Physician and entrepreneur Ryan Van Wert, M.D., co-founded Palo Alto, Calif.-based advance care planning solution developer Vynca in 2013 to create tech products to guide and document advance care planning discussions that would be easily accessible to necessary stakeholders, including patients, families and clinicians. Van Wert is also an assistant professor at Stanford University where he also maintains a clinical practice.
Since the company’s founding, its reach has extended to document the goals and wishes of more than 1 million aging or seriously ill patients.
Van Wert recently sat down with Hospice News to discuss the importance of advance care planning, its impact on the hospice space, and Vynca’s growth trajectory.
With Vynca being a start up, can you tell me about what inspired the formation of the company and how it came together?
My background is in critical care. This was ultimately spun out of a postdoc program at Stanford called biodesign, which is a health technology program focused on value-driven health care innovation. There was one other critical care doctor and two engineers on the [Vynca] team.
We have just seen one too many patients die on ventilator when they ought to have been receiving palliative care or hospice care. In many cases, there was a document that somebody later discovered sitting in a safe deposit box saying they never wanted that type of care. In a lot of cases, no one ever asked them what they wanted.
We know that most people when given the choice will choose to have quality time over quantity. It was just really seeing that happen time and again, and the impact that that was having on the patient, on the family members and on the clinicians. We saw there was a real problem. There’s often a care coordination aspect with multiple stakeholders involved and a very disparate health care ecosystem where these individuals are receiving care.
We recognized that there was a real opportunity to leverage technology to support organizations in solving all the operational problems that go along with this kind of decision making, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that there is appropriate access to palliative and hospice services.
Can you tell me about the solutions that Vynca has brought to market around advance care planning?
We think about our solution as different having four different pieces to it. The first is around what I’ll call workflow solutions that support caregivers and clinicians in having thorough discussions and making sure that they are codified in accurate documentation, whether that’s a summary document or whether that is a medical order or an advanced directive.
Our focus prior to 2019 was really just having the clinician drive this conversation. What we rolled out through the course of last year was a brand new suite of tools where now individuals who are part of a given organization can access their own advance care planning information. They can create their own advance care plan and share it with caregivers, and that for us has represented a natural extension into a patient-centered and patient-first mentality around how we approach not only this topic but how we approach health care technology in general.