September 14, 2022

How Headspace Health delivers high-quality care 
by using the CareOps principles

For this article we interviewed Wayne Li, VP Care Operations at Headspace Health. 

After working at Kaiser Permanente for 15 years as clinician and manager he decided to move away from providing direct care. He obtained his MBA, joined Ginger 3 years ago before they merged with Headspace (now known collectively as Headspace Health), and has been working directly with Karan Singh, Ginger co-founder and COO.

Wayne is responsible for 4 functions at Headspace Health:

  • Clinical Operations
  • Coaching Operations
  • Product Operations
  • Member Support (front-facing team when members are onboarded)
  • Care Talent (dotted line to Care Operations for provider hires)

TV: Please tell us why CareOps resonated with your work at Headspace Health.

WL: Our care organization is split into Care Operations and Care Services. Operations builds systems and tools to enable Care Services to deliver care. These include processes, workflows, and tooling to help optimize care delivery to our members, plus improve our efficiency . Ultimately, the outcome we’re looking for is more effective processes. As part of that process, we’re constantly looking at what we should buy or build to achieve that goal.

TV: Can you give us an example of such a buy or build decision?

WL: Early on we decided to build our own EHR for charting. Buying something off the shelf was easier but we wanted to customize the experience for our unique use case and provide value for our provider workforce; how they provide care and how best to serve our members.

TV: How are you leveraging that decision to drive efficient care delivery processes?

WL: It’s about prioritization. Solving for what matters most and making sure that cross-functional teams are aligned on the same goal. If something risks impacting member care or continuity of care, that’s critical. Otherwise we look at how something could impact efficiency. 

An important part of understanding the efficiency of our care delivery system is understanding the behavior of our providers - both from effectiveness and clinician sustainability perspectives. 

TV: I’ve never heard of the term clinician sustainability but it makes sense. Can you tell us a bit more?

WL: Our focus has been on understanding peak load (i.e. how much supply is needed to mitigate demand), while ensuring that the work for our providers is sustainable. 

It’s also not just about immediate access. More importantly, it’s about ensuring quality of care. Like the monitoring part in CareOps, when clinician sustainability goes down, quality goes down. In other words, I like to say that happy providers = happy members.

We’re still fine tuning this from an operational standpoint. It’s a puzzle, and I’d say we’re in the messy middle.

TV: What is the most challenging part of the CareOps lifecycle at Headspace Health?

WL: For us, design is the biggest challenge. Headspace Health is unique in the way that Operations and Services are split into two functions. In most traditional healthcare system, it’s usually one leadership team managing utilization, delivery of care, trainings, etc.

When you’re trying to design a system with 2 parts like we are doing, the feedback loop becomes crucial. Are the right cross-functional stakeholders in the room? What is the appropriate amount of feedback? When do we decide to move on something? What’s the difference between alignment vs buy-in from the team? And once the team is both aligned and bought in, how do we make sure that it’s actually delivering the targeted outcomes or efficiencies?

TV: How do you balance agility vs aversion to change?

WL: It’s about understanding when to create visibility with the broader team. Do we provide visibility during the discovery phase? Scoping phase? Or the implementation phase? It depends on the level of change. In general, people have a natural resistance to change and prefer stability, so it’s important to clarify the what and why to help reduce anxiety.

However, change is a constant, and is a necessary part of building and getting creative. So when we want to scale and test new processes and systems, what’s crucial is that the end users understand what we’re changing, and most importantly, why we’re making that change. If they don’t, they’re organically going to think it’s wrong and they won’t do it.

TV: Thank you Wayne, this is all extremely interesting and there’s much more to unpack here but our time’s up – we’ll continue this discussion later on.

WL: You’re welcome! 😊

On September 28th, Awell Co-Founder and CEO Thomas Vande Casteele will host a panel together with Wayne Li (VP Care Operations, Headspace Health), Dr. Ali Khan (CMO, Oak Street Health), Dhruv Vasishta (VP Product, Firsthand), Mariza Hardin (Co-founder & COO, Zócalo Health)and David Lerman (CTO, Boulder) to discuss the tools and practices they use to deliver high-quality care. You can register for the panel discussion here.

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