Hello, Broadsheet readers! House Democrats pick Nancy Pelosi’s successor, Apollo co-founder Leon Black faces rape allegations, and a women-founded health tech start-up is transforming doctors’ recommendations.
– 26 days. That’s how long it takes patients in major US cities to get an appointment with a medical specialist. In some rural states, this delay is even longer. In Vermont, waiting for a specialist can take up to 61 days.
Kelsey Mellard, founder and CEO of telehealth startup Sitka, thinks she has a solution. The platform connects primary care physicians (PCPs) with specialists. A patient with a problem that their PCP is not equipped to solve can receive treatment from a specialist within hours instead of waiting weeks to see the same provider.
Mellard, the child of a pediatric occupational therapist in rural Kansas, built extensive experience in the healthcare field before founding Sitka in 2018. She worked on the founding team of the US Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation before joining UnitedHealth Group as Vice President of Health Services Policy. She eventually moved into the startup space, working on the management teams of post-acute care management services company naviHealth and homecare technology company Honor.
While advising a company at one point, Mellard received a particular request: “Kelsey, come fix our clinic.” Specialist physicians were receiving unnecessary patient referrals from PCPs, leading to poor survey results and low Yelp reviews.
“Patient expectations are so high, and rightly so,” says Mellard. Nearly 20 million referrals to “clinically inappropriate” physicians occur each year, wasting patient and specialist time and potentially leading to deterioration in patient health.
Thus, Sitka was born. The startup has raised over $22 million from investors like Venrock, First Round Capital, and Optum Ventures.
Sitka’s services are especially crucial in rural areas, where access to specialists is limited, or mobility issues prevent patients from seeking care. While telehealth is on the rise (more than 76% of hospitals have implemented such services), patients in rural areas and tribal lands have limited access to high-speed internet. Additionally, rural communities account for the vast majority of primary care shortages in the United States, despite representing less than 20% of the US population.
Eighty-five percent of consultations on Sitka’s platform help PCPs avoid having to make a referral, Mellard says, saving money for low-income patients. “These providers are desperate for a way to access expert knowledge without exposing the patient to a copay, a tank of gas, and how long it takes to get that insight.”
Sitka has built a network of physicians that spans 20 specialties, including cardiology, gynecology and rheumatology. It is also partnered with several at-risk provider groups nationwide across the care delivery system, including Medicare Advantage plans, Institutional Special Needs plans, senior-focused primary care provider ChenMed and UnitedHealth-owned primary care provider Optum. Today, Sitka announced a new partnership with Elation Health, an electronic medical records system used by more than 24,000 clinicians. The partnership will provide Elation’s system practitioners with access to Sitka.
As Mellard looks ahead to the next five years, she says she’s excited to see the market grow to understand the value of expert knowledge at the primary care level. Three years ago, the brand was struggling to gain traction in the market, “but a change has happened,” says Mellard. “When you’re in the early stages, you don’t have data to support, and now we have incredible amounts of data to prove the value we’re delivering on the frontlines every day for primary care providers.”
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– To pass the baton. House Democrats have chosen New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to replace Nancy Pelosi as the party’s House leader next year. He will be the first black to lead a major party in either house of Congress. CNN
– First signs. Several early staffers at Alameda Research, the trading company of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, resigned in 2018 over risk and compliance concerns. “We ended up not really knowing how much money we had,” said Naia Bouscal, who left Alameda with co-founder Tara Mac Aulay. the wall street journal
– Unholy treatment. A Buckingham Palace staff member has quit after Ngozi Fulani, a black British woman and founder of an anti-violence support group, said the staff member repeatedly asked where she was from during a a Tuesday reception hosted by Queen Consort Camilla. New York Times
– Explosive trial. A woman is suing Apollo Global Management co-founder Leon Black and the estate of Jeffrey Epstein, alleging the former investment firm executive raped her at Epstein’s New York home. Black’s lawyers deny the allegations, calling them “categorically false” and “baseless”. daily beast
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Audible promoted Susan Jurevics as the first global brand manager. Corvus Insurance has hired Angela Whiteford as Marketing Director.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
– 51 cents. Wednesday was Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day, the last day of Native American Heritage Month. Native American women earned 51 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Latino white man in 2021. 19th*
– Earning record. The United States Women’s National Team earned more from participating in the United States Men’s Soccer Team World Cup than from winning its own World Cup in 2015 and 2019, thanks to an agreement on the equal pay concluded this year. CNN
– First court date. An arraignment date has been set for Jackie Johnson, the former Brunswick judicial district attorney accused of obstructing the police investigation into the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Johnson will appear in court on December 29, 14 months after his indictment. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ON MY RADAR
‘Is it perfect? No: LGBTQ people respond to the Respect for Marriage Act Washington Post
What is it this time? The cup
How Elton John and Dua Lipa’s ‘Cold Heart’ Came to Life and Became a Surprise Global Hit Variety
Christine McVie death: Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter was 79 Deadline
“I wonder if anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were the same age.
—Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, answer when asked by a reporter if she and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin were meeting because of their similar age and gender.
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