, my current status, etc.


I did a lot of industry analysis, but in the end, I’d rather be lucky than good. As luck would have it, my great friend Julie had just joined a company that checked all the boxes, Carium.

Carium has been around since well before the pandemic hit. They offer healthcare provider organizations a single platform for the care team and patients to collaboratively manage care.


The purpose-built platform supports patients on their unique healthcare journey, regardless of their disease state or specific virtual care needs. Unlike some virtual care solutions that import their own set of outside clinicians, Carium helps its customers leverage technology to strengthen the existing relationships between their existing providers and patients. Patients can trust that they’re in good hands, and provider organizations don’t have to outsource their care (and their revenue and patient loyalty along with it!) to someone else.


Digital-first strategies for healthcare organizations and patients are the new normal. I’m glad I’m part of the team making these consumer-focused experiences a reality. I joined Carium as Vice President of Sales in May. I feel like a Rhino again, and like I am playing a small part in getting healthcare healthy again. Keep Charging...

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