For over 35 years, Dr. Christopher Hall has devoted his career to democratizing and scaling compassionate and competent care to diverse communities, particularly those affected by HIV and the underserved. In January, he joined Avita Care Solutions as its first chief medical officer. Read on to learn how he’s leveraged a combination of world-class medical leadership, technology, policy expertise, and advocacy to remove health care barriers and “meet patients where they are.”
Dr. Chris Hall was all set to go to medical school in 1987 when his “education” took a slight detour. It was the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and years before protease inhibitors would be introduced as a more effective and tolerable treatment for the virus. As a young gay man living outside Washington, D.C., Hall watched helplessly as many of his friends and neighbors died of the disease. He decided medical school could wait and took a role at the National AIDS Network (NAN), where he spent eight years helping larger care providers share their experiences with smaller organizations. NAN evolved into a clearinghouse for HIV/AIDS information and programs and became a model for a nationally supported community-based response.
Of course, Hall did return to medical school: After obtaining a master’s in nonprofit management at NYU, he went on to receive his MD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, complete the Internal Medicine Internship and a year of Residency at Brigham & Women’s Hospital (part of Harvard University), and fast-tracked to the Infectious Disease Fellowship Program at the University of California, San Francisco. But, unlike most of his medical school peers, when he got to Hopkins, he had a firm grasp on where his career would take him. “I knew from the day I arrived at medical school that I came there to become an HIV care provider, researcher, and policy expert,” Hall says. “There was absolutely no confusion about that, and I have never looked back.”
Fighting health inequities through alternative means of care
While the fight against HIV has made tremendous strides in the 40+ years since the epidemic began, core elements of the battle are still in full force. “HIV stigma is alive and well, as are health inequities among marginalized communities,” Dr. Hall says. “We’ve learned from patients that many folks are unwilling to walk into a brick-and-mortar clinic because they are afraid of being identified in a certain way. Others are physically isolated and don’t have access to the expert HIV prevention, testing, and care available in larger cities.”
Removing health equity barriers by extending the reach of expert, compassionate HIV prevention and care became a mission for Hall. It eventually led him to a role as chief medical officer for Q Care Plus, a community-focused care management solution that offers stigma-free access to care via a telehealth option, with a focus on telePrEP services. Now a part of the Avita Care Solutions family, Q Care Plus makes getting PrEP (HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis) easy, with virtual provider visits, the choice to test at home or in person, and discrete medication delivery to patients’ doors. As a telePrEP leader, Q Care Plus also helps patients navigate the time, paperwork, and financial barriers of accessing PrEP; 99% of Q Care Plus patients pay nothing for their medical visits, labs, and prescriptions.
“One of the things Q Care Plus can pride itself on is that it’s developed this diverse network of providers who are experts in HIV prevention and treatment, are culturally and community competent, and have worked with these patient communities for decades,” Hall says. “Building that trust in the community is crucial to successfully engaging the patients we want to reach.”
Why delivering seamless care is an “all-hands-on-deck situation”
In his role as Chief Medical Officer at Avita Care Solutions, Hall will continue to oversee the team of compassionate care providers at Q Care Plus and those onsite at AvitaCare Atlanta, the organization’s new Atlanta medical and primary care center and pharmacy formerly owned by AbsoluteCare. By providing integrated access to clinical care delivery, digital health options, pharmacy services, and 340B program administration, Avita increases patients’ and covered entity partners’ ability to obtain culturally competent LGBTQ+, HIV, PrEP, and sexual wellness care.
For Hall, offering seamless, holistic care to underserved communities is not a matter of digital health vs. onsite care but rather an “all-hands-on-deck situation.” “Whether it’s telehealth, traditional care in a brick-and-mortar clinic setting, or best-in-class pharmacy expertise, the important thing is that we all work in tandem with our covered entity partners to offer patients quality, respectful, affordable care wherever they feel most comfortable,” he says. Doing so helps covered entities maximize the 340B program’s ability to enhance the effectiveness and reach of their programs, during a time when patients are demanding more of the system. “The pandemic has led to a situation in which people have elevated their expectations for health care providers and health systems,” Hall explains. “They increasingly demand patient-centered care that truly meets them where they are and when they want it.”
In the end, the ideal type of care system is a hybrid one that offers an enhanced patient journey built to fuel patient choice, Hall says. “That’s the beauty of Avita Care Solutions,” he says. “It empowers our covered entity partners and their patients to consistently access specialized care across the care continuum in safe and trusted environments.”
And that, Hall says, is something he can hang his hat on. “What I’m really stoked about,” he says, “is that together we’re taking the lessons we’ve learned from years of collected experience in medicine and public health and applying those strategies in a hyper-charged, technology-driven mode. It’s the capstone of my career, and it’s happening when this type of health care innovation can help end HIV. I couldn’t be more excited, and I don’t think I could make these contributions anywhere else.”
Team member snapshot:
Name: Christopher Hall, MD, MS, AAHIVS
Title: Chief Medical Officer, Avita Care Solutions
Location: Sarasota, Fla., but responsible for innovating and implementing Avita’s compassionate care provider model nationwide
Currently reading: Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of STDs, by Ina Park, MD
Favorite online wellness resource for providers: headspace.com
Pastimes/hobbies: So many dogs, spinning, gardening and chicken whispering, theatre and film