The Lifeguard Story
Lifeguard Health Networks was founded by individuals that have accumulated a great deal of experience as patients and as advocates for friends and family facing medical challenges. The following is a collective account of our experiences, the major breakdowns in healthcare that we encountered, our realizations of the root cause of these problems, and how we came to craft the Lifeguard solution.
The Moments that Change Everything
Our journeys began with several moments. Moments that we experienced in exam rooms, waiting rooms, and hospital hallways. Moments that may have begun with an oddly timed phone call, or after sitting down at an atypically quiet dinner table.
The moments when time stops, hearts beat faster, hairs stand on end, and all the unwarranted worries and trivial preoccupations in our lives melt away in an instant. These were the moments when we did our best to focus on the words being spoken, but our minds kept racing, running through every imaginable outcome.
They were the moments in which we fought to restrain the intensifying anxieties. The ones where we found ourselves instinctually putting up hurried facades in attempts to conceal our escalating panic with what we hoped would be perceived as inspiring confidence and reassuring calm. Deafeningly quiet moments, the kind you never forget.
While the speakers continued with their explanations, we did our best to be strong for our loved ones, no matter which of us the diagnosis belonged to. The only thing we knew for sure in those moments was that we were in this together. That as patients, we could count on our families and close friends to be there for us. That as mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters… that we would be there for the loved ones that needed our support.
We did our best to comprehend the diagnoses and the various courses of treatments, with all the complexities, anxieties, and possible outcomes that came with them.
We sought out the most highly-regarded medical providers, studied the most up-to-date medical resources, researched the most promising cutting-edge treatments, and did everything else we could think of to improve the likelihood of better outcomes.
Unfortunately, as we discovered, we were often limited in what we could do and the effects we could have by the structure of the system itself. These were problems inherent in our healthcare system that could not be overcome by our willingness to be a model patient or a tireless supporter. Ranging from the alarming to the absurd, these problems accounted for far more than minor frustrations.
Individually, these issues can lengthen recovery times, facilitate additional complications, and lead to significantly worse medical outcomes overall. When viewed collectively, they expose the most consequential breakdown in our approach to medicine…
The Challenges of Support
As patients, we are expected to be able to learn, memorize, and act on a great deal of complicated information that most people have had little to no prior experience with. It can be like learning a completely new language, but with any mistakes potentially leading to significant negative consequences.
Depending on the diagnoses, this can be nearly impossible to do alone, which is part of why patients with strong support networks achieve better outcomes. However, without the right tools to empower support networks, those intending to help can unintentionally add to the stress and confusion.
Unfortunately, patients generally serve as the primary communication hub for their support networks. It is hard enough for patients to keep up with everything themselves, especially when they are struggling to overcome combinations of symptoms and side effects to do so.
Being a patient with a support network often means having to communicate every change in medications and treatments; coordinating and reporting on various appointments; distributing every new medical resource; trying to remember who you have informed of what and how recently; and, responding to seemingly endless questioning about symptoms and overall health. It can be exhausting to be a patient, even before factoring in the effects of your health challenges. Similar challenges arise for those supporting patients.
We instinctively want to check in on the patient, ask about their health, and to offer our help. However, we don’t want to be an annoyance and risk discouraging them from seeking our help when they need it. We want to stay up-to-date on all the latest developments, and we want to share and discuss potentially valuable information with the rest of the support network; but, it’s not clear how this can be done effectively and securely, especially in a way that would enable the participation of patients, supporters, and providers alike.
Without help, it can be extremely challenging trying to provide the right amounts of coordination and support while respecting a patient’s need for independence and not intruding on the time they should be spending resting, engaging in meaningful diversion, and getting the most they can out of life.
It was clear that the beneficial potential of support networks was being negatively impacted by the usual methods and modes of communication. As we would learn, communication challenges exist not only between patient and supporter; but most significantly, impact the ability of care providers to make well-informed medical decisions, reducing their likelihood of delivering the best possible outcomes.
The Perilous Gap Between Hospital and Home
Medicine has made amazing progress in the last century. With the help of technology, medical discoveries and innovations have improved and extended the lives of patients dramatically. Our overall approach to healthcare, however, has not kept pace…
Modern day healthcare is encumbered with inefficiencies and disconnectedness, significant gaps in monitoring and evaluation, and operates on often incomplete and/or inaccurate information.
Too few systems exist to help care providers collaborate with each other, especially when they belong to multiple care networks. Patients would benefit greatly from their providers’ ability to continuously share the most up to date versions of their directed treatment plans, lab test results, and patient notes. The lack of this communication infrastructure leaves each individual provider to focus primarily, if not exclusively, on their specialization-specific objectives; potentially to the detriment of the patient’s overall health goals.
Furthermore, patients often go weeks to months between check-ups and consultations, leaving their doctors in the dark about whether their prescribed treatment plans and medications are having the desired effects, or even if patients are capable of adhering to them. When patients do see their doctor, they are asked to recount all the significant developments that have occurred since their last visit. However, the level of variation in symptom type and severity that can occur – as well as potential connections to other health and treatment elements – can too easily be oversimplified or misstated, if not outright overlooked.
Patients that are on track, and do not require any changes to their care, can end up requesting follow-ups too soon and too often due to unnecessary concern. Patients that would benefit highly from early interventions too frequently fail to realize the significance of warning signs, and do not report the issues they are having until it is too late to prevent adverse consequences.
Individually, these issues can easily be severe enough to negatively affect outcomes. Collectively, they make achieving the best outcomes considerably less likely. While doing our best to navigate these challenges, we realized that they were simply symptoms of the overarching problem, and that a real solution was needed to address the underlying cause.
The Hazards of Stop & Go Healthcare
The major takeaway that we came to understand is that while patients may technically be under the care of one or multiple providers throughout the course of their treatments and recovery, the vast majority of the time, patients are not actually receiving care…
We think of healthcare delivery as a constant process, like a beam from a flashlight guiding our way ahead. But it actually exists as a series of brief and intermittent flickers, like occasional camera flashes in the dark.
Aside from the administration of physical procedures, actual care is when a provider is given new information, incorporates it into the overall picture, and uses their training, their knowledge, and all of their accumulated skill and experience to make informed decisions about how a patient’s care plan should or should not change. When new information is not being reported to providers during the days, weeks, or even months between visits, patients simply are not receiving care.
During these long waits, we hope that the care plan we were left with ends up being sufficiently close to whatever our regimen would have become if we were monitored and received care the entire time. We may be given signs to look for and symptom thresholds to keep an eye on, and we are told to interrupt the radio silence and notify our providers if any such conditions are met, but this is mostly for acute events and reactions. Otherwise, we are likely to tolerate a much longer period of insufficient and/or adverse effects than we would in a continuous care environment.
It makes sense why healthcare has traditionally followed this episodic pattern. Doctors just cannot see every one of their patients frequently enough to be continuously providing care to each patient. This would come with absurdly massive increases to the financial burden and time demands on all parties. At least, this certainly was the case, and it would continue to be the case until technology reached a point that it could enable a restructuring of our approach to care delivery (with the aide of some dedicated human counterparts).
Crafting A 21st Century Solution
Advances in technology have fundamentally changed many aspects of our lives. The internet, personal computers, and mobile devices have dramatically extended our access to knowledge, improved our productivity, redesigned how we approach collaboration, and reinvented our concept of communication. Much of what used to require actual time, energy, and resource consuming trips to physical locations during business hours now only takes a few seconds of typing and swiping on our smartphones, and can be done at any time of day or night.
This has changed how we shop, how we bank, and even how we meet that special someone. And yet, aside from progress in electronic health records and a few insurance oriented and disease-specific apps, our approach to healthcare simply has not kept pace in the consumer-driven digital revolution. It was understandable that people would be hesitant. We as a society consider medical privacy paramount, and concerns about the security of personal information are justified. Fortunately, we had access to world-class developers highly skilled in encryption & roles-based access controls (experts in making sure your information is secure).
We had the key to surpassing the first obstacle, so we went to work designing what we knew would help bridge the gap between hospital and home from the patient and caregiver perspective. We knew that for the system to make the most impact and to be accepted by the healthcare system we currently have, it had to work and provide value for all parties. So we reached out to experts in every field related to healthcare to refine and expand our patient and caregiver inspired vision with the insight of a variety of elite advisors and institutions.
We benefited from the guidance provided by leaders in medicine, technology, policy, digital health and more. We have developed and redeveloped, polished and tested. Our platform, which has evolved to include major elements that peaked the interests of patients, caregivers, providers, payers and policymakers alike, subject to the rigorous demands and further developed with the insights of elite medical institutions. We spent years making sure our platform could pass all tests with flying colors (including HIPAA / HITECH compliance), meet the demands of all parties, and maintain unparalleled levels of security and reliability.
Welcome to Lifeguard…
We are more than pleased to say that all the time, energy, and passion we have dedicated to this mission was well spent; and, that it has culminated in an incredible platform that we strive every day to elevate to even greater heights. We welcome you to explore all the benefits of the version of Lifeguard that is right for you:
The most advanced and secure digital health app available to consumers that supports continuous symptoms tracking & vitals reporting, highly customizable reminders & alerts, support network notification and collaboration tools, and the ability to centralize medical records and important information resources on your mobile device. Click here to visit our LifeguardMobile Features overview.
At enterprise-level, LifeguardRx further expands the LifeguardMobile app’s functionality with direct clinical integration, enabling truly continuous care, and providing sophisticated patient monitoring and management capabilities for healthcare providers. This solution provides all the benefits of a customizable triage interface; supporting immediate updates to care plans; and, highly encrypted direct patient-provider communications. Click here to visit our Provider Solutions page.
The moments that turned our lives upside down have led us on a more incredible journey than we could ever have ever imagined. During this time we joined forces with others that have experienced those moments firsthand, as well as all the challenges that follow, and they have added greatly to our collective expertise, skills, capability, and passion. We have benefitted greatly from the guidance of some of the most accomplished leaders in their fields who believe in our mission and the extensive benefits of the platform we have developed.
We are immensely thankful for all the incredible counsel and collaboration, and we are exceedingly proud of the solution we were able to create as a result.
If you are reading this, you likely know of these moments all too well. If so, you also know that after they end, you are left to decide what to do next. Healthcare is better when everyone works together, and we’re here to help. We invite you to join us in pursuing the best possible health outcomes and embracing the next major evolution in care by experiencing all the ways that Lifeguard can benefit you and your loved ones.