Published: Nov. 17, 2020
Co-founders, Bret Larsen, CEO, and Miles Romney, CTO, launched the eVisit Virtual Care platform to simplify healthcare delivery to everyone, everywhere by bringing together local providers and patients — no matter where they are. In honor of National Entrepreneurs Day, Nov. 17, and eVisit’s sixth anniversary this month, I recently sat down (via videoconference, of course) with Bret and Miles to learn more about the founders’ story and their shared vision for eVisit and its pivotal role in disrupting the disruption in healthcare.
Q: In a crowded telehealth market, eVisit stands out for its emphasis on geographically centered virtual patient care. Where did that concept come from?
Bret: About six years ago, I was working for a company that provided video visits with emergency medicine physicians. We had our own network of providers who were available 24/7 to see patients. A new telehealth model was taking hold and it was disrupting hospitals and health systems. From an efficiency and patient access standpoint, it was effective. But the patient experience quickly deteriorated because patients didn’t receive care from their own doctor or even a referral provider or a physician who was familiar with the patient or with local resources such as specialists and other medical services in their geographical area. This is essentially the same model that many other telehealth companies offer today — a direct-to-consumer (D2C) offering, which undermines the industry trend toward holistic care and wellness.
I continued to lead marketing for the company, but with a growing realization that if telehealth continued to move forward in this direction and expand under this evolving model, it would erode patient care and patient-provider relationships. Medicine is about a lot more than caring for symptoms — it has many dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual, too. Certain things need to happen in the delivery of care that can’t happen without a relationship with a local provider or health system network. I started to think, what if we partnered with hospitals, health systems and their providers instead of disrupting them? Specifically, what if we could create a technology platform that enabled and powered existing patient-provider relationships to give patients better access to geographically relevant care?
I presented my ideas to the leadership team of that organization, but the team wasn’t receptive. After about two weeks of deliberation, I thought — all right, I’ll lead this path forward myself. So I left, waited out my non-compete, and at the end of 2014, I left my job to start eVisit.
Q: When did Miles become part of the eVisit story?
Bret: I’m a marketer, not a tech expert, and I knew I needed a partner who shared in the vision to simplify healthcare delivery to everyone, everywhere, and who understood how to achieve it from the technical side. My brother-in-law had worked for Miles and encouraged me to connect with him. Miles and I quickly realized that we shared a vision and had passion for this important work, and he joined the company as co-founder and chief technology officer.
Miles: I started my career in healthcare, building the first EHR for wireless mobile device in-clinic. From there, I moved on to architecting secure data workflows for HIPAA compliance, and packet-streaming encryption systems for video and audio over the Internet. I took that technology into entertainment, where I built an animation studio, a film distributor, and a large SaaS media publication platform that ultimately operated more than 1,500 online properties for the country’s largest media outlets. When I met Bret, I was running a consultancy, building (primarily) large-scale video streaming solutions for companies like ESPN, DirecTV, and Electronic Arts (EA). As much as I loved working in entertainment, I was itching to get back into healthcare to “move the needle” on one of the world’s biggest problems: the high cost and spotty availability of healthcare.
I recognized that telehealth was ripe for disruption, but disrupting local hospital systems and care providers was the absolute wrong approach. We needed to properly equip providers with the technology to achieve significant wins in efficiency and to compete with the other technology-enabled national provider networks. And beyond that, it was important for a technology provider to invest heavily in R&D to innovate and create the tools that will help push healthcare beyond the “on-site” and “remote” care distinctions. In a few more years, it won’t be “telemedicine,” it’ll just be “medicine.”
Q: How does eVisit’s technology platform accomplish that?
Miles: We designed eVisit as a seamless, end-to-end solution that promotes holistic care and wellness support from trusted, geographically relevant providers. We staff no doctors of our own: we enable existing health systems to enhance their own patient outcomes. eVisit technology brings patients and care teams together wherever they are. It keeps the provider-patient relationship intact and at the center of it all, and that’s essential. The platform encompasses every step of the patient experience, including scheduling, intake, waiting room management, the virtual visit, the prescription process, discharge, insurance and payment. It also provides security, seamless EHR integration and sophisticated analytics and reporting.
Telehealth that’s provided by enormous, monolithic D2C networks works against holistic care by creating fragmented patient episodes that are disconnected from the patient’s long-term care journey. That’s the wrong approach. If you’re a hospital or health system with a D2C vendor in place, you know they’re competing with you. You’re in the same business. And with 80 percent-plus of their revenues coming from their provider networks, they innovate to meet their core D2C model.
Q: What do each of you bring to the design process?
Bret: Product design isn’t necessarily rocket science, but it does take a lot of listening, watching, ideating, and iterating. We’ve spent quite some time in clinical environments with providers, watching them work, mapping their clinical workflows looking for commonalities and differences among the various specialties and service lines and asking them questions to understand what was important to them in a telehealth platform. We wanted our platform to smoothly integrate with and even optimize clinical workflows. We wanted providers to focus on patient care and not have to worry about the technology.
Based on what we learned from these providers, we’d sketch out on paper what our interface should look like, share it with providers and get their feedback. Eventually, Miles and I hired a designer to “put paint on the walls” to create the look and feel of our interface. Miles wrote much of our early code and it still serves as the foundation for the product we have today. We still utilize that pen-to-paper-to-computer-screen-to-code design process as we improve and expand our eVisit offering.
Miles: We continually listen to our customers, particularly our provider and admin users, and work their feedback into our product roadmap to meet their evolving remote care needs. I watch the rapidly advancing bleeding-edge tech space too (such as remote patient monitoring, AI and wearables) to ensure we can integrate, enable and support when appropriate. And, we’re always thinking about how we can improve the patient experience for eVisit users, too, whether they are teenagers, or seniors, or in between. Our eVisit app should look right at home on a smart phone between Facebook and Fortnite, and it should be engaging and easy-to-use. Our vision to “simplify healthcare delivery to everyone, everywhere” drives every design decision we make.
Q: Why is your partnership so successful?
Miles: I think the main reason is that Bret and I think of eVisit not as a company, but as a crusade. We believe a rising tide lifts all boats, and there’s room in the market for many different winners. We’re appreciative of the early efforts of other telehealth companies that helped people feel more comfortable with the concept of remote patient care. But what we offer is fundamentally different, and those differences are important and, we believe, best for patients and providers.
Q: Are you surprised by eVisit’s growth in the last six years?
Bret: Our growth was steady and encouraging until COVID-19 hit, when it more or less skyrocketed. Telehealth went from being a “nice to have” to a “must have” for localized hospitals and health systems. Engagement on the eVisit platform in 2020 is 10 times what it was compared to last year. It’s been an intense year, but Miles and I didn’t get into this business to create a moderately successful solution. We created eVisit to have an enormous impact in the world and on the healthcare industry and how it delivers patient care. Access to healthcare is a human right. There is no reason that anyone should be without it. Today our focus is on the U.S. market, but that’s just the beginning. We have our sights set on global transformation.