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Published in Health Care
The Care Convene app aggregates users’ health care information to create better interactions with health professionals. The Care Convene app aggregates users’ health care information to create better interactions with health professionals. COURTESY PHOTO

Telehealth app started in West Michigan sees ‘huge growth’ during pandemic

BY Sunday, January 17, 2021 03:29pm

An $800 medical bill following his spouse’s 2014 emergency room visit that resulted in antibiotic and pain relief medications led Chris Bailey to think deeper about telehealth and better ways of connecting with doctors when needed.

In the following years, Bailey launched Care Convene LLC, which he describes as a “virtual health ecosystem” for patients and care providers to initiate video visits and integrate a personal health record that aggregates a user’s health information, along with other features.

The company today looks to ride the wave of telehealth growth spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing push in health care to better use technology in patient care and managing illnesses.

In building Care Convene, Bailey — originally from Grand Rapids — and his business partners created a platform that he says goes well beyond basic video visits and better organizes patients’ medical information that often gets “scattered across data silos.”

“You can go to the hardware store and buy a screwdriver, but if you really want to have a tool kit to solve a number of problems, you need all of the tools that go along with that, and that’s what Care Convene is set up to do,” said Bailey, Care Convene’s co-founder and CEO.

Bailey cites his own situation where his personal health data is stored in five different patient portals between care providers, insurers and his own Garmin device.

Different care providers often use varying telehealth platforms and electronic medical record systems. Care Convene aims to serve as a conduit that bridges those differences in a single application, Bailey said.

“There are all the silos out there and they’re not helping anybody. We are building a system where a patient can have a one-to-many relationship with their clinicians,” Bailey said. “We talk about putting the patient in the middle (in health care) all of the time. Let’s really put the patient in the middle and make this a one-to-many relationship from a patient perspective.”

He added that under Care Convene, patients could use one app for all clinical relationships. The Care Convene platform also integrates chronic disease management and health monitoring, and provides users a personal health journal.

Users can also look up symptoms they’re experiencing and report it to their care provider so “they can respond, instead of me trying to figure out what to look for, when to call and play phone tag with the care manager,” Bailey said.

“Telehealth and virtual health is a much bigger opportunity and it’s really about building that digital relationship between the patient and the provider care team,” Bailey said. “The end game is consumer engagement. At the end of the day, you can put millions of dollars into all kinds of things, but if you can’t get the patient to understand their illness and they don’t know how to navigate the system efficiently, it’s worthless.”

Growth during pandemic

The company was “crazy busy” and experienced “huge growth” amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, Bailey said.

Care Convene’s business through 2020 followed the exponential growth that telehealth has experienced in the COVID-19 pandemic. As MiBiz reported this month, care providers see telehealth quickly becoming a common way to connect physicians and patients, manage chronic illness, patient referrals with medical specialists, and improving access in rural markets.

Dr. Fred Reyelts, a family practitioner and medical director for innovation at Mercy Health, said he’s interested in innovations that can take telehealth further into the future.

“That will be interesting. We’ll be open to it and we want to be some of the first to try it,” Reyelts said generally of telehealth innovations. “We want to see how we can make it fit and if we have to do some modification with it.”

Care Convene can complement a care provider’s existing telehealth platform with additional features, said Bailey, who’s also the director of national engagement and consumer health strategy for Michigan Health Information Network, which provides connectivity between care providers to exchange data electronically.

Care Convene is working with more than 3,000 care providers in Michigan and has been doing projects in Texas, Bailey said. The company also has been working with care providers to incorporate its features onto their telehealth platform, he said.

The company as well has three projects ongoing on a feature to alert a user’s primary care provider in real time if they are in an ER, or when they’re admitted to or discharged from a hospital, which can aid in post-hospitalization care and reduce readmissions, Bailey said. He sees the digital health field opening wider in the years ahead and both providers and consumers increasingly embracing the technology.

“What I think is the real opportunity is when consumers can have their information in their system and that system can help them make decisions about their health,” Bailey said. “It isn’t going to diagnose, but it is going to provide them with a longitudinal perspective of what’s happened to them and help them understand that and then share with a provider to bring them completely up to speed on where they’re at.”

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