Friday, September 28, 2018

Lewis Mission Moments - Christopher Kennedy '08


If you work for Lewis alumnus Christopher Kennedy (’08), you have probably heard him repeat this quote by author James Allen: “Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your vision, and your ideal.”

For Kennedy, the quote is a reminder of the daily choice to either remain with the status quo, or to improve and pursue something greater. As an innovator in the complex field of biotechnology and telemedicine, Kennedy daily has the choice to leave the healthcare system as it is – in many ways, elusive to patients who need help – or to pave a path for patients to receive quality care.

“A significant issue in healthcare today is that a scorecard is missing,” explains Kennedy. “As a patient, you’re not sure what inning it is or what the batting average is of the doctor that you’re working with. Performance accountability is sometimes completely missing.”

This “missing scorecard” makes it extremely difficult for patients to navigate the world of healthcare, especially patients with rare or chronic illnesses. That’s why Kennedy has made patient empowerment his goal.

As Chief Operating Officer of Heritage Biologics, Kennedy is in the business of making patient experience a measurable outcome. Heritage Biologics is, in its most basic sense, a rare disease home infusion and specialty pharmacy. But its mission is much larger. The company is constantly seeking ways to give patients a voice and connect them to the resources they need. Heritage’s RARECARE software program captures patient Quality of Life (QoL) metrics and Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs) that provide valuable insights into a patient’s journey. RARECARE also allows patients to rate their actual service experience, which helps to keep healthcare providers accountable and show them how they can improve.

A quick search of recent patient experience data will populate with countless messages that exemplify how Heritage Biologics is making a difference. “The pharmacist changed my world with the information they gave me,” says one patient. Another writes: “I can’t wait to see to see my nurse again; I look forward to it each week.”

While patient experiences at Heritage Biologics are filled with positive interactions, it is not the norm for the wider healthcare system. There is no better example of this than when Kennedy himself visited a patient in the hospital. While Kennedy sat in the room, an ER doctor told the patient that he couldn’t be admitted because his chronic condition was too much of a liability. The doctor then sent the patient away with painkillers.

The disheartening scene remains a strong reminder for Kennedy that his work is needed. Of course, Kennedy’s work goes far beyond Heritage Biologics. He is also the creator of HemoMD, an on-demand virtual care platform that enables patients with hemophilia, a rare blood disorder, to connect with specialists. Many patients only have access to a specialist physician one time a year. If the patient has an emergency, it is likely that the ER doctor has not had any interaction with hemophilia since their medical school days. HemoMD enables these doctors to gain peer-to-peer support from specialists experienced in treating the disease.

The American Telemedicine Association honored Kennedy for his work on HemoMD with the President’s Award for Innovation in Remote Healthcare, which recognizes important advances in the field of telemedicine. But Kennedy is only just getting started. His goal is to begin providing similar services for other rare disorders nationwide.

“The only way that we are going to defeat the current business approach to healthcare is through patient-centric solutions that deliver measurable outcomes,” Kennedy says. “No one holds healthcare more accountable than patients themselves. We need to empower patients and help them become more informed healthcare consumers. When consumers demand more for their dollar, the market will ultimately listen. Just ask Amazon and their current star ranking system for products. Patients deserve this type of model in healthcare too.”

Kennedy attributes Lewis for being an important stepping stone along his journey. As a student in the Master of Science in Management program and the Executive Leadership Certificate, Kennedy gained comprehensive and applicable information that he was able to implement in the workplace immediately. Throughout the program, Father Kevin Spiess provided strong mentorship and encouraged Kennedy to commit himself to learning something outside of the classroom. Kennedy took the advice to heart and began to learn web design, which later enabled him to create his own websites.

Where some see healthcare as a business to bring in profit, Kennedy sees it as a system that should be bent on helping patients have the best experience possible. Through his work at Heritage Biologics and HemoMD, he is part of a value-based healthcare discussion that is changing healthcare for the better. Kennedy is one of many Lewis alumni impacting their communities through their talents and passion. As author James Allen said, “You will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your vision, and your ideal.”