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August 3: Today on TownHall Sue Schade, Principal at StarBridge Advisors speaks with Cara Babachicos, Chief Information Officer at InnovAge. What is InnovAge and what is its primary focus? How does their PACE program support elderly patients, and what makes it unique? What are some of the IT challenges InnovAge faces in managing logistics and providing patient-centered care? How can healthcare providers in states where InnovAge is not available benefit from similar PACE programs, and what advice does Cara have for CIO colleagues considering a transition to non-acute care settings?

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Transcript

This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.

Today on This Week Health.

I always looked at recurring problems, over a bedded emergency room patients who stay longer in the hospital because they can't find post acute care and, really what we're trying to solve for is helping to keep our participants patients out of the emergency room, helping to manage their care proactively and really trying to build, I think the model for the future.

Welcome to TownHall. A show hosted by leaders on the front lines with interviews of people making things happen in healthcare with technology. My name is Bill Russell, the creator of This Week Health, a set of channels dedicated to keeping health IT staff and engaged. For five years we've been making podcasts that amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward. We want to thank our show partners, MEDITECH and Transcarent, for investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders now onto our show.

Hello, I'm Sue Shade, Principal at Starbridge Advisors, and one of the hosts for the Townhall Show on This Week Health. Today, my guest is Cara Babichikos. She's the Chief Information Officer at Innovage. Cara and I worked together at Mass General Brigham, previously called Partners, where she led Continuing Care, focusing on non acute and home care services.

With Cara's history focused on non acute care and all the growth that we're seeing in home care and hospital and home initiatives. I'm really looking forward to talking with Kira and learning more about her current work at InnovAGE. Welcome, Kira.

So nice to be here.

Good to see you. Why don't we start by having you introduce yourself, tell us a bit about InnovAGE for those who don't know, and share a bit about your current work there.

Sure. So as Sue mentioned, she and I have worked together at MGB. I've been a CIO in healthcare for about 15 years. Sometimes I find that hard to believe, but yeah, so I focused on community and post acute when I was at Mass General Brigham. And then I was at South Shore where I left six months ago as the chief digital officer.

And that was a regional community health system. just a little bit south of Boston. So I've been at Innovage about six months. So what does Innovage do? And we are a all inclusive care for the elderly population. So we actually run a program and it's called PACE. And the acronym stands for a program for all inclusive care for the elderly.

And we support duly eligible Medicare Medicaid patients primarily. And we manage their care like holistically. It's everything that you would need to age in place and help you stay out of a nursing home when possible. We're based in Denver and we're um, we're building ourselves up nationally with the presence today.

We're in California. Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Mexico. And we are really starting to take off and look at some new areas and locations. So what's also unique about us is we're both a payer and a provider of care. So in the model it's a value based model where we actually.

also manage care and do consults where people that we are seen as our participants, we refer to our, population as participants. We help kind of resource all the care that's needed. And that can include, the direct care, it can include transportation. So what strikes me funny about the transportation is.

So if you and I go back to the time we were at Mass General Brigham Partners, these three buses all over town that would say partners, and you'll see buses and the communities we're in with the Innovate logo, which is really cool. And then we also provide, all of the social of health as well as meals and various activities.

To be eligible, you have to be 55 years or older. And need a facility level of care, but you need to be able to either live safely at home or in the community with some type of support. The last thing I would say is that we are publicly traded company. so it's a whole new experience and a great opportunity.

But that's a little bit about us.

Great, thank you. So, we're all seeing this shift in terms of home care less acute care, more home care, hospital at home programs. I understand Innovage focuses on supporting the PACE program, so it's for elderly, but where do you see Innovage fitting into this overall shift from acute care?

Right. So, having been in the acute care world for so long, I always looked at recurring problems, you know, the emergency, you know, uh, over a bedded emergency room patients who stay longer in the hospital because they can't find post acute care and, really what we're trying to solve for is helping to keep our participants patients out of the emergency room, helping to manage their care proactively and really trying to build, I think the model for the future.

Thank you. If I kind of look at what I want when I get older and I want to have a program where there's great care navigation, someone kind of always looking out for me really care coordination and kind of putting all the pieces together is, I think, something that we do that's fairly unique. Plus we are building a lot of the tools in our environment to actually, really expand and use, like, top notch tools to document care and to look for alternative care models, etc.

We are actually The first instance of epic pace. So we put in the first pace ever model with epic, which is another cool thing. And so I've been spending a lot of time implementing what my team has been spending a lot of time implementing epic across all of our sites, but really, it's kind of the model that I hope for.

It's kind of where I was hoping healthcare would be and now I'm glad that I'm part of that transformation or transition that hopefully will then scale to be even broader and reach all participants and the population as time goes on.

That's great. So I see the smile on your face when you talk about being there and in this new area.

I'll just tell you my oldest daughter, I have two daughters and one of them is a nurse practitioner who, has worked in the M. G. B. System. For Oh, gosh. Now close to 20 years, I think. And she just made a move to be the director for the advanced practice providers in the hospital home program.

And I heard that this was an option she was considering. I'm like, Katie, it's the future. Go for it. And it is. It's busy. It's lot of change, a lot of challenges, but yeah, it is the future. I think she's she has that passion to when I talked to her about it. referenced care coordination and how important that is, which boy, when I talk to elders in my family and Friends, that's really what it's about.

And I always talk about, it'd be great if you have a clinician in the family who can kind of help you navigate, but not everybody does. You mentioned Epic that you're the first for that program. Talk to us about some of the unique IT challenges that you're dealing with at Innovage.

So some of the really unique components, I think, are the fact that we also are in charge of logistics.

So not only are we caring for our participants and providing them, with all the care components that they need, we also are in charge of. bringing the participants to their appointment, getting them ready in the morning. So it sounds like it might not be a big deal. But when you start to look at how complex some of the conditions are and all the variables that go into the coordination, you have to be aware of if they need oxygen wheelchairs, if you actually have to go in the home and get them ready.

All those things make Even a scheduling system super complicated, right? Because you have to be able to put it all together and then understand like when you'll pick up the actual participant, how long they'll need beforehand. And then if you're actually taking them on one of your buses, you have to be aware that you can't keep other participants for too long.

And then you have to also make sure that They're getting dropped off at their destination, but even the pieces and parts that go into just validating the visit, making sure that the participant knows that you're coming, how you confirm with them, the tools that, we all might use pretty easily.

Like, is there any burden with the technology? And as people age, some people are super fluid in technology. Other people are challenged. Not everyone has a cell phone or an easy way to reach them. And, trying to keep up on their Demographics and their locations and making sure that you really know where everyone is.

So I would say that adds to a big level of complexity. What's also unique is that PACE is in the very states that I described, but it's different. There are general core things that are consistent, but you also have to make sure that you're managing to the states that you're in and providing the right care and the right delivery of care.

So that's also a little bit different. And then just, again the logistics of knowing how far it is to pick up people and bring them into the center and really making sure that you're thinking of their personal, interests and activities and all those pieces. So, so it's really patient participant centric and you hear about this a lot.

We all talk about wanting to be patient centered and, but this is really just a whole new way of thinking about it.

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Great. So how did your experience in the acute care setting past six years and experience with community hospitals and non acute prepare you for the work that you're doing there?

And I hear some common challenges, but certainly some unique challenges.

Yeah, I would say there's a lot of similar things, right? So, cyber, we have the same components with cyber that I was. Working on in my last organization, the same components we have to think about with high trust and all those different regulations and ways that we protect.

We're very mobile. We have a mobile population. We have mobile caregivers. So we have to be. Fully aware of that, and I'm very thankful that I have a lot of experience in that space having implemented EPIC in different settings and having a team aware of all that. I think that has definitely boded well as well as really a keen eye to integration, the importance of not Separate siloed systems, but really the value add by bringing it all together.

And I'm a big advocate of a mantra. People process technology. We get a lot of CIOs always say that, but that is really core to my belief. We've really got to get the process right. And so my capabilities and to dig deep and to understand what we're trying to solve, I think has paid dividends to what, we're trying to do because we are.

In some ways, trailblazers were doing something that I can't pull out a playbook and say, Oh, this is how you've done it down the street. Let's replicate it. We're kind of leading the charge in a lot of different ways. But I feel like the background and the experience and there's often things that I can help bring a more contemporary approach to because I've Done it already, or I advanced my last organization and our prior organizations on the same.

component. So, really seeing the value of voice set tools and how we can leverage contact centers differently. I think a lot of those things were thankfully, in my experience are things that I can bring to the equation.

Great. So, when you think about what you're able to apply you think about colleagues who might, have always worked in the acute side and might be thinking about making a change to the non-acute side.

What advice would you have for them if they're considering something like that.

I

think that to be confident of your capabilities and to look at your past experience, because a lot of it will. Be very valuable. And we bring a lot with our experience. We bring a lot of I think confidence in what can be done and how to build teams.

So, kind of go back to the core of what, are your strengths. I would also say really choose something you're passionate about. And this was a great fit for me because this is something that friends, family, everyone who had heard where I was going or what I was thinking about.

They're like, you've been talking about this for decades. Like it's finally what you want to do. So find something that you really feel is like where you want to be and how you can make a difference because then you'll, your passion will kind of also energize the new job and the role. And I think just be open to have conversations.

You never know where they could go, right? So someone calls you to talk about something, just listen, take the call because it could. Result in something an opportunity like this.

Well, that's great advice. Cara you and I both know that there are a lot of people who are either through layoffs or merger and acquisitions in the market right now looking for what's that next opportunity and being open to the conversation, take the call and find your passion are always great piece of advice for anybody making career moves.

I love that. So shifting it a little bit. I would imagine you do some work with health care providers, more traditional health care providers with the program. So what should your colleagues. Your CIO colleagues who are in those health care systems know and understand about InnoVAGE and how to work with you.

Yeah, so I think that they should reach out to programs in the community, PACE programs. I feel that there's probably not a ton of education around what this is, but this is um, tool and a program that can be applied to help a lot in the acute care setting. Because it can be the partnership to help, you know, move.

patients through the organization, help have another care coordination, set of eyes on it. So I would say that even when you're struggling on the acute care side, you're sitting in meetings, sometimes they're not IT meetings, but you're sitting in the executive level meetings and you're hearing all the time about, hallway beds and, patients that haven't left in 30 days.

It might be worth having a conversation even with some of the executives like you should look at pace. You should see what's going on, what our offerings are and if there's something that they can add into that equation and to create relationships in that area. I would say that's something Different than some of the same things that we've all been looking at, right?

In that space. So, I've been lucky that in my prior organizations, I've had a fair amount of work in the ACO space. Right? So even when we were at MGB we were doing a lot with the home care model where we would help. If a patient showed up in the emergency room and we could call home care and kind of advocate for that patient and go see them rather than admit them to the emergency room and the same.

Even at South Shore, we're doing mobile integrated health. Those are all great tools, but sometimes having partnerships with someone like innovate in the community. That could also be another strengthen or another tool in the toolbox. I think that could be value add for your organization.

Okay, so Innovage is in certain states. PACE program is national. Correct. Your advice to health providers in states where Innovage is not, is figure out who's got a PACE program, right? Exactly. In the areas that you Okay. Yeah. Good. Cool. So, anything else that you want to highlight that we maybe haven't touched on before we close out today?

No, I think that I really appreciate you taking the time to, you know, talk to me about innovate. I'm just starting to get really acclimated having only been there 6 months. I feel like there's there was a lot to learn and there's still some things that I'm still learning. But it's a journey that I'm just psyched to be on and.

I'm willing to talk to anyone who wants to learn more or need some career advice if they ever, are trying to do the same type of move. So,

so I'll ask you this. I know Bill often asked this on interviews. How can people get in touch with you or connect on social media?

Well, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn.

That's probably one of the easiest ways. And I do reply to messages on LinkedIn. I mean, you can email me at Innovate or on my Gmail, but I think LinkedIn is probably the simplest way. If you have interest and I do take I've been talking to different people and. It's probably different people in their career progression about just different programs or careers.

And I'm happy to have a conversation with someone.

Okay, Kara. Thanks so much. Have a great rest of the day.

You too. Thank you.

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