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KeyCare CEO talks about hospital partnerships, virtual care, and opening the digital front door

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Lyle Berkowitz, founder and CEO of KeyCare, spoke with Chief Healthcare Executive about the young company’s work with health systems.

Some hospitals and health systems are learning that they can’t do everything they want to do, Lyle Berkowitz says.

Berkowitz, the founder and CEO of KeyCare, a virtual care company, says that’s an important realization. More hospitals are seeking partners to deliver services, and Berkowitz is aiming to convince more providers to work with KeyCare.

Over a little more than a year, KeyCare has formed partnerships with 15 health systems, Berkowitz says. KeyCare and WellSpan Health, a system based in Pennsylvania, have teamed up to expand virtual primary care and behavioral care offerings. Just this week, KeyCare announced a partnership with Samaritan Health Services, a rural health system in Oregon, to offer virtual urgent care services.

KeyCare, which launched in August 2022, has also formed partnerships with Allina Health and Memorial Healthcare System. The company said last summer it completed its Series A funding round at over $28 million.

In an interview with Chief Healthcare Executive® at the HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition earlier this month, Berkowitz said the company aims to help systems “transform how they manage their population.”

KeyCare said hospitals should look at working with a partner in virtual care as a way to offer patients more options.

“You aren’t the best at everything and you don't have to be, and that's okay,” Berkowitz says.

“It's not giving up on patients,” Berkowitz says. “It's actually helping extend to patient's the full umbrella of your care.” (See part of our conversation with Lyle Berkowitz in this video. The story continues below.)

Focusing on easy stuff

KeyCare began by offering 24-7 virtual urgent care services to hospitals, which is now available to providers in all 50 states.

More recently, KeyCare has partnered with WellSpan to offer virtual primary care and behavioral care services.

“Our partnership with KeyCare has allowed us to provide our patients with an innovative virtual solution for telehealth services that optimizes the patient experience and clinical care through an integrated care platform and dedicated provider team,” Melissa Mook, administrator of WellSpan Service Lines at WellSpan Health, said in a statement.

Health systems are looking to offer more virtual care options to meet the changing needs of patients, who expect to be able to get care more easily, Berkowitz says.

“Patients now are used to and want to get more online care, virtual care, particularly for routine issues,” Berkowitz says. “But health systems, doctors are going back to the offices, so they don't have the time to do it. So our job is to make sure that patients can go to the health system and still get the online care that they want, so that they're not leaking out to third parties that are not connected to the health system.”

Health systems are increasingly concerned about the loss of patients to other providers, including retailers and non-traditional players in the healthcare industry.

“There’s lots of competition for the virtual digital front door,” Berkowitz says. “And so part of our job is to help a health system expand their capacity, and take care of more people, and make sure that people who need to get seen in the offices actually have more room to come into the offices, because we can take care of more of the routine stuff online.”

KeyCare is designed to help hospital systems with those routine issues, Berkowitz says.

“Many health systems are not set up well, for easy commoditized care,” he says. “They are set up great for the really complex stuff. But if you want to get seen for an urgent care issue at seven o'clock at night, the health system is usually not the most efficient way to take care of that. If you need a visit within 15 minutes, they're not usually the best place to go.”

“We need our health systems to focus on taking care of the most complex patients and then doing the hard stuff,” Berkowitz says. “And it's OK to partner with someone who can take care of the easy stuff.”

Aiming to coordinate care

KeyCare utilizes a platform from Epic, the electronic health records giant, which makes it easier for health systems to access patient data.

“All the care is coordinated,” Berkowitz says. “So that means the patient experience is more seamless, because they come into the health system and get connected to us without having to create a new username or password. The quality is better because our doctors have access to all the data from the health system to make their decisions.”

KeyCare has also launched virtual care services for rheumatology patients, which Berkowitz says could help health systems reduce the wait times for patients to be seen. Virtual rheumatology services could also help providers manage their chronic care patients.

With KeyCare’s partnership with Samaritan Health Services in Oregon, patients can self-pay for virtual urgent care visits for routine issues such as colds, fevers, the flu and other needs.

Sonnet Sapra, Samaritan’s chief information officer, said it should help meet the demands of patients.

"Because we serve a population of rural and sometimes vulnerable patients, it is essential that we prioritize delivering care in a way that is affordable and convenient," Sapra said in a statement.

At the HIMSS Conference, Berkowitz noted that large health systems often market their ability to help patients facing the most serious illnesses and conditions. They don’t put up billboards touting their proficiency in helping patients with sinus infections.

KeyCare is focusing on basic health needs, Berkowitz says, “and doing it really consistently, really at scale, really efficiently, so that the health system can actually expand the number of patients that they can take care of.”


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