Large telehealth providers are pivoting away from enabling virtual clinical visits to offering comprehensive, whole-person offerings. That’s something Teladoc, the biggest telehealth provider in the U.S., is focusing on to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive space.
Teladoc’s new chief medical officer Vidya Raman-Tangella, a longtime health innovation executive, is spearheading that enterprise strategy.
Raman-Tangella caught up with Healthcare Dive to chat about day one priorities, her vision for health equity, closing care gaps and why this might be the role she’s wanted all her career.
This information has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Healthcare Dive: What are your first priorities at Teladoc?
Raman-Tangella: Enterprise clinical strategy is front and center — bringing together different assets that we brought to bear over the last several years. We have the breadth and depth. What does that united clinical strategy look like?
It’s no different from where we already are, trying to solidify ourselves within the whole-person care space. So the clinical strategy behind that’s the number one priority, and making that patient-centric, outcomes-led and data-driven.
I’m thinking of it as being able to provide solutions and not just products. A product would be primary care, mental health, disease management and so on. A solution is something that addresses all of a patient’s needs and meets them where they are.
Another priority is an equally important focus on health equity. How do we make sure it’s not something that’s just sitting on the side, but is embedded into everything we do? That starts with everything from gathering the right data, to taking those solutions to customers, and seeking outcomes that let us know whether we’re on the money or missing the mark.
How do you create these solutions?
Raman-Tangella: We have all these assets, and inside each of these, we have capabilities. So within our weight management program, we can get people’s weight data, food data, and so on. Inside our Type 2 diabetes management program, we can get people’s blood sugar data.
What I mean by thinking of things more clinically and holistically is realizing that contributing factors towards most of chronic conditions are pretty much similar. For instance, if somebody came to us to manage high blood pressure, we work with them on their weight, sugar control, mental wellbeing — we not only help them tackle their high blood pressure, but help address so many other potential problems.
So it’s about taking the right kind of data and saying, how do we tailor our capabilities on day one? How do we personalize and anticipate what an individual might need? So it’s very different from the one-size-fits-all products you have out there.
How are your clients informing this?
Raman-Tangella: It's a two-way street. The classic definition of telehealth as just a technology platform that enables virtual visits is so passé now. But consumers are very willing to receive care virtually. What does that mean for us? For employers? For health plans?
Together, we identify gaps — like primary care, which we can close virtually. Those partnerships are basically to understand where these large gaping holes are at a population level, and how to use the virtual mechanism to close them.
Musculoskeletal is a great example. If somebody’s dealing with one or more musculoskeletal problems, and arthritis here, and tendinopathy here — clearly not the greatest quality of life or sense of wellbeing. So definitely, that’s an area we are looking into, and we’ve heard from our employer and health plan customers they’d be very interested in partnering with us to develop that solution. The thinking behind that is already underway.
Physical therapy — the number of startups that have popped up to enable that virtually is mind-blowing. That domain lends itself well to that ongoing touchpoint. So yes, we’re definitely looking into that.
How are you approaching health equity?
Raman-Tangella: We believe you cannot address inequity in a meaningful manner without an overarching health equity strategy that’s interwoven with the clinical strategy, business strategy, performance strategy — everything.
When you start building any program, you need to bring in data about not just the usual drivers like race, but also social determinants. We’re bringing in all of that, then looking at data at a population level to say, where are we seeing disparities, and how do we address it proactively?
We’re also developing models which basically will tell us before something happens. Who are members that might be trending in a bad direction? What can we do to intervene? It also opens doors for us in the future to establish solid partnerships across the healthcare ecosystem to solve for food insecurity, or transportation issues, and so on.
How has your background, including at companies like AWS and UnitedHealthcare, informed your new role?
Raman-Tangella: My journey has been at the juxtaposition of clinical medicine, mostly consumer-facing technology, and then working across the healthcare ecosystem. Teladoc was such a nice match. It’s probably the role that I had been wanting all my life.
We’re not saying we’re going to solve all the world’s problems. But if we start aiming the right way, and we bring along partners in that journey, I think we’ll solve for something.