This is a transcript of mypodcast interviewwith Evan Falchuk.
David Williams: This is David Williams co founder ofMedPharma Partnersand author of the Health Business Blog. I met recently with Evan Falchuk, President ofBest Doctors, a company that provides clinical insights to patients who are facing uncertain diagnosis or treatment choices. Best Doctors sells its services as an employee benefit to companies in the US and around the world.
When an employee or a dependent is diagnosed with a serious illness they can submit their case to Best Doctors. The company gathers their medical information and consults with its expert network of physicians to review the diagnosis and treatment options. In many cases, the patient receives a different diagnosis and treatment plan than what they started with.
Evan thanks for being with me today.
Evan Falchuk: Glad to be here.
David: Evan, tell me about Best Doctors. What does the company do?
Evan: Best Doctors is an employee benefit and it is used by people when they are sick with a serious illness. You call us, we help you take charge of your care and make sure you’ve got the right diagnosis and the right treatment.
What we do is actually dig into the information and get at what is really going on. About one in five cases have the wrong diagnosis. So, answering the question of how you treat something that you don’t have is really not all that helpful to the patient.
And that is our focus. Let’s find out what is really wrong and then figure out what the things to do should be.
We consult with these experts from our Best Doctors’ database. We figure out the right question and then we find the right kind of expert. And we have been doing this for about 15 years now. We survey doctors, we ask them within each of the different specialty areas to tell us who do they most respect, who do they think are the best, who do they want to consult with if they have the kind of disease that they treat.
And so we collect literally millions of votes and data points on these doctors and we aggregate them. We have a whole process for that. And the result is an incredible tool that allows us to very rapidly access the type of expertise that is needed for each case at the time of need.
There is another company I have heard called “Advanced Medical” that I think originated in Spain that does something similar. Are they similar? What might be different about you?
But the issue in these cases is always what is actually wrong. There is no use in again, asking a question about a disease that the patient does not have. And the cases that for us are often the most powerful and striking are the ones where you see that happening.
So, we had a case where a person who was told she had a brain tumor and came to us and said, “Is surgery the right treatment for my tumor?”
And what we found out from doing our review was that she did not have a tumor, she had a chronic inflammatory disease and we needed to talk to an expert in that kind of disease.
So the problem with going to a panel of doctors is you may be asking a question that is not relevant to the patient’s case.
We also have groups like Stop & Shop, the supermarket chain. And other industries, like trucking: we have JB Hunt whose trucks you see all over the road. Pharma companies, too. Genzyme, here in Massachusetts, is a customer.
So, it really covers the scope of any industry and what I find most interesting when you talk to employers is that they know of situations where they have had employees who have been sick and have wandered around the system unsure of what to do and they wish they could have helped.
And when they hear about Best Doctors they say, “Boy, that really would have helped that employee” and it is often a very easy route to open up the doors. They say, “Hey, let us put this program in place.”
So, it’s no surprise that cancer is big because it’s a very scary diagnosis and there are a lot of alternatives. But, we see many surgical situations, chronic diseases, and things like that where the person says, “Gee, I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to do.”
And so, to some extent the Internet has heightened both sophistication and uncertainty in the patient’s mind. They’re told they’ve got cancer and they’re told there are actually five different treatments for this, and your doctor only told you about one. Your doctor might be right, but you’re now wondering, why did I only hear about this one? So, it’s a significant driver of why people call us, and that’s true, as I said before, all over the world.
In the United States, what we see that’s interesting is not only is there more information available to consumers but the design of many plans is pushing responsibility onto the consumers financially to make these decisions. It’s sort of a convergence of patient responsibility and patient uncertainty that’s a driver of our business.
So it’s a very large number of people who are faced with these things. And, the consequence of being wrong can be very significant because there are actually a lot of good treatments out there, so you better make sure you get it right. It’s a very widespread phenomenon.