Virtual clinic provider Carena sets up Nashville shop

As published in The Tennessean, November 20, 2015

By Holly Fletcher

 

Carena, a Seattle-based telemedicine provider that runs virtual clinics for health systems, is opening an office in Nashville to make inroads with the health care innovation community.

Carena works with health systems to set up virtual clinics to complement the system's existing hospitals, clinics and provider groups. The company uses its technology and doctors, which it calls virtualists, to get an online clinic, branding with the system's name, up and running in 90 days. On average, it takes six to nine months for a Carena to get the portal set up once a health system reaches out and gets all the internal necessary approvals.

Patients may not realize they are engaging with an outside company because the system they use will carry the name of the system with which they have familiarity.

Ralph Derrickson, president and CEO, said Carena holds itself to three standards: to have technology as innovative and intuitive as Apple, customer service as friendly as a shopper would find at Nordstrom and medical standards in line with each medical provider with which it's partnered.

Telemedicine is increasingly popular as health care providers try to provide quality results while treating patients more efficiently. Virtual visits are more convenient for many consumers, particularly those accustomed to using mobile technology throughout their day.

Carena is working with 11 health systems so far and anticipates bringing more portals online for more systems in the coming months. The lion's share of health systems are thinking about setting up a virtual clinic presence, but doing so can be time consuming, said Derrickson.

Martin Ventures, a Nashville-based venture capital fund, along with Cambia Health Solutions and McKesson Ventures invested $13 million in the company earlier this year.

Frank Coliano, managing director at Martin Ventures. (Photo: Submitted)

Frank Coliano, managing director at Martin Ventures, said it likes Carena's model because easy-to-access care is a priority for hospitals and providers. Initiatives coming from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, such as bundled payments, and other population health efforts are changing the way health systems have to think about scheduling and providing care.

"This does seem to be the future of how we look at scheduled visits and how we care for people," said Coliano. "They will need partners like Carena."

It's coming to Nashville to be closer to the existing health care community.

Jeremy Hogg will be based in Nashville as Carena's executive vice president of business development. The company will be in space alongside Martin Ventures in Burton Hills in Green Hills. The company plans to bring on about half a dozen people in sales and business development and other client-facing positions in Nashville.

Carena employs family medicine physicians and has staff available around the clock. Its physicians are mostly in the Seattle area but can work from anywhere as long as they have access to a high quality internet connection and a webcam — the same tools a patient needs. Carena requires its physicians to have a dedicated room in their home for work that meets Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements.

"In our model we have to walk our patients through their own self-examinations," said Derrickson. "It's a different way to practice medicine."

Many of the virtual visits happen on nights or weekends outside of regular family physician hours. The information from the exam gets channeled back to the patient's existing medical records for review and follow-up, if needed. If a virtual visit is not the best method of care then Carena helps get the right appointment scheduled.

The doctors work full-time and are on salary, so there this no incentive to speed through the visits. Most visits are about 20 minutes and the doctors are trained how to interact in a virtual visit to get the best information from the patient while creating a relaxing experience, said Derrickson.

Carena is interested in hiring more doctors, which is "another nice thing about being in the Nashville area," he said.

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Jordan Lipson