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EP122 - Digital Healthcare Aiding Drug Testing and Adult Vaccinations with Jonathan Baktari, MD

If the world of medicine has ever felt a bit fragmented to you, or if your patients have ever grown tired of repeating themselves to different doctors – there’s another way. On today’s podcast, I invited Dr. Jonathan Baktari, founder and CEO of e7Health and U.S. Drug Testing Centers, to discuss how he and his team have been striving to make the navigation of the medical world easier for patients and doctors alike.

e7Health offers a software solution for many drug testing labs throughout the United States while the U.S. Drug Testing Centers offer adult vaccine solutions.

We discuss how his company was already prepared for adult vaccinations to address the COVID 19 pandemic, and how digital health and implementing technology such as AI is the future of healthcare.

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In this episode, we talk about:

[02:50] Jonathan’s path from internal and pulmonary medicine to vaccines, drug testing, and technology

Jonathan feels he followed a typical path into medicine, working through training, residency and fellowship, and practicing clinical medicine. He began to teach in medical schools as an assistant clinical professor. Administrative positions opened up within the hospital and drew his attention. Jonathan worked as chief of medicine as well as medical director for the ICU, but then was slowly pulled toward other openings such as hospital and insurance company administration. Eventually, Jonathan had the opportunity to open e7Health in 2009, and then U.S. Drug Test Centers was created as a sister company. Jonathan states his team also builds technology for both companies, and their goal is to leverage technology to reduce friction for patients and staff.

[04:32] What e7Health provides

From 2009-2017, e7Health was known as the Vaccine Center, focusing solely on providing adult vaccinations. There were multiple areas in healthcare that involved adult vaccinations that weren’t being properly addressed: medical facilities and hospitals offered some services on the side of their urgent care, but it wasn’t a true focus. This lack of service inspired Jonathan and his team to create a space that solely specialized in adult vaccinations.

The name change occurred when they started providing every service around the vaccine. Vaccines are now provided alongside counseling, prescriptions, blood testing – everything needed for employee health, student health, and travel medicine.

[07:31] The ease of working with e7Health

There is a drug testing division that supports student and employee health, which includes vaccines, physicals, and drug tests. Since Jonathan and his team have also written the technology used by the drug testing division, they have been able to streamline use for employers and medical practices.

In the past, if you had five offices, you would need to set up five different accounts, five different facilities, and more. Now any employer, for example, can log onto Jonathan’s system as a client and can easily send 20,000 potential employees to 20,000 locations on the same day. If the tests are negative, the results come back to their dashboard the next day. One portal, one system, one bill.

[10:52] Why Jonathan chose real estate near hospitals

The corporate headquarters for U.S. Drug Test Centers and an e7Health office now reside within a few blocks of a larger hospital. Jonathan chose the location for two main reasons: the healthcare sector needs employee health services and medical buildings tend to appreciate.

Jonathan explains that there are companies that don’t have the bandwidth to have their own employee health department, so e7Health becomes a way to outsource these services for healthcare companies, defense firms, government agencies, and any other company in need of employee health services.

[13:08] How Jonathan’s team was prepared for Covid 19

When Covid 19 began to hit cities hard, e7Health wasn’t starting from scratch. They had been hard at work for over a decade providing vaccines and testing for viruses. Their software and processes were already geared toward providing adult vaccinations. For example, while most doctors have a refrigerator from a home improvement store, e7Health already had a massive vaccine refrigerator, which keeps all vaccines at equal temperature. They also already had processes in place for expiration date monitoring and all staff were trained on how to administer vaccines.

With a deep understanding and past experiences with other viruses, it was easier for them to predict in which direction Covid was going. 

While the vaccine was managed by the government and wasn’t commercially available, e7Health was able to focus on antibody tests, rolling out home saliva testing very early in the pandemic.

[16:41] How Covid 19 has prepared us for the next pandemic

The Covid 19 pandemic has allowed us to reflect on how and why pandemics start, as well as how we can be better prepared for the next. Looking back over the more common pandemics and animal transmission to humans, we can see that pandemics begin fairly often. We have to understand that when we interact with wildlife and different scenarios such as increased travel and deforestation, that it’s going to increase the likelihood of transmission, which could lead to another pandemic.

It was also clear in the lack of many pandemic necessities including masks that there is room to grow in our emergency preparedness. It would also benefit us to follow the science and be patient enough to complete double blind, randomized studies before offering mass solutions.

[19:34] Why digital health is the future of healthcare and what’s holding it back

Jonathan feels digital healthcare is the future because the current state of medicine is fragmented without technology. Patients are tired of repeating themselves and repeating tests when they see different doctors, or waiting 45 minutes at a pharmacy to find out that their prescription isn’t even covered. There has to be a better way.

The problem is how technology is deployed. Right now, digital healthcare has too many masters. They’re trying to please large label insurance companies, maximize reimbursements, make the patient’s life easier, and make the provider’s life easier all at the same time. With so many priorities, only one or two really thrive. With something like Amazon, for example, there are no third parties, so it’s easier to drive the technology.

Digital healthcare is the future, but we have to decide what the priorities will be.

[27:48] Using AI and drug testing software

All of the  technology through U.S. Drug Testing Centers and e7Health is more focused on quality and preventing medical errors. The medical errors that occur naturally outside of technology can cause irreparable damage to lives: the wrong medication, prescription, even the wrong kidney. As a person who lives and breathes quality, Jonathan and his team have been focusing on leveraging technology to manage and anticipate medical and patient errors. This form of AI makes sure that policies and procedures are built into the technology to not only reduce errors but to improve compliance.

[32:10] Jonathan’s first job

In high school, Jonathan worked at a restaurant and shoveled snow for his neighbors in the Winter. In college, he worked as an orderly in the hospital during his Summers.

[32:58] What Jonathan would be doing if he wasn’t in healthcare

If he didn’t start in healthcare, Jonathan would be focusing on mentorship, leadership, and the administrative side of entrepreneurship. Helping to build culture and other leaders is a lot of fun for him and is a space that he feels comfortable in.

[34:06] What Jonathan is currently reading or listening to for news, information, or inspiration

As he’s in charge of business growth, Jonathan reads a lot of business books such as Tribal Leadership and Blue Ocean Strategies. Tribal Leadership focuses on improving culture in your organization, and Blue Ocean Strategies is about how to grow your company in a way where your competitors become irrelevant.

[35:16] What Jonathan does for healthy self-care

Jonathan practices what he preaches to his patients. He limits processed and simple carbs and focuses on carbohydrates with fiber and protein. He stays active, going to the gym at least three times a week to increase his heart rate. Jonathan also practices ‘turning it off,’ where he focuses on relaxing and recharging.

[36:23] Whether the desire to heal is born or trained

Jonathan believes that a lot of people go into healthcare with the intention to help, like answering a calling to heal. When Jonathan started his healthcare career, about 75% of doctors were going into their own private practice. Now, for students entering the field, there’s a 75% chance that they’ll be working for someone else. Jonathan believes that has changed the equation of why people go into healthcare, as it feels less like a calling and more like a job. 

Thank you for tuning into the Providers, Properties, & Performance podcast!

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