People Behind Cara Care: Richard Popiel
Richard Popiel is an advisor for Cara Care, focusing on market access, business development, and reimbursement in the U.S. Richard has a deep background in healthcare. He's currently a Senior Advisor at McKinsey, an Advisory Board Member at Echo Health Ventures and Pager, and a Board Member at Healthmap Solutions and The George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates. Richard shared his thoughts on the future of healthcare with us.
1. What is your story? How did you become an expert in healthcare?
My career in health care has been an interesting journey. I did not start out thinking that I would become a physician and ultimately a national leader in healthcare.
Actually, in college, I originally majored in humanities, but through the interdisciplinary program, I was introduced to a physician who was on the faculty. He inspired me to change my major to medicine. I went to The George Washington University School of Medicine and like so many other classmates, enrolled in the National Health Service Corps and was assigned to pay my time back at Cook County Hospital. My boss (one year ahead of me in this program) convinced me to get my MBA and I was fortunate to get accepted to Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.
Following this training and after a short time in private practice, I became a senior leader in health plans—first at Kaiser Permanente, and then with several Blue Cross Blue Shield. I finished my corporate career as Executive Vice President and Corporate Chief Medical Officer at Cambia Health Solutions, a Blue plan based in Portland, Oregon and serving four states including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah.
During my career, I became closely involved with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Chaired the National Council of Physician / Pharmacy Executives. Similarly, I Chaired the Chief Medical Officer Leadership Group at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and served on AHIP’s Board of Directors. During this time, there was a significant need for clinical experts to weigh in on important national issues such as how best to position our industry to best serve the US population or how to convert our payment models from fee for service to value based payment. Because of the national roles I played and the opportunity to articulate these organizations perspectives, I was able to offer my voice and serve as a national expert.
2. Where do you see digital health offerings moving to in the next five years?
This is an interesting and timely question. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic due to Covid-19. This has altered the trajectory of digital uptake and accelerated adoption across a variety of clinical conditions.
It is no longer "telehealth as a less expensive alternative to face to face care." All non-invasive types of conditions have moved to digital care (at least for the time being) because it keeps patients engaged with their clinicians, but also keeps them safe from inadvertent exposure to Covid19. Because of the dramatic increase in digital utilization, specialty areas, like tele-psychiatry, are able to observe the experience and impact of digital intervention. Over time, we will see results emerging that will be defining in terms of the effectiveness of digital care. The silver lining to the Covid19 pandemic is it has accelerated adoption and testing the utility of a virtual approach to care in place of a traditional face to face visits.
3. You’re an advisor for Cara Care. What do you think is something unique that Cara Care offers?
Cara Care is unique in several ways. First, most of the attention to digital care has been focused on generic telehealth for primary care. Now we are seeing more penetration into specialty areas such as tele-psychiatry, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. There has been relatively little attention paid to GI disorders.
For example, the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome worldwide is estimated to be at 12.2%, and overall spend is $20 billion. So Cara Care has great potential being a early mover in this space along with powerful capabilities such as their platform, their interventions, and the advanced analytics utilized to constantly improve how they engage and support patients with gastrointestinal disorders. In addition, the management team at Cara Care is first rate and it is rare to find a company firing on all cylinders in an emerging space with great potential.