Chris McGhee and Current Health: Leadership, Innovation and the “Care at Home” Model
July 11, 2023 / Share:
In this episode of Friends of Project Healthcare…
Project Healthcare colleagues Lauren Hatcher and Jeremy Raley are joined by Chris McGhee, CEO & Co-Founder of Current Health, a company which helps health systems provide healthcare at home, including hospital-at-home programs, through innovative technology.
Chris shares how his personal experience as a third year medical student, watching his grandmother’s recurrent hospital admissions, ultimately drove him to find a solution for managing healthcare at home. “Being somewhat inside healthcare, you see why it’s really hard, financially, clinically, structurally to do that,” he explains. “I started Current Health to try and solve that.”
Current Health’s goal is to help healthcare organizations, from large health systems to various provider organizations, shift some amount of care from within bricks and mortar facilities into the patient’s home environment. “Whether it’s someone who’s super sick and high risk or someone who’s low risk and has diabetes,” he offers, “we’re just trying to manage their health long term and give them everything they need to try and do that.”
Chris accepts his journey to success in this space was an improbable one. “We were two guys on the west coast of Scotland with no experience building healthcare companies, no experience in the U.S. market,” he explains. “We knew nothing about the U.S. financial landscape. So it’s completely unlikely that we would grow to become one of the market leaders in this space.”
But that didn’t stop Chris or his co-founder Stewart Whiting from trying.
“Initially we were just focused on the sickest group of patients. So we thought, if we could take those who might be on the med surg floor, who otherwise would be in-patient, let’s just send them home,” Chris says. “And literally our first product was just a device that we built. We thought we needed to do continuous monitoring in the home.”
He admits now the initial attempt was far from perfect. “The pilot was a disaster,” he confesses. But it was his willingness to hear criticism and react accordingly he credits with saving the day.
“Our superpower was the ability to listen to that feedback and as quickly as possible apply it back into the product. So we started building out a patient application. We figured out that we couldn’t just be technology, we had to be a service. So we started building out all the services around us and it just grew and grew and grew.”
Building a trusting relationship with clients was a critical part of the plan, and the secret to their success. “I still remember one of the nurses saying that she’d never had anyone sit and listen, take the feedback and go and build. You know, in her 20 year career. No one had ever done that. And we did.”
That doesn’t mean with a working application they were done collecting criticism or backing down from challenges. “A really great piece of technology is amazing, but actually getting it into the health system and embedded into the EHR workflow,” he explains, “that was key to success.”
Some of the more difficult challenges faced by providing at-home healthcare included replicating hospital-level care. “How do you get equipment out to that patient’s home? How do you support that patient if they don’t know how to use that equipment? Half our patients don’t have internet access. A fifth of them don’t have a smartphone. Many of them don’t speak English as a first language,” Chris shares.
“So we then had to start building out all those services to allow us to get to that population. And that’s a core of what we solve for the health system is that we can help them do it to any population, regardless of internet access, regardless of language, regardless of where they are geographically. We take care of all that for them.”
Chris believes the “hospital at home” model is one of the biggest innovations that’s happened in healthcare over three decades. But scaling it to have the impact it needs was another obstacle. Enter Best Buy. Yes, that Best Buy. The electronics superstore spent nearly $400 million to acquire Current Health in 2021.
“One of the reasons why we did the acquisition with Best Buy is that we could then reach out across the threshold and go right into the home and actually give additional help and support patients physically in the home,” Chris says. “They have phenomenal expertise and history supporting technology in the home. And we thought that was a massive superpower that could help scale care at home across the U.S.”
Bringing together the technology for remote care management, which now includes an FDA-cleared wearable medical device for monitoring patient vitals, with the reach and proficiency offered by Best Buy as a global power was what Chris calls incredibly strategic.
And as far as strategies go, this one has been proven successful. “We see that every day in the market from our customers saying this is something they’re really excited about, that they see value in, that they can get value from and it helps them scale up the solution,” he says.
Today, Chris is part of the Best Buy Health leadership team, helping to develop its virtual care strategy while also leading Current Heath’s operations. Earlier this year, Current Health inked a partnership with Atrium Health, one of the biggest health systems in the country, to develop “new hospital-at-home offerings that will enhance the patient experience of receiving hospital-level care in the home,” according to a press release.
Chris offers some final advice to future developers and entrepreneurs. “It’s just one step after the other, and constantly listening to the market,” he shares, highlighting the importance of nurturing client relationships.
“The only reason we are successful is because we have prioritized relationships with our clients at every possible time,” Chris adds. “That partnership, the focus on building those relationships, I think is critically important for founders.”
This conversation was captured at the 2023 ViVE Conference in Nashville, TN. Stay tuned for more exciting interviews from the event.
About Chris McGhee: Christopher McGhee started Current Health in 2015 as a medical student, ultimately leaving at the end of his third year with the belief that technology could have a more profound impact on how care is delivered at scale. Since then, Chris has led the company through many major milestones, including the platform’s FDA clearance in 2019, 3,000% revenue growth in 2020, and growing the team to 150 employees across the U.S. and U.K. in 2021. Under Chris’ leadership, the company raised over $70M in capital before being acquired by Best Buy Health in October 2021. Today, Chris sits on the Best Buy Health leadership team helping to develop its virtual care strategy while also leading operations for the Current Health business.
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