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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to consistently spell Dr. Josh Emdur’s surname.

A group of leaders at a handful of local health care startups expect changes to the health care apparatus such as telehealth and more aggressive preventative care to stick around well after COVID-19 ceases to be a widespread threat.

The session at the Boulder Startup Week virtual conference featured Dr. Josh Emdur, chief medical officer of SteadyMD Physician Group P.C.; Niko Skievaski, president of Wisconsin-based Redox Inc.; Dr. Kevin McGarvey, CEO of Hippo Health Inc.; and Abby Wright, vice president of market access at Biodesix Inc. (Nasdaq: BDSX).

Kristin Apple, president of health startup consultancy LINUS Group, moderated the panel.

Emdur said the existing medical delivery model wasn’t able to move fast enough to meet the demands of the pandemic, such as making telemedicine for non-COVID issues easier to access or providing mass-testing.

The need to react quickly opened the doors for startups and entrepreneurs to make their mark on what is normally a conservative and slow-moving medical establishment.

“I mean, this was a war where everyone who felt like they had something to offer of service could jump in and help,” he said.

Wright described a type of “COVID time,” where members of her staff were finishing projects and proposals in a matter of hours versus a matter of weeks due to the speed and the challenge that responding to the pandemic posed. While Biodesix is primarily focused on genetic tests to determine which treatments lung-cancer patients are most likely to respond to, the company pivoted to COVID-19 testing for several universities and school systems after partnering with other health care technology companies.

“We all had a mutual goal, we were all rowing in the same direction, and we were rowing with a lot of other companies and a lot of other innovators,” she said. “We really were making a lot of it as we go while staying within the regulatory guidelines.”

Emdur said telemedicine is likely one of the largest adaptations that health care providers will continue to use en masse after the pandemic subsides, because being forced to collect information from a patient virtually has proven to be fairly effective in determining a course of care, including deciding that a patient needed to visit the clinic in-person.

He also said prevention has come into particular focus in the past several months, particularly when it comes to broader public health measures. At the moment, Emdur believes there needs to be a reckoning over the blend of traditional health care, retail and direct-to-consumer health care services like blood tests and fitness trackers and access to preventative care, with all of those balanced in a way that provides better health outcomes without forcing higher costs.

“The hope is that by really using technology, using really robust processes to help people stay healthy, that we can figure out a more cost effective way to do it,” he said.

Skievaski said in his experience, major health care systems will often spend about two years between identifying a need and implementing a technology solution. The company had about 300 projects with systems at the start of the pandemic, and about 250 of those were paused as intensive-care units started to fill up.

However, he said the demand for using virtual solutions to manage patients jumped soon after and has yet to subside.

“A lot of people realized that they can move faster, and they should move faster, and it also put a bunch of new technology in the hands of patients and providers and all the clinicians and staff that support them,” he said.

McGarvey said while the shift to easier access to health monitoring is likely to continue over the next five to 10 years, he believes it may be slowed down somewhat by inertia within a major portion of the existing American health care system.

“A major bottleneck is going to be reimbursement, but we have seen a lot of movement with reimbursement with the pandemic as well as with reimbursement for telemedicine, reimbursement for remote patient monitoring,” he said. “And I doubt that that’s going to go away over the next several years with some of these initiatives around population health.”

Wright agreed, saying that the current reimbursement model relies on decision makers among payers like insurance companies and the federal government, which rely on decades of experience.

However, she noted that telehealth can produce incredible cost savings in certain cases, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs being able to use online visits instead of reimbursing patients to travel to and from clinics.

“I think the payers are absolutely integral in this,” she said.

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