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Interview with Dr. Rani Aravamudhan on Holistic Patient Care and Data-Driven Solutions

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Mabel Jong interviewing Dr. Rani Aravamudhan at thINc360 conference

In this exclusive interview at the thINc360 conference, Mabel Jong sits down with Dr. Rani Aravamudhan from HDMS, a CVS-owned company. They discuss the importance of treating the whole patient and how holistic healthcare approaches can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

You can view the full video interview here

Key Takeaways

  1. Holistic Healthcare: Treating the whole patient, including their cultural and personal habits, leads to better treatment outcomes.
  2. Data Utilization: Leveraging data and Predictive Analytics allows for personalized treatment plans that cater to individual needs and circumstances.
  3. Social Determinants: Understanding and addressing social determinants of health, such as food security and access to care, is crucial for improving patient health.
  4. Collaboration and Innovation: Conferences like thINc360 foster collaboration and the sharing of innovative solutions to tackle complex healthcare challenges.

The Importance of Treating the Whole Patient: Insights from Dr. Rani Aravamudhan

Mabel Jong:

“Welcome back. I’m Mabel Jong, and I’m here now with Dr. Rani Aravamudhan. So nice to see you with HDMS, which is a CVS-owned company. So great to see you.

It’s been a couple of years since we last spoke. And I do want to get your perspective on the importance of treating the whole patient. Why is that making a difference in terms of outcomes and treatment options?”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“I’m so glad you asked that. In this world today, we either look at data as though it’s just numbers, but there’s real people behind that. Similarly, it’s very easy to just talk about the disease and the condition but not really the patient that is going through it.

Back in the day when I actually did patient care, when I was a practicing physician, it was very important to me, and all of the doctors at this conference, you’ll hear them say the same thing.

It’s very important that we treat the person. So that means it’s not just that we’re asking them about their condition history, their medical history, their family history—all of that is very important—but in addition, we’re also interested in their day-to-day life, in their habits, and their culture.

Most importantly, so much of what we do, especially when it comes to healthcare, our diet, how we view certain types of care is a very cultural, very personal thing for a lot of people. Understanding that is very important.

Now, I’ll tell you that there’s enough people in my family that will not eat or drink anything until their morning prayers are done. So let’s say for some reason morning prayers got delayed today; no, they did not have breakfast until 12 o’clock.

And then there were communities where I was growing up where the women, if you’re familiar with the Gujarati community, there are women that will fast every single Monday, sun up to sundown.

So when we think about these things, and if you have, say, diabetic or hypertensive patients from these communities or, you know, my extended family, it’s important to know that because just prescribing them a medication and telling them to take it at this time and letting them go home doesn’t help.

It has to be taken with food, without food. If they don’t eat, what happens? Understanding that is very important. So personalizing that treatment based on who they are and not just what conditions they have or what symptoms they have is very important to the right outcomes because the best of medications is not going to produce the right results when they’re not taken properly or at the right time or with the right supplements and things like that.

Again, the right habits in addition to the medications themselves. What else should they be doing?

When it comes to mental health, we understand that, yes, antidepressants can go so far, but being able to speak to somebody that is either a family member or a therapist or whoever they feel very comfortable with—and that could be a spiritual person—is so very important.

So understanding all of that is really the key to treating the whole person, and that is what is going to improve outcomes, that holistic approach.

We’ve known that on the clinical side, right? We’ve been doing that for some time now. What we see is that data is letting us scale that. It is helping us look at that from a distance.

You don’t have to be in the same room with the patient, but you can still have that insight because we have the power of data.

So employers here at this conference, I’m sure you’re going to see that they have services that—you know, Point Solutions is probably the buzzword of the day these days—but they bring in services that are specific for certain conditions, whether it’s asthma or hypertension or atrial fibrillation, but also for other things like whether it’s an EAP program for therapy or a digital solution that helps you sleep better.

Getting all of that data together at that higher level lets us look at various patterns and, you know, tells us that, oh, you know, people that, let’s say, are working shifts like, you know, doctors and nurses that work nights, they’re the ones that use the sleep app a lot more.

Well, it makes sense because they have to sleep during the day. It’s kind of difficult. They’re using it more to get a better night’s sleep. So it helps us look at where there’s engagement, how are people using it, and then where can we intervene to provide the care that they need at the place that they need it.”

Embracing Nuanced Data for Personalized Medicine

Mabel Jong:

“Well, are you encouraged that with all of these new options available to gather data, that we are finally understanding that it isn’t one size fits all in medicine?”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:


Mabel Jong:

“For instance, your example of taking medicine in the morning, noon, and night. Well, that person hasn’t eaten in the morning, so they shouldn’t be taking the medication. Perhaps we may not have known that piece of data before, but now we are asking those questions.”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“We are asking those questions. So that is one thing. We’re asking those questions in the form of whether it’s surveys. In another sense, we’re also getting to that with some very nuanced data sets that we get today.

So, you know, all of us have heard about social determinants of health, right? Now, what we are now seeing is it’s going beyond just looking at people’s income levels or salary levels.

It is looking at areas where there is a high level of diversity, so people, you know, immigrant populations from various areas, certain parts of DC, certain parts of New York, that sort of thing.

So now understanding that, knowing that this area has a high concentration of people from this community or this faith lets providers and payers say, well, what is peculiar, or what is something that they might be doing that is important for us to understand? And so they go to gather that data, whether that’s in the form of various surveys.

And so it helps them get that, oh yeah, I mean, this is a very faith-based sort of community. They’re very big on, you know, you can tell my mom or my grandmother, no, no, it’s okay, like even if you’re not done with your prayers, go ahead, take your medicine.

Do you really think they’re going to listen? No, no, that is part of their culture that is very ingrained. So providers have to understand that, and they have, and they will prescribe, when they prescribe it, they’ll give instructions that are very specific.

If you’re not able to eat, then this is what you need to do. And so we are able to now get that kind of insight at a macro level, at a higher level, and so designing some programs that may have those that are built in, those instructions that are built into them is something that people are looking at. That’s where hyper personalization sort of starts to come from.”

Advancing Medical Education and Innovative Solutions in Healthcare

Mabel Jong:

“So are providers being trained properly to address these kinds of needs now?”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“Yes, I do believe that the medical education is placing a lot of importance on these areas, which previously was not necessarily given the type of light of day that it deserved.

Let me put it that way. So now, yes, that is one of the things that is part of the coursework and the art of eliciting the history from the patient and such, where they are being asked and they are asked to be very mindful of that when they are conversing with the patients and their families and such.”

Mabel Jong:

“And what other messages are you sharing with attendees at the meeting today?”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“Good question. You know, I do have a sort of a wish list, if I will, you know, Rani’s wish list. If I ever became queen of the world, those would all come true.

But before that, I like to think that with the power of data, what we can do is really look at what are those areas that we can solve, problem solve quickly, easily.

What practical solutions can we bring in? With all of the smart people that are there at this conference, there’s so much innovation. There’s so many new things that people are bringing up.

And so understanding that and saying, okay, you’re targeting a population that is specific this way, and then there’s this organization that’s trying to do something else.

If we put that together, are we bringing the intersectionality to a population that is probably at most need that we can identify quickly and come up with a solution that doesn’t have to be very long-term or anything, but at least something that we can do quickly to make a difference, almost like speed to value.

So that’s the question that I have been trying to answer, you know, learning from my peers at the conference and trying to also spread the message with.

So with the kind of data and technology that we have access to and what we work with for our customers all the time is, you know, having predictive analytics, having algorithms that look at who might be at risk for social isolation.

And there you’re going to see likely a higher number of people that are at risk for alcohol and drug use. Is there something that we can do? Like you have employers here that have some very large memberships, like, you know, workforces, I should say.

They may have internal organizations that might be very beneficial to, you know, those members that may be at risk for something like social isolation.”

Addressing Social Isolation and Mental Well-Being in Corporations

Mabel Jong:

“What can be done about that though? What can be, what are some of the options available?”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“Yeah, that’s a good question. It obviously differs, but in most of the larger corporations, they have what, you know, what we call colleague resource groups, which are just people within the company coming together, forming support groups for each other.

At our company, and I’m sure some of the others that are here, they have very similar ones, whether it’s based on faith or in some cases, there’s one at our company that is just for mental well-being.

So we have a mental well-being CRG. We have a diversity CRG. There’s one for just people that are struggling after the loss of a loved one. So just things like that.

And it may be good to make sure that, you know, members know about that and actively promote that to get them to join and really meet others that may be having very similar experiences there.

So they know that they’re not alone and they can find some companionship that way, somebody that they can relate to, and that, you know, that is going to be a win-win for whatever area you look at, whether it’s just health or for many different things too.

How do you find those people though? How do you know who is struggling?

Yeah, you may not know individually within your membership who is struggling, but then using algorithms like a social isolation index, which is part of the nuanced, you know, social determinants of health methodologies these days, you can look at a group of people within your membership that say, hey, here are some members.

Again, you don’t have to know the individual names and things like that, but you can look at that and say, here are a group of members that we should try to probably do something with maybe some targeted communication or something else like that. And that would be beneficial in my mind.”

Insights from Healthcare’s Best Minds at thINc360

Mabel Jong:

“Are you reaching the people that you’d like to reach in terms of your presentation? Why attend thINc360?

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“Good question again. Why attend thINc360? I can tell, I can see that some of the best minds in the country when it comes to healthcare and problem solving are here.

So more than anything else, I’m here to listen and learn and understand what is being done. One of the keynotes this morning from the person from CMMI was very eye-opening for me when the gentleman said we have to really move away from fee-for-service.

That was something that I’ve been thinking about for 20-some years. And so, although it’s not an idea that is new, he was of the mindset that we have to just draw a line in the sand.

Why haven’t we done that so far? And that got me thinking, that’s true, like we’ve all been thinking about it, but none of us are willing to go that extra mile and take the risk.

So collectively, maybe when we speak to everyone here and see what they’re all up to, maybe there can be a coalition of minds that might actually be able to do it.

From a sense of whether I am reaching the audience that I came here to reach, I certainly hope so. We’re here to really talk about our work with our customers, not necessarily, you know, talking about, oh, how great our platform is.

Well, it is very good, but really how is it being used in a very tactical and strategic manner to problem solve for, you know, what might be a pretty complex problem.

But then when you sort of piece it apart and say, what can be done, like step one, baby steps, how can we solve those? We have some pretty good success stories, and I’m hoping that I can share them with groups with whom those might resonate.”

Mabel Jong:

“Thank you so much. I mean, I have to leave it there, but I’ve had such a pleasant time speaking with you.”

Dr. Rani Aravamudhan:

“Thank you. It’s been a pleasure, and thank you so much for the opportunity.”

Mabel Jong:

“Thank you.”

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