Alphabet's Verily collaborating with Atrius Health, Palo Alto VA on population health projects

Alphabet's life sciences group Verily is teaming up with Atrius Health and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system to improve patient outcomes through population health initiatives.

Verily and the two health systems will deploy technology tools and interventions aimed at improving outcomes for patients and intervening earlier to prevent more expensive, unnecessary care, officials said in a release. The project will utilize Verily's technology experience with data ingestion and analytics along with behavioral activation and product development to improve the value of care.

Both Atrius Health and Palo Alto VA are focused on moving toward value-based care and payment models that encourage providers to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital.

"These progressive partners are joining a growing community of health systems, accountable care organizations and government entities who have partnered with us to research and deploy products that improve the healthcare experience for patients and providers,” Vivian Lee, M.D., president of health platforms at Verily, said in a statement.  

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"At Verily, we are committed to improving outcomes and reducing waste in the healthcare system. We believe that by empowering patients and providers with new engaging tools and actionable data, we are driving toward a value-based healthcare system that benefits all stakeholders.”

Verily, originally Google Life Sciences, once part of Google X, was spun out back in 2015 to lead Alphabet’s healthcare and life sciences research. Most of Verily's previous work in healthcare focused on research, but the company has been quietly expanding its footprint in the world of healthcare and collaborating with health systems and other providers on initiatives to tackle major health challenges.

The company is partnering with retail pharmacy company Walgreens to use technology to help patients with diabetes and medication management. Verily also is working with Kettering Health Network and Premier Health to build a technology-focused rehab campus in Dayton, Ohio, to combat the opioid crisis.

Alphabet also has recently added big healthcare names to its roster including former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., to lead its health strategy and policy across the company's Google Health and Verily Life Sciences enterprises. The company also tapped former Obama administration health official Karen DeSalvo, M.D., as its first chief health officer for Google Health.

With VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), Verily plans to focus on ways to improve care and outcomes for VA patients in high-priority condition areas with an initial focus on patients getting knee replacements, those who have suffered heart attacks or patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal.

The collective goal is to empower VA staff with advanced tools to increase quality and efficiency and in the process potentially identify new opportunities for enhanced practice guidelines for VA sites across the country, the organizations said.

The collaboration will provide valuable healthcare tools and expertise to support VA Palo Alto's mission to ensure veterans receive the best and most advanced healthcare available, U.S. Army veteran and VAPAHCS Director Thomas J. Fitzgerald III said in a statement.

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"This initiative is part of our broader commitment, through the recently launched National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation, to bring cutting-edge innovation and technology to VA," he said.

Atrius Health, which operates 31 medical practices in eastern Massachusetts, plans to work with Verily to analyze the provider's population health data to identify interventions that will work best for heart failure patients. The goal is to deploy new tools that help clinicians intervene earlier and better manage patients with heart failure with the goal of reducing emergency department visits or hospitalizations. 

"We look forward to collaborating with Verily to enhance the patient experience, and reduce the overall cost of care by keeping our patients healthy in their communities rather than in the hospital," Steve Strongwater, M.D., president and CEO of Atrius Health, said.

"This initiative will enable us to dive deep into the underlying challenges faced by our patients with heart failure and to deploy new tools and interventions that provide them the right care when they need it," he said.