Q&A With Syapse CEO Ken Tarkoff

Syapse improves patient outcomes by providing workflow solutions that enable cancer care providers to deliver precision medicine within their organization, Ken Tarkoff, the company's CEO, told Evidence-Based Oncology™.
Published Online: August 11, 2017
Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (HIT) industry veteran Ken Tarkoff, formerly the COO of RelayHealth, joined HIT company Syapse in March 2017 as CEO. Evidence-Based Oncology™ (EBO™) spoke with Tarkoff as he took up this new role.

EBO™: Can you provide an overview of Syapse and the services that the company provides to healthcare systems?

TARKOFF: Our focus is on improving outcomes for cancer patients. We are, at the highest level, doing what we can to improve outcomes. More specifically, the solution we bring to the marketplace is we are a provider-driven network business, where we are providing workflow solutions to our customers to enable them to provide precision medicine in their cancer care areas within their organization.

The product capabilities we bring are a combination of: first, collecting the clinical and molecular data and aggregating that in a visual workflow that allows providers and their staff a longitudinal view of the patient’s tumor and their history. We also provide them with additional workflow that gives them access to see similar patients, both within their enterprise and beyond their enterprise, and [grant access to] additional participants within the Syapse network, so they can see common treatments and documentation of outcomes for that [treatment] process.

We also offer, in the network component of our business, a sharing component that allows each of our customers the opportunity to do data exchange. We are also providing more value to the ecosystem as our provider customers are trying to address many of the challenges in getting their patients on a specific therapy and working with other parties in the ecosystem—clinical trial players, pharmaceutical companies and others—to streamline the process and to lower the administrative burden for the providers to get their patients on those therapies.

EBO™: What are the most critical health system requirements to deliver precision treatment to patients with cancer?

TARKOFF: I’d break this into 2 parts: first, the biggest problem is [getting] appropriate testing for the patient and understanding that in the context of the other clinical information that you have available. So, we see inconsistent behavior among our oncology customers. There’s different levels of understanding on when it’s appropriate to order a test: how you can actually get this information and make it easy to understand and get feedback from others on when best to use these therapies.

Second, underneath all that, one of the reasons why this is complex is that the reimbursement market for these services and this testing is in its early stages and is not well defined. This obviously creates more complexities for the provider organizations and health systems to understand how to deliver more personalized care to the patient when you are trying to navigate all these complexities.

EBO™: What are some of the challenges faced while assimilating patient clinical history, which may live within EHRs of disparate clinics or health systems?

TARKOFF: From my background—prior to joining Syapse, I came from the clinical data and interoperability world where we were focused around health information exchange [HIE]—I’d say that the first part that we are trying to address is the part where someone is from within the system. You need to be able to treat that patient in the community to be able to get access to molecular test data and clinical data to be able to combine them for patient benefit. The issue you raise adds an additional complexity, with a patient who had gone to multiple locations. How you are able to provide care for that patient? That’s a more complex problem.

One way we could be tackling that is that if they are a common Syapse customer, we’d be able to get them the information, but we are not yet solving the problem of aggregating patient information from multiple health systems. That is a real problem, but we are not tackling that first. We are trying to help health systems deliver community oncology care, so they have the necessary information available to deliver a more personalized experience, [considering] the complexity of information that they have coming their way. I think, at least within the HIE market, we are ways away from having that type of data access.

EBO™: How does your decision support platform stay updated on the latest clinical developments and treatment guidelines?

TARKOFF: We enable clinical decision support. We are not in the business of providing clinical decision support; it varies by customers. Some customers are more prescriptive, other customers leave it open and only want to share the information on what is happening within their network as a way to guide their behavior.

EBO™: Can health systems use the Syapse platforms to gather quality of care and outcomes data?

TARKOFF: We do capture that information. Today, it’s available as reports, and that’s one of the areas of focus over the next year. A big part of the next year is not only deploying our customers’ oncologist and realizing their value, but also building off that feedback loop. At this stage, what we are doing is capturing that information and allowing them to query it. Within the next year, we will be looking at the insight on how these decisions are being made; that’s not a big focus for us this year. This year, we are focused on capturing the information for our patients and making them realize the value of the information that we are helping them capture [through our platform].

EBO™: Can you describe some of your ongoing collaborations?

TARKOFF: We have a lot of things we are doing with Providence [a health system]. We are starting to look at the ways in which they are delivering precision medicine and working with them on some additional product enhancement to support their experiences as they have been delivering that care in their markets. Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health are new customers of ours, and there are a number of different strategic initiatives with them that we are planning on rolling out later this year.

We have started to work with some payer associations and a pharma company to help them get patients on to therapies by removing some administrative burdens. We are capturing some information from providers for payers so that they can track that and use it for specific guidance for reimbursement purposes. So, we have a number of initiatives that we plan to announce later this year.

EBO™: Has Syapse been working with independent community practices?

TARKOFF: We would love to work with independent practices, but the problem is the complexity of how you get to them—building the interoperability and getting all the price points right for standalone practices. So, we are looking at other partnerships that will get us through to the independents that are not associated with any health systems. We are, however, a little away from signing up 1-doc practices. The complexity of the technology integration as well as the training and implementation, in terms of the price point for a single-doc practice, we are not at the retail level, we are more at the health system level.

I’d love to be able to offer a consumer-level retail offering, but I don’t think we are there yet.
AUTHOR INFORMATION

Ken Tarkoff is CEO, Syapse.
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