Podcast interview with Quantros CEO Dr. Sanjaya Kumar (transcript)

This is the transcript of my recent podcast interview with Quantros co-founder and CEO Dr. Sanjaya Kumar.

David Williams: This is David E. Williams, co-Founder of MedPharma Partners and author of the Health Business Blog.  I’m speaking today with Dr. Sanjaya Kumar.  He is CEO of Quantros.  Dr. Kumar, thanks for your time today.

Dr. Sanjaya Kumar: Thank you David.

Williams: There is a lot of attention being given now to implementation of the HITECH Act. I wonder whether this concept of meaningful use is going to have a real impact on the care of patients.

Kumar: Definitely David.  It is really an unprecedented era for such a large influx of dollars to be used to provide more digitization of health care settings and health care environments.  So there is a lot more data available on patient care as well as the patient experience with health care. I think over a period of time this will result in some very meaningful information and knowledge bases that can help guide people to provide better, safer, high quality care.

Williams: Over the last couple years the federal government has been moving to refuse payment for so-called never events and then potentially expanding that to others sorts of preventable problems like infections that are acquired in the hospital. Is that likely to have a significant impact?

I’ve seen varying commentary. A lot of people say, “Well it’s just such a small percentage that it’s not really going to make a difference,” and then some people think it has more of an impact.  I wonder where you fall on that spectrum.

Kumar: All of those changes are heading in the right direction.  We should be paying for quality.  We should be paying for performance.  We should not be paying for things that are definitely preventable.  So I think payment for health care is headed in the right direction at least from the consumer stand point.

Now, how much of an impact will it have on the grander scheme of things? I don’t think people realize the cost of preventable medical errors.  Preventable errors account for nearly $30 billion in excess health care expenses per year.  That money can be utilized to further health care in a much, much better way.  We have to think about how all of these changes will be effectuated into the mainstream, into other payer mechanisms.  It will be interesting to see how the other payers begin to bring about some of their own programs following the example set by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services.

Williams: Tell me a little bit about Quantros’s business and how you fit into the overall health care ecosystem.

Kumar: I co-founded Quantros 10 years ago.  At that time the Internet had just come about and the premise for Quantros was to utilize the Internet to become a networking vehicle for folks that were interested in improving quality and safety. We wanted to collect appropriate data and be able to have measurements of specific metrics computed in real time and to be fed back to those users that were interested in making changes. We wanted to provide real-time comparative and benchmarking information.

From the beginning we focused on quality and patient safety. We’ll continue to perpetuate that journey with software as a service applications that are delivered via the Internet into secure Intranet portals of health care institutions that are interested in using them.  For example our safety and risk management product helps facilities to track, monitor, collect and analyze data on common, preventable medical errors that occur within their facilities. They are able to then look at all that data and information and be able to provide meaningful evaluation of processes and to effectuate interventions and then track them to see whether they’re having an impact.  We see the great benefit now with all the focus from the health stimulus package on tapping into more electronic repositories of data from the electronic medical records, aggregating that data into our quality and safety monitoring tools and feeding back some really good, meaningful information on a much broader data set than was available before.  So really we see this as a great positive for us in terms of the movement within the health care industry.

Williams: Quantros seems to have been quite active in the business development front lately.  If I’m not mistaken I think you acquired MediQual recently and also announced a partnership with Allscripts.  What can you tell me about those?

Kumar: Well MediQual was actually our foray into becoming recognized as a vendor to do more state-based data reporting.  The MediQual program that we acquired from Care Fusion primarily supported the PHC4 initiative within the State of Pennsylvania –or the cost containment council. The State of Pennsylvania certainly were pioneers in public reporting of quality data. That program started 15-odd years ago and is definitely a key program to emulate in the public reporting of data. We wanted to be at the forefront and set up all those initiatives and be recognized for that. The acquisition is definitely helping us.

The partnership with Allscripts is actually with the division that provides case management and dicharge planning tools.  We are integrating those applications with our quality reporting and our safety and risk management reporting to allow for seamless integration with case managers.  We will have concurrent quality monitoring and far more proactive ways that care managers can address patient safety concerns and issues at the bedside.  The Allscripts initiative will further our play into the area of meaningful use of data from point of care solutions with monitoring solutions like ours.

Williams: I understand that you now sponsor Clinical Café, a new social networking community that’s focusing on patient safety.   Can you tell me about that and what the thinking was behind it?

Kumar: That journey started about two and a half years ago.  I began to see the evolution of social media and networking toole that were beginning to be perpetuated throughout the Internet with MySpace and Facebook and Sermo.  So the concept was very simple: how to take some of the conceptual frameworks around Google, around social networks and how to combine all of that for professional communities that want to interact with each other?

The premise of Clinical Cafe was to benefit our network of users.  Today, Quantros supports over 2,200 hospitals with one or more of its applications with a registered user base of about one million.  So we have about one million users; physicians, nurses, pharmacists, risk managers, compliance officers, quality officers, all with very, very specific needs.  We wanted to provide an environment where they could easily connect with each other, share information and best practices to improve quality and safety with each other, inform each other or chat with each other and to have much more rapid communication and sharing of information.

So connect, share, inform and learn were the premises of Clinical Cafe.

When I designed it, when I thought up Clinical Cafe I really wanted it to be launched with a virtual avatar-based, Second Life-style cafe so you could virtually have coffee with your counterpart, with you peer or colleague in a cafe on the Internet and communicate with them.  I think that is still to come according to my engineers.

The first version of this particular environment provides the tools that you would see in Facebook but geared toward the user community as well as the community of colleagues and peers that we service within health care. I will be interested to see how they will interact with each other.  What will they be talking about?  What kinds of best practices will they be sharing?  We’re going to be providing tools where they can record videos on their best practices and share with people.  So it will be interesting to see how that journey takes off.

Williams: You mentioned at the beginning that you founded the company 10 years ago. That also made me recall the famous IOM Report that came out at the time (To Err is Human), which has celebrated its tenth anniversary.  If you look back over those ten years, not just from a corporate standpoint, but from where we are as a medical system, how are we doing on addressing the issues that were raised in that report?

Kumar: Actually the IOM report shaped Quantros’s journey.  Now, where have we come as an industry?  Where have we come as a population in terms of really addressing patient safety and quality?

I think the journey has just begun to get widely recognized. The IOM report actually allowed us to be shocked like, “Wow, I didn’t know this was of such high epidemic proportions!  I didn’t know that medical errors were killing more people than HIV, AIDS, motor vehicle accidents, and breast cancer combined.” Virtually a jumbo jet going down everyday.  That was the magnitude that got communicated by the IOM and I think that still stands true today.

However what has happened as a result is that today there is far more awareness and many, many more grass root organizations that are rallying around to demand better and safer care.  You’re beginning to see some of that translated to include all of the health stimulus dollars and the different apps that are going around, plus funding for research.  There is a lot more funding, a lot more guidance, a lot more direction in terms of where we need to put our money to have better, safer, good quality care.

Quality needs to get embodied in the payer mechanisms.  So I think over the next decade, we will certainly see more quantification of the magnitude of errors and be shocked that it might actually be higher, because we are paying much more closer attention to it. But it will lead to much better, safer care.

Williams: I’ve been speaking today with Dr. Sanjaya Kumar, he is Co-Founder and CEO of Quantros.  Dr. Kumar, thank you so much.

Kumar: You’re welcome David.

February 5, 2010

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