Spotlight Interview: Kara A. Connor, SVP Clinical Operations, MediGuide International LLC

 About Kara A. Connor, SVP Clinical Operations, MediGuide International LLC 

As SVP of Clinical Operations, Kara leads the team responsible for connecting MediGuide members to world leading medical centers and providing them answers to their health concerns. A key role which she not only provides clinical leadership but also focuses on cultivating relationships with centers of excellence around the globe. Kara is known for her relentless commitment to producing quality outcomes and for delivering high organizational value and credibility by maximizing resources to exceed customer & member expectations. She also plays an instrumental role in the development of new services and products that support the needs of our existing customers and growing business.

Kara has 20 years of experience in business and clinical settings. Prior to joining MediGuide she worked for 10 years as a Registered Nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.  Here Kara worked in various clinical areas from critical care to outpatient services. Kara also served in a strategic leadership capacity at Best Doctors for 6 years, working within the business operation to help build a clinical team and operational workflow that supported multiple service lines, including a second opinion service in the US and internationally.  Kara has worked in a senior leadership role with the MediGuide organization for nearly 5 years and also serves on the advisory board for MediOrbis.  Kara continues to live in the Boston area, alongside her 3 teenaged children.

About MediGuide International LLC

MediGuide provides a medical second opinion (MSO) service reflecting the best advice from the top medical minds at world-leading medical centers. This service not only helps individuals to better understand their condition, but also the treatment options available.  MediGuide MSO services improve healthcare outcomes for 10 million members in more than fifty countries spanning five continents.

Medical Travel Today (MTT): Please give us somebackground on your company and its positioning in the market.

Kara Conner (KC): MediGuide is a U.S.-based organization, but we have a very strong international presence, with clients in 55 countries on five continents.  We’ve been in business for 20 years, and as of 2020, we have exceeded the 10 million-member mark in terms of outreach to our actual consumers.

Our goals are to provide people with the answers they need when faced with a medical condition or chronic disease. We provide medical second opinions (MSO) for basically anything you can imagine and ensure that people are on the right track in terms of diagnosis and treatment.

We don’t treat people — rather we recommend what is best based upon their condition.

MTT: Tell us about the connection between MediGuide and MediOrbis and the partnership with MySpecialistMD. How did that get started and where do you see this going?

KC: We met MediOrbis four years ago and instantly realized that they offered an innovative telehealth solution the market had been looking for. We have since integrated with them in terms of technology – which is fantastic in this telemedicine space as well as for medical second opinions.

Our solutions are sold as a combined service for people who want to get an MSO with a deep-dive approach. We retest information and dig for detail based on an MSO recommendation from a world-leading medical center or U.S. hospital.

We also provide stand-alone telemedicine services, as well as access to primary care specialists for less complicated cases.

Here’s a real-world example of our service offering: 

About a month ago, we had a situation where it wasn’t actually a member or client, but someone we knew in the industry who had an unfortunate incident.  They were at home playing with their grandchildren and one of the children inadvertently headbutted Grandma in the neck. She experienced pain that lasted for several days and then grew concerned. She went to her physician and an ultrasound revealed a clot in one of her major arteries.

Her physician suggested immediate surgery. Fearful of such an invasive surgery, she reached out to us for an MSO. We contacted a surgeon on the phone and provided him all the information he needed –, including her medical records and the ultrasound report.

The doctor determined that surgery was not necessary and advised that the clot would resolve on its own.

She followed this advice and today, the clot is gone. This was a huge cost savings from a business standpoint. From a clinical perspective, she avoided a very risky carotid surgery.

This example clearly illustrates the value of our MSO offering.

MTT: It appears that you can monetize the value of an MSO

KC: There are so many stories like the one I just shared where there’s obviously a cost savings, which is important to customers.

At the same time, we help people not just by simply saving money but by ensuring they are getting the right treatment.

But it’s also incredibly important in that it broadens the patient’s options and provides peace of mind, knowing they are making the right choice. You can’t put a dollar sign on that.

MSO is critical for anyone who has questions or doubts about a diagnosis or treatment plan, whether it’s for something large or small. Being able to find a better health option is invaluable.

MTT: What groups do you serve?

KC: Mostly our customers are either insurance companies, self-insured companies, or employers that are looking to ensure that their employees and insured are healthy. They understand the value in getting the right treatment.

Our member is either the employee or insured, but they don’t pay directly for the service as our fee is usually embedded in their insurance premium or benefit plan. Our services are free of charge for the member.  We also provide data to the payer in terms of utilization, cost savings and outcomes.

MTT: According toMediOrbis, in 2019, MediGuide impacted 95% of its medical second opinions with some kind of change:

  • Surgery avoided 14%
  • Treatment changed 77%
  • Diagnosis changed 4%

KC: Once a case is completed, we review and document it in our system, including the presenting diagnosis and treatment. If there’s any variation with the recommended diagnosis they received, we document that.

We are then able to share this information with our clients and demonstrate the value of our service. While 95% is a huge number, that doesn’t necessarily mean a massive treatment change. It could simply be a variation of medication or therapy that gets the member on track. Equally, it could be something substantial like avoiding a surgery.

MTT: This could have a bigimpact on people living in rural areas. 

KC: We have a lot of people in the United States and internationally who live in rural area where they might have to drive for hours to reach a center of excellence.

To be able to quickly get an MSO allows them to feel confident about their treatment choice without making that drive.  With our service, people know that leading physicians in the field have reviewed their case and made recommendations – which they can share with their personal provider.

It’s a potentially lifesaving or life-extending benefit for many people. If you live in Chattanooga and you have cancer and you don’t want to drive to Atlanta, you can call us and be pointed in the right direction.

MTT: Besides this important advantage, how else does telehealth benefit the patient and physician?

KC: The impact on patients, number one, is either we’re going to help change the treatment direction or confirm it. Both are good.

And you don’t have to take time off from your day, leave home and sit in the doctor’s office. You can do this all remotely, while we collect all the information and do the re-testing.

For example, if you had a biopsy, we collect your pathology slides and re-analyze them at a world leading medical center. That alone is an incredible service.

From a physician’s standpoint, across the board we’ve found them to be nothing but appreciative of the feedback because either it confirms their treatment plan or reveals to them a potentially better option.

We also supply members with any resource information that doctors cite in the MSO as part of their final report.

MTT: How many physicians do you have collaborating with MediGuide?

KC: On the MSO side, we collaborate with world-leading medical centers, with more than 50 centers of excellence in the United States and abroad that review our information and provide recommendations.

From the telemedicine standpoint, we have hundreds of U.S.-based, board certified physicians that conduct telemedicine calls and another several hundred internationally.

MTT: Please tell us about the LifeLink and Navigator services that you offer?

KC: Internationally, MediGuide offers services for people who are in areas where they may want to travel for care. An MSO evaluation is conducted not just by one specialist but a team of expert multi-disciplinary physicians who practice at world-leading medical centers. These centers are renowned for their medical research advancements, cutting-edge treatments and the overall quality of their clinical outcomes.

With LifeLink, a payer can purchase LifeLink as an insurance product for their employees or members. They’re purchasing the policy.

The member buys into the policy so they have the option to travel — if they choose to do so and if they are eligible — for care.

If they get an MSO but discover there’s no treatment option available in their area, they now have this insurance policy that allows them to travel. Everything, including travel expenses, room and board, hospitalization and procedure are covered. MediGuide assists with all the logistics, taking some of the stress from the patient.

With Navigator, it’s the same thing except it’s not an insurance policy.

The member buys the Navigator add on, for a minimal amount at the time of purchasing the MSO service, usually added to their insurance product. If they get an MSO but can’t access the care, they can then access the Navigator service and get all the support they require to make an informed decision whether to travel for treatment or not.

When it comes to the treatment, our partners provide clinical case management and cost containment services for the patient. We help control costs by negotiating with the hospital, helping the patient find reasonable travel and hotel deals, which is better than if they had to do all this on their own.

MTT: What size clients do you serve?

KC: We manage organizations that have 500-300,000 employees/insured.

Our solutions are ideal for any organization seeking quality, clinical-focused care that helps contain costs.

What’s more, we’re at a very, very low cost in the market because we’ve figured how to keep the overhead expenses low so that we can charge less for our services.

We provide an array of services, as explained above, which I don’t think other companies in our space do. We’re proud of our product and want to grow with our customers. We don’t want to overprice and under serve.

MTT: Where is the company heading?

KC: We want to expand our U.S. footprint and get the message out that we are competitive against other telehealth companies in this space.

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