Episode #100: ‘How COVID-19 is Reframing Healthcare in America’ with Sami Inkinen, CEO & Founder of Virta

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

On Friday March 27th 2020, I launched a limited podcast series addressing how the COVID-19 pandemic is reframing American healthcare.  You can find the introductory episode here.  In this series, I’ve been interviewing visionary, courageous healthcare leaders and entrepreneurs –  asking two questions:

(1) How is the COVID-19 pandemic immediately changing the way you are delivering healthcare?

(2) How will COVID-19 reframe American healthcare for years to come?

In this interview we’ll be speaking with Sami Inkinen, the founder and CEO of Virta Health.  Virta is a completely virtual diabetes clinic whose brand promise is to not only improve type 2 diabetes but, in many instances, to reverse it.  Virta has completely reframed type 2 diabetes care with the physiologic approach they take; the data-driven, digital, AI-enabled technologies they deploy; and the personalized, empathetic and highly responsive care they provide.  Sami is a remarkable person and entrepreneur.  He’s a physicist, turned business and tech guy, turned online real estate entrepreneur, turned healthcare reframer/entrepreneur.  I met Sami about 6 years ago and have had the great privilege of working with him and getting to know him.  And, in full transparency, I have served as an advisor to Virta.

Some of the topics we’ll touch upon include:

  • Virta’s approach to type 2 diabetes – which allowed it to be far better prepared to continue delivering exceptional clinical care and outstanding consumer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • One of the most remarkable statistics I’ve heard during this pandemic – having to do with risk of mortality from the SARS-COV-2 infection in individuals with uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Some of the crippling flaws in the American healthcare system that were exposed and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A fundamental misalignment in our healthcare system that represents the most serious impediment to delivering empathetic, value-based care, and superior outcomes.
  • Sami’s top recommendations for what we need to do to create a better healthcare system coming out of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Virta Health is an example of what reframed ‘great’ looks like in chronic disease management.  We could spend quite a bit of time breaking down the principles, approaches, processes, technologies, behavioral and relational aspects, payment model, culture, and so on that make Virta so successful.  But the bottom line is that the value proposition, experience and outcomes are far superior to the standard of care across the country.  Virta represents, similarly to others we’ve interviewed in this series, a path to what markedly better healthcare can and should look like.  Sami and his colleagues have paved a path to the future by reframing the care of people with diabetes.

One major take-away I’d like to leave you with is one of the key lessons I’ve learned in this limited series.  Organizations – like Virta – that have reframed healthcare, have fared far better during this pandemic than organizations that have not.  This has been a common theme that has come up repeatedly during these in-depth interviews.  It speaks to the fact that our current legacy approaches to healthcare delivery are vulnerable, fragile and simply not oriented, designed or organized around our healthcare needs.  Reframed organizations appear to be much more adaptable, resilient, anti-fragile – and consumer-oriented.  This observation was not lost on me and should not be lost on you.

Until next time, be safe and be well.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD