The Covid-19 pandemic is changing the way healthcare is delivered, and thus, accelerating the need for innovation among providers and payers.
Weingarten, who was named to the new role last month, comes to SCAN Health from Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai, where he served as senior vice president, chief clinical transformation officer and a professor of medicine. He also has experience launching healthcare companies, including Zynx Health, a provider of clinical decision support solutions.
In an interview with MedCity News, Weingarten discussed his priorities as chief innovation officer, how his past experiences will influence him in his new role and how he defines innovation.
MedCity News: Healthcare innovation means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
Scott Weingarten: Innovation, I think, is a means to an end. And for me, the end is better patient care.
To me, better patient care means better quality of care, better experience, more affordable care and more accessible care. So, if we can come up with a new care delivery system, that’s an innovation, that leads to a measurable improvement in those outcomes — to me, that’s innovative care.
MedCity News: What are your top three priorities for your first year as SCAN Group’s inaugural chief innovation officer?
Scott Weingarten: My top priorities, I would say really is the way that I defined innovation — to think about new ways of delivering care with the four endpoints that I mentioned: better quality, better member experience, more affordable care and more accessible care.
I’m only four and a half weeks in, but [I’m] getting to learn a lot about SCAN and have found that they are a highly innovative organization. My first role will be leading a geriatric primary care group where the care is delivered in patients’ homes. So, we will send physicians and nurse practitioners and other providers into patients’ homes to make sure care is more convenient.
A lot of seniors are not that mobile and have trouble making it into their physician’s office. And I think it’s incumbent on us to deliver care to our seniors. A number of seniors were [also] scared to access routine care during the pandemic.
I’ll give you an example. My mother is a senior. I’m biased, [but] I think she’s very bright, and I had trouble convincing her to go into her physician’s office throughout the pandemic. Even though I’m a physician, and she listens to me in many cases when she’s seeking medical advice, she was so scared that she would contract Covid-19 from someone in the waiting room that I could not convince her to go in for routine care. And I don’t think my mother is alone.
So, that’s my first charge. We will take professional risk [in the geriatric primary care group]. We believe we can deliver a higher quality of care, better patient experience and more affordable care by delivering primary care in the home.
MedCity News: And will this group be payer-agnostic or is it only for SCAN Health members?
Scott Weingarten: It will be payer-agnostic.
MedCity News: I have a two-part question. The first is, what prompted your move from the provider side to the payer side? And how will those past experiences, especially at Cedar-Sinai, influence your new role at SCAN Health?
Scott Weingarten: I see what we’re doing at SCAN as delivering care to patients. So, I view what we’re doing, particularly with this new effort that I described, as really care delivery and very similar to the provider work that I did at Cedars.
For me, my focus at Cedars was always on new care delivery models. How could we transform what we were doing, again with the outcomes, better quality, more affordable care, better experience, more accessible care? So, [my mindset at SCAN will be] very consistent with the mindset at Cedars — the North Star being the patient.
MedCity News: You also have a great deal of experience in launching new companies. Will that be a focus for you at SCAN as well? If yes, what types of companies would you be looking to help launch?
Scott Weingarten: That’s the other reason that I went to SCAN. This new company that I mentioned, the geriatric primary care group, is a startup. And I love startups. I love starting something from nothing and just imagining how to deliver better care, really unconstrained by the way care was delivered for many years.
And there are multiple ways of accomplishing that mission. You could be a Medicare Advantage plan, which is part of what SCAN does. You can deliver care to seniors. And you can envision new companies that have products and services that enable the delivery of better care to seniors. So, SCAN is taking, I would say, a comprehensive look at various ways of achieving its mission and doing it at scale and expanding the impact.
MedCity News: As the Delta variant of Covid-19 surges, it is unlikely the pandemic will end anytime soon. What do you see as payers’ main responsibilities during this time? Is there space for innovation as other critical needs come to bear upon the healthcare industry?
Scott Weingarten: The pandemic has caused us to rethink care and innovate at a pace that I have never experienced in healthcare during my career. The adoption of telehealth is one example that people frequently talk about. Another example is care in the home. The pandemic has really accelerated innovation probably by five or 10 years, and [caused us to think about] how do we deliver a better experience for patients?
I think we’re going to see many of these changes persist for many years to come. And I think it’s a good thing.
[And] I see SCAN thinking about — again, with the focus on seniors, and on how do we deliver better, more affordable, more convenient care — spending a lot of time and effort, and investing in new care delivery systems, services and products that will enable those outcomes to occur.
Photo: Khanisorn Chaokla, Getty Images, SCAN Health