Spotlight: Erin Jimison, Chief Operations Officer, VezaHealth

 

About Erin Jimison

Erin Jimison began her career in employee benefits spending nearly ten years in various account management and leadership positions. As VezaHealth’s Chief Operating Officer, she capitalizes on her passion of delivering superior benefits to patients while protecting plan assets and forming teams committed to the shared mission and vision.

About VezaHealth

VezaHealth began as a group of health care and benefit experts dedicated lowering health care costs through setting high standards for quality medical care. We seek to disrupt the status quo of patients blindly purchasing health care, then suffering harassment from health care’s predatory billing practices. We believe patients have the right to know all their medical treatment options: aggressive treatment, no treatment, and treatment alternatives including available complimentary medicine.  Additionally, all patients should be heard and evaluated through a holistic approach to their illness, as illness is a subjective experience unique to the individual. We achieve this mission by connecting patients with high-quality physicians who share our philosophy and deliver state-of-the-art care. We believe appropriate care is superb care and is often less expensive care.

 

To read VezaHealth’s latest white paper, click here.

 

Medical Travel Today (MTT):  Tell us how medical travel aligns with your organization.

Erin Jimison (EJ):  VezaHealth’s founder and CEO, Cori Cook, is an ERISA attorney who has dedicated her career to fighting the rising cost of healthcare.  Prior to VezaHealth, she acted through advising strong plan language for self-funded health plans, negotiating with health plan providers, speaking out against percent savings models, and promoting transparency across all parties.

Cori saw the statistics of inappropriate care affecting her self-funded health plan clients, and generated a solution through VezaHealth, an appropriate care program.

Her vision was to work with the nation’s top physicians – leaders in their specialty who are passionate about appropriate care and empowering patients with health-related knowledge.  By connecting patients from self-funded health plans with top physicians through a remote second opinion model, she aimed to improve the health of patients with appropriate care which subsequently reduces health care spending.

Medical travel is then offered if it is medically appropriate for the patient in their current medical state.  We do not advise a patient to travel if it will not result in a better health outcome.

MTT: Can you describe the relationship with employers?

EJ: Brokers, TPAs, and medical management companies introduce VezaHealth to employers who self-fund their benefits. The costs for the program are paid for by the employer and there are no direct costs to the health plan members who utilize VezaHealth.

Once partnered with an employer, we provide their employees and dependents with remote second opinions, support with medical travel, selection of local providers, health communication coaching, and information regarding other available programs and resources.  We also write plan language and marketing materials specific to each health plan.

The cumulative effect of the relationship results in an employee who is empowered to optimize their health with information and a support system for navigating the health care system thus yielding cost savings for all parties.

MTT:  Can you explain the patient experience further?

EJ: Gaining a second opinion begins with our Patient Connection process, led by our nurses or VezaHealth Consultants.  Throughout the process, our nurses build rapport with the patient and their loved ones, gathering pertinent information from other health plan partners, obtaining medical records and diagnostic imaging from current treating physicians to generate a holistic, comprehensive summary for one of our elite physicians to review.

Following the physician’s review, a second opinion is delivered over the phone or Skype with the patient and the VezaHealth consultant. After the second opinion has been delivered, the VezaHealth Consultant continues to provide the patient support as they navigate the information gained from the second opinion and make decisions for care.

VezaHealth’s Consultants are extremely flexible and communicate with patients in their preferred form (email, phone, text, etc.) with consideration for the patient’s preferred dates and times.  Conversations commonly take place within the constraints of lunch hours or following the work day, even on holidays and weekends, as our philosophy is strongly rooted in support through excellence in service.

MTT:  It’s strictly for second opinions?  There’s no surgery involved?

EJ: Actually, domestic travel is supported if it’s considered medically appropriate.  When it comes to domestic travel, the nurse establishes the relationship with the patient, sets up the second opinion, attends the second opinion along with the patient and provides support for travel planning.

So far, three percent of our cases have resulted in travel for medical care. More often, the Information gained in second opinions results in safely avoiding surgery.  45% of VezaHealth’s patients recommended for surgical procedures have found positive health outcomes through gaining confidence and direction in appropriate therapies available locally, also effectively negating the risks, time lost, and costs associated with surgery.

Regardless of travel, our nurses remain invested in the patient’s care journey prior to intervention and following treatment in what most resembles “intensive care management”, until the patient is comfortable closing the therapeutic relationship.

Our version of care management is aimed to ensure the patient fully understands the doctor’s recommendations and is confident in their plan for medical care.  Our nurses accomplish this through answering questions with peer-reviewed research interpreted for the lay person and advocating for patients from the benefits and clinical perspectives.

MTT: What about international providers?

EJ: Right now, we are only using American providers.

As far as international relationships are currently concerned, we are collaborating with organizations who market to patients abroad interested in a second opinion and possible treatment from an American physician.

MTT: Do you have any competitors in the market?

EJ: There are organizations, including hospitals, who deliver remote second opinions.  However, we are unique in how we support patients before and after they receive their second opinion.  VezaHealth alleviates the patient’s burden in a remote second opinion through the patient connection process previously described. We are also unique in how we partner with the health plans.

MTT:  Do you have a case study that illustrates a patient’s experience?

EJ: Yes, on our website you can find a cancer patient’s harrowing story.  To say the least, she was someone who fell through the cracks; the care recommended to her was costly, unnecessary and harmful.

MTT:  What diagnoses do you support?

EJ: We don’t want to limit ourselves by diagnosis.  Some patients suffer from conditions typically assumed as straight-forward but struggle to achieve stable outcomes with their current plan for treatment or management.

For this reason, we tell members to call us if they are 1) have been recommended for an elective surgery, 2) have received a new diagnosis, or 3) have been struggling to manage a condition or diagnosis. After an initial call with a VezaHealth Consultant, we are able to determine whether or not it’s appropriate to move forward with a second opinion.

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