At Hazel, we’re working to reshape the pediatric landscape by offering students access to free healthcare through their schools via virtual medical clinics. Our CEO Josh Golomb sat down with Saul Marquez at Outcomes Rocket Health, a forward-thinking healthcare podcast tackling the toughest problems in the industry right now to discuss why healthcare access for youth is so vital today, why we’ve built Hazel, what we’ve learned, and more.
A few highlights from Josh and Saul’s conversation:
Saul: What do you think is the #1 thing that needs to be on health leaders’ agenda today, and how are you and the team at Hazel Health approaching it?
Josh: One of the things I wish there was more focus on is particularly the underserved communities. Right now in the US, 40% of all kids get their insurance through Medicaid or SCHIP. And that’s great – 95% of kids now have some kind of healthcare access. And it also sometimes pains me that there’s not more of a focus on that population. I read a stat recently that last year, there was $7 billion dollars that poured in from venture capital firms, from healthcare systems and healthcare companies in a big bucket of digital health. And so, if you actually pull apart the data, there’s so little that is focused on underserved populations, and a lot of those dollars are focused on folks who are more well-off, middle- and upper-class folks. And it’s interesting because there’s this huge need. And then, we spend most of our days working with kids from all parts of the country who really need access to healthcare. The data shows that 95% of those families and the parents have smartphones and are clamoring for more healthcare, more ways to access. But I don’t see as much investment in these amazing new technologies, and people that could probably most benefit from that. That’s the stuff that I get excited about. And I should say that we are seeing a big movement of other great organizations out there that are starting to focus there. But I think that healthcare innovations should be focused on all Americans, not just the upper tiers.
Saul: So tell me you guys are having some early success, but what are some of the setbacks you’ve had that you learn from that have made you better?
Josh: For us, so much of the learning has been in a couple of buckets.
The first one is: how do we partner with schools and be great partners for them? Most people, when they think of schools, they think of teachers working hard for kids. There are also all these other great folks there, that are already doing things your way before Hazel ever got involved. You’ve got school nurses that are like superheroes on the frontline, working with both kids and their families. There are some schools with social workers where they’re dialed in. It’s interesting because there’s that term “social” – I’m a big believer that sometimes people talk about in the abstract, and when you’re working in a school setting, all that stuff is front and center. It’s all the things the school staff is navigating through. You may have kids with food insecurities, kids who qualify for the free breakfast or lunch program, and whether or not they’re able to access that. We’re dealing with the students that may be foster students or homeless. So in the school setting, for us, the biggest learning is: how do we start from a point of all this great work already happening? How do we support them? How do we use both our providers and the technology to help them make more progress, connect the dots, and get them more access to resources they have today?
With families, a lot of the work we’ve been doing is to realize and make sure that we’re operating from a place where they are. Having been in healthcare for a long time, we have a tendency to want after every single visit to solve some big problem for a patient or a family. It’s interesting because some of the families we work with, especially those that haven’t really had great access to healthcare, will find that some of the first couple of things I want to do with their kids is just to make their life easier.
It’s hard enough for me as a parent to get out of work, pick up my kids when they’re sick, and I have relative schedule flexibility. But if you’re paid hourly, your boss is upset if you leave work. It’s really hard for a lot of parents to get their kids from school, let alone be able to get an appointment that same day. So those families we work with, the first few times we interact with them, we’re going to solve that problem to make sure your kid is seen. We actually find that when kids show up in the office, about 90% of the time we’re actually able to keep them in school – it’s clinically appropriate that they can stay. They’re getting more education. It’s great for them academically to have that academic time, and it’s so much easier for the family. We find as we solve that, it’s a really important, but simple issue that for those same families. Later on, when there’s a more complicated issue, we need to work through them – but they trust us.
Saul: What’s an exciting project you’re most fired up about today?
Josh: How do we start to integrate what we do in the physical health space, with mental and behavioral health? We’ve been working with districts to have something that’s already been trying to figure out this thing, some that are trying to tackle for the first time. So much of mental + behavioral and physical health is connected – especially for kids, though also true for all of us.
There’s a lot of data that shows those two things work together. And so I’m excited to figure out how we build that more into our model: both screening tools, and also the ability to connect kids to other specialists they need access to. There’s both the identification of kids that may need access to services, but there’s also then the referral process and there’s still a lot of stigma for all families around how to access these services. The hope is that we’ll be able to show that you can bring more of those services using technology as we do for Hazel to kids in schools. I’m excited that we’ll soon have some programs up and running to assess whether we can make a big impact in this area.
Get to know how Josh found his passion for building Hazel, and where we plan to go from here – listen to the full podcast with Josh here.