A Charlottesville health care technology company is attracting clients from across the U.S. after using the University of Virginia Health System as a proving ground.
Locus Health helps hospitals to coordinate post-treatment health care plans for patients recovering from operations or serious medical conditions. The company’s proprietary software reminds patients to track their vital signs, take prescribed medications and attend follow-up appointments, all of which can help them avoid readmission to the hospital.
Andy Archer, co-founder of Locus Health, said the company’s call center, which is staffed by registered nurses, adds a powerful human element to its services.
“We have found a compassionate and empathetic group of clinicians who are able to develop patients’ trust and accountability at a distance,” said Archer, a senior vice president of Locus Health.
Lindsey Koshansky, Locus Health’s head of accounts, said she never expected her nursing experience to bring her to the ground floor of a technology startup.
“This is a big change for my career, but nursing can take you in many different directions,” Koshansky said. “I like our company’s outlook of changing health care from the clinician’s perspective.”
Account manager Nancy Addison worked at the UVa Medical Center for 20 years before joining Locus Health in 2016. She is supervising the implementation of an iPad app for monitoring infant cardiology patients at several hospitals.
“[At UVa] I saw how parents were always so nervous about going home with a really sick kid,” Addison said. “This app helps health care teams keep a closer eye on those families … I knew this was going to be something that could take off.”
“We are all about trying to identify the right care for the right patient, at the right time,” Archer said. “That’s what we are trying to help UVa and other customers do effectively.”
Locus Health has about 60 employees, up from 15 at the beginning of 2016. It has raised more than $4 million from several investors, including UVa.
Scott Magargee, a senior vice president of Locus Health, said the company is only beginning to realize its full potential.
“We have the ability to grow the company to the point where it has a seat at the table of change in health care,” he said.
In 2008, Archer and Kirby Farrell — now CEO of Locus Health — founded Broad Axe Technology Partners, a small health care consulting firm based in Albemarle County.
“Kirby and I were both interested in using data to follow patients through the fragmented health care industry,” Archer said.
Broad Axe shifted from consulting to patient care coordination when the UVa Medical Center sought assistance in reducing patient readmissions.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in late 2012 began lowering payments to hospitals with 30-day readmission rates above the national average, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Readmission penalties can cut Medicare payments by as much as 3 percent, amounting to millions of dollars in reimbursement losses for large medical centers. More than half of U.S. hospitals were penalized for readmissions in 2015, with total reimbursement losses exceeding $500 million.
After partnering with Broad Axe to monitor about 1,000 patients in 2013, the UVa Medical Center saw a 40 percent reduction in patient readmissions across multiple conditions, including heart attacks, strokes and joint replacements.
Broad Axe changed its name to Locus Health in 2015. The company now supports 4,000 patients at UVa annually.
The UVa Health System also uses Locus Health’s services to manage its new employee wellness initiative, BeWell.
Charlotte Perkins, corporate development officer for the Health System, said Locus Health’s software dramatically increased the productivity of BeWell staff.
“The software allows us to manage our employees’ health much better,” Perkins said. “It’s an intuitive system that gives [BeWell staff members] the ability to go from being able to handle 70 patients to 350.”
The Rothman Institute, in Philadelphia, also invested in Locus Health after using its software to track 12,000 joint-replacement patients. The Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and the Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, recently began using Locus Health’s iPad app for infant cardiology patients.
“We are able to tailor our software solutions for our clients in ways that really match their clinical workflows,” Archer said.
Magargee said Locus Health hopes to add more than a dozen new clients by the end of the year.
“Other companies might be developing different pieces of this software platform … but there is no other company that can put it all together like we can,” he said.
Magargee said Locus Health’s success isn’t dependent on the fate of the Affordable Care Act or other health care legislation.
“We are confident that our solutions will be necessary, regardless of changes to regulations and laws,” Magargee said.
“Health systems will need to find better, more efficient ways to deliver health care to patients where they live,” he said. “Continuing to add beds in hospital towers is not a sustainable model.”