Meeting growing consumer demand for “care anywhere”

https://mailchi.mp/7d224399ddcb/the-weekly-gist-july-3-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

 

While COVID-19 provided a big push for doctors and health systems to rapidly expand telemedicine visits and other kinds of remote patient interactions, many report that they are now seeing telemedicine visits decline sharply, as in-person visits return.

While it’s natural to be glad that “things are returning to normal”, backing off virtual care is short-sighted, as recent experiences have set new expectations for patients. Survey data shows consumers like using telehealth services, both because they’re more convenient (65 percent) and help avoid COVID infection (63 percent)—and 51 percent say they would continue using them after the pandemic ends.

We’re increasingly convinced that virtual physician visits are just one part of a continuum of care that can be delivered in the convenience and safety of the patient’s home. The graphic below highlights the range of consumer-focused virtual care solutions, from asynchronous chat interactions all the way to hospital care delivered at home.

Health systems that can deliver “care anywhere”—an integrated platform of virtual services consumers can access from home (or wherever they are) for both urgent needs and overall health management, coordinated with in-person resources—have an unprecedented opportunity to build loyalty at a time when consumers are seeking a trusted source of safe, available care solutions.

 

 

340 organizations tell Congress to make telehealth permanent

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/340-organizations-tell-congress-make-telehealth-permanent?utm_source=SFMC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NL-HFN-NewsDay-2020-07-01+-+20200629_101004+-+20200630_102918+-+20200630_181109+-+20200701_104543%e2%80%8b

Advocacy and Policy | Primary Care Collaborative

New report finds the growth of telemedicine visits has plateaued and accounts for a relatively small percentage of rebounding ambulatory care.

On Monday, 340 organizations signed a letter urging Congress to make telehealth flexibilities created during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. 

Those signing the letter include national and regional organizations representing a range of healthcare stakeholders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Congress quickly waived statutory barriers to allow for expanded access to telehealth at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing federal agencies with the flexibility to allow healthcare providers to deliver care virtually.

Stakeholders also want Congress to remove restrictions on the location of the patient to ensure that all patients can access care at home, and other appropriate locations; to maintain and enhance HHS authority to determine appropriate providers and services for telehealth; ensure federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics can furnish telehealth services after the public health emergency; and make permanent the Health and Human Services temporary waiver authority for future emergencies.

While federal agencies can address some of these policies going forward, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid does not have the authority to make changes to Medicare reimbursement policy for telehealth under current law, stakeholders said.

In a statement separate from the letter to Congress, Lux Research Associate Danielle Bradnan said key concerns for legislators are broadband internet access, payer reimbursement and licensure barriers, since, currently, medical licenses are only valid for specific states.

WHY THIS MATTERS

If Congress does not act before the COVID-19 public health emergency expires, current flexibilities will disappear, according to stakeholders.

The PHE is scheduled to expire in July.

In a tweet late yesterday, Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for public affairs, said HHS is expected to renew the PHE before it expires. It has already been renewed once.

THE LARGER TREND

The use of telehealth has skyrocketed under in-person restrictions under COVID-19.

Private health plans have followed suit, the letter said, resulting in a 4,300% year-over-year increase in claims for March 2020.

However, a new report from the Commonwealth Fund has found that the growth of telemedicine visits has plateaued and account for a relatively small percentage of rebounding ambulatory care services.

As states experiment with reopening – and re-closing – their economies in response to concerns around rising coronavirus cases, the report found that telemedicine visits have actually been declining since April.

 

 

 

 

Primary care physicians could take $15 billion hit due to COVID-19 in 2020

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/primary-care-physicians-could-take-15-billion-hit-due-to-covid-19-in-2020/580600/

Dive Brief:

  • The financial impact on primary care practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been profound and will likely continue in the months ahead, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.
  • Visits of all types to medical practices declined 58% in March and April compared to the baseline average, and in-person patient encounters declined by 69%, the study found. Although visits are expected to have rebounded by June, volumes are still below pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • The drop in fee-for-service revenue for the 2020 calendar year is nearly $68,000 per physician, contributing to an estimated revenue decline of 12.5%. That’s a steep enough loss to threaten the financial viability of many practices. Losses to primary care practices nationwide could top $15 billion over the year — a number that could grow if the federal government reverts increased telemedicine payment rates.

Dive Insight:

Medical practices across the United States have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new study by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the American Board of Family Medicine attempts to put a price tag on that hit by running a microsimulation for projected 2020 revenues based on volume data for general practices, general internal medicine practices, general pediatric practices and family medicine practices.

As a result, they concluded that the average revenue loss per practice per physician will be $67,774, even taking into account revenue generated by telemedicine visits, which did not make up for the massive loss of patient volume during the spring.

That loss could be cut to as little as $28,265 per full-time physician if other staff is furloughed and salaries are cut to the 25th percentile of such cuts that took place during the peak of the stay-at-home orders.

Some practices are also projected to have steeper losses. Rural primary care practices are projected to lose $75,274 per physician. Other studies have suggested that pediatric practices have been hit harder than other primary care fields. Some organizations, such as the American Medical Group Association, say revenue won’t rebound fully even next year.

The study also conducted various alternate scenarios for the remainder of 2020, including a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall. The researchers estimated that would cut patient volumes by about half as much as what occurred during the spring. However, the financial hit would deepen even further, reaching $85,666 per physician.

Altogether, the study projects primary care practices will lose $15.1 billion in fee-for-service revenue this year, not even accounting for a second wave of the coronavirus. The study’s authors note that “this loss would balloon substantially if telemedicine payment rates revert back to pre-COVID-19 levels towards the end of the year.”

The study concluded that while primary care physicians as a whole have not been as hard hit as the hospital sector, the services they provide in managing chronic diseases such as diabetes and as the port of entry for many into the healthcare system makes them too valuable to suffer sustained levels of financial damage.

 

 

 

Re-examining the delivery of high-value care through COVID-19

https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/502851-examining-the-delivery-of-high-value-care-through-covid-19#bottom-story-socials

Re-examining the delivery of high-value care through COVID-19 ...

Over the past months, the country and the economy have radically shifted to unchartered territory. Now more than ever, we must reexamine how we spend health care dollars. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed challenges with health care in America, we see two overarching opportunities for change:

1) the under-delivery of evidence-based care that materially improves the lives and well-being of Americans and

2) the over-delivery of unnecessary and, sometimes, harmful care.

The implications of reallocating our health care spending to high-value services are far-ranging, from improving health to economic recovery. 

To prepare for coronavirus patients and preserve protective equipment, clinicians and hospitals across the country halted non-urgent visits and procedures. This has led to a substantial reduction in high-value care: emergency care for strokes or heart attacks, childhood vaccinations, and routine chronic disease management. However, one silver lining to this near shutdown is that a similarly dramatic reduction in the use of low-value services has also ensued.

As offices and hospitals re-open, we have a once in a century opportunity to align incentives for providers and consumers, so patients get more high-value services in high-value settings, while minimizing the resurgence of low-value care. For example, the use of pre-operative testing in low-risk patients should not accompany the return of elective procedures such as cataract removal. Conversely, benefit designs should permanently remove barriers to high-value settings and services, like patients receiving dialysis at home or phone calls with mental health providers.   

People with low incomes and multiple chronic conditions are of particular concern as unemployment rises and more Americans lose their health care coverage. Suboptimal access and affordability to high-value chronic disease care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was well documented  As financially distressed providers re-open to a new normal, hopeful to regain their financial footing, highly profitable services are likely to be prioritized.

Unfortunately, clinical impact and profitability are frequently not linked. The post-COVID reopening should build on existing quality-driven payment models and increase reimbursement for high-value care to ensure that compensation better aligns with patient-centered outcomes.

At the same time, the dramatic fall in “non-essential care” included a significant reduction in services that we know to be harmful or useless. Billions are spent annually in the US on routinely delivered care that does not improve health; a recent study from 4 states reports that patients pay a substantial proportion (>10 percent) of this tab out-of-pocket. This type of low-value care can lead to direct harm to patients — physically or financially or both — as well as cascading iatrogenic harm, which can amplify the total cost of just one low-value service by up to 10 fold. Health care leaders, through the Smarter Health Care Coalition, have hence called on the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Azar to halt Medicare payments for services deemed low-value or harmful by the USPSTF. 

As offices and hospitals reopen with unprecedented clinical unmet needs, we have a unique opportunity to rebuild a flawed system. Payment policies should drive incentives to improve individual and population health, not the volume of services delivered. We emphasize that no given service is inherently high- or low-value, but that it depends heavily on the individual context. Thus, the implementation of new financial incentives for providers and patients needs to be nuanced and flexible to allow for patient-level variability. The added expenditures required for higher reimbursement rates for highly valuable services can be fully paid for by reducing the use of and reimbursement for low-value services.  

The delivery of evidence-based care should be the foundation of the new normal. We all agree that there is more than enough money in U.S. health care; it’s time that we start spending it on services that will make us a healthier nation.

 

 

 

Thinking through the new continuum of urgent care

https://mailchi.mp/d594e7a0c816/the-weekly-gist-june-19-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

About ZOOM+Care | On-Demand Healthcare Unlike Any Other

We’ve both received care from of Portland, OR-based Zoom+Care when traveling, and are big fans of its highly efficient, consumer-centric clinic design and urgent care model. We’ve heard reports from across the country that urgent care visits have been slow to rebound as in-person healthcare services have reopened (no surprise that people are reticent to return to a care setting where sitting in a waiting room next to a coughing patient is often part of the experience).

We wondered if Zoom+Care, with scheduled appointments and operations that largely eliminate the wait, had fared any better, and recently we caught up with Torben Nielsen, the company’s CEO, to hear about his experiences across the past three months. As COVID-19 hit in March, Zoom+Care quickly eliminated self-scheduled visits and took many of its 50 clinics offline, requiring all patients to be triaged virtually before any in-person care. The company had a robust chat visit function already in place, and like most health systems, quickly brought video and phone visits online in the first weeks of the pandemic.

They’ve now delivered more than 30,000 virtual visits. With 34 percent of virtual visits coming from patients in markets where Zoom+Care does not have clinics, telehealth has driven rapid expansion into new markets, presenting both opportunities (virtual demand highlights where to site new clinics) and challenges (the need to quickly develop referral relationships for the 10-20 percent of telemedicine patients who would benefit from in-person follow-up).

Telemedicine visits have continued to grow even as self-scheduling was turned back on and in-person volume returned. Nielsen thinks centralization will be a big part of their ongoing virtual care strategy. Over the years Zoom+Care learned that chat visits required a different provider skill set, necessitating a dedicated team—and the same is true of phone and video visits. They’re also exploring what specialty care can be managed virtually, and the best modes to deliver it.

Case in point: it’s no surprise that a visually-oriented specialty like dermatology is well-suited for virtual. But with the grainy images of videoconferencing software, telemedicine falls far short of chat-based care, where a patient can send a high-resolution image and text back and forth with the provider. Given that payment for chat visits falls fall short of video visits, Zoom+Care is now exploring new relationships and economic models to support a multimodal, multispecialty care model.

A fascinating conversation, and confirmation that creating the ideal access platform will require not just layering telemedicine on top of the existing “physical” clinic footprint, but redesigning the entire care journey to create a seamless and connected access experience.

 

 

 

 

My telemedicine visit was a little too “normal”

https://mailchi.mp/d594e7a0c816/the-weekly-gist-june-19-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

In Depth: COVID-19 and Telemedicine in N.H. | New Hampshire Public ...

Needing a quick prescription refill, I logged on to my first post-COVID telemedicine visit with my primary care physician this week—and while I appreciated being able to meet with my doctor from my living room, the experience revealed the kinks in the way many practices are delivering virtual care. To schedule, I filled out a form on the website, which triggered a follow-up call from practice staff the next morning.

Straightforward, but far from an “Open Table” level of simplicity. The technology worked just fine: a single click on an emailed link launched Microsoft Teams (which happened to already be installed on my laptop), and I was met by a medical assistant dialing in from an exam room in the practice. She took my information, said the doctor would be joining shortly, and left.

So I waited. And waited. The camera was on, and I was left looking at the blood pressure cuff, otoscope and ophthalmoscope hanging on the wall—literally the same view I would’ve had sitting on the exam table (I just needed to don a paper gown and turn the thermostat down ten degrees to completely replicate the experience of being there in person). I waited some more—22 minutes to be precise, as the webinar screen had a count-up clock recording just how long I was looking at the wall.

My doctor is a great clinician, and surely was running behind because she was spending time with a patient who needed her attention. Once she came into the room, the visit was efficient—and we talked about the challenges of transitioning to virtual care. I was happy to cut the practice some slack since I know them, but it would have been really underwhelming if I were a new patient—honestly, I probably wouldn’t be a repeat user. And it fell far short of what is needed to create a differentiated virtual care offering.

Like everything else “digital” in our lives, we want telemedicine to be easy, integrated, efficient and on time—and our expectations for experience are set outside of healthcare. One thing was made painfully obvious: providers need to make sure not to replicate the frustrating parts of traditional office visits, as they look to create a lasting, sustainable virtual care platform.

 

 

 

 

Walmart to expand health centers to Arkansas this month

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/strategy/walmart-to-expand-health-centers-to-arkansas-this-month.html?utm_medium=email

Walmart Opening More Healthcare 'Super Centers'

Walmart will open two more standalone health clinics this month, including a site in Arkansas, the company said June 17.

The health clinics, called Walmart Health, will offer primary care, imaging, lab, dental and behavioral health services. 

The health clinics opening this month will be in Loganville, Ga., and Springdale, Ark. The Loganville Walmart Health opened June 17. The first Arkansas location will open June 24.

The company already has clinics in the Georgia cities of Dallas and Calhoun.

Walmart said it believes that expanding the standalone clinics will help bring affordable, quality healthcare to more Americans, because 90 percent of them live within 10 miles of a Walmart store. 

“Patients have responded favorably to our low, transparent pricing for key healthcare services, regardless of insurance status,” Walmart’s senior vice president of health and wellness, Sean Slovenski wrote in a blog post. “They’re also appreciative of the convenience of our facilities that offer primary and urgent care, labs, X-ray and diagnostics, counseling, dental, optical and hearing services, all in one central facility.”

 

 

 

 

How The Rapid Shift To Telehealth Leaves Many Community Health Centers Behind During The COVID-19 Pandemic

https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200529.449762/full/

How to reduce the impact of coronavirus on our lives - The ...

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the landscape of ambulatory care with rapid shifts to telehealth. Well-resourced hospitals have quickly made the transition. Community health centers (CHCs), which serve more than 28 million low-income and disproportionately uninsured patients in rural and underserved urban areas of the United States, have not fared as well since ambulatory visits have disappearedresulting in furloughs, layoffs, and more than 1,900 temporary site closures throughout the country. Government officials have taken notice, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act infused $1.32 billion toward COVID-19 response and maintaining CHC capacity.

Many states have directed insurers to temporarily cover COVID-19-related services via telehealth while mandating parity of reimbursement for telehealth visits with in-person visits for their Medicaid program.

Preparedness Of Community Health Centers For Telehealth

Despite the changes, many health centers may not be ready to implement high-quality telehealth. study using 2016 data showed that only 38 percent of CHCs used any telehealth. In our review of 2018 Uniform Data System data—the most recent available—from a 100 percent sample of US CHCs, we found that our nation’s health centers are largely unprepared for this transformation.

Across the US, 56 percent of 1,330 CHCs did not have any telehealth use in 2018 (exhibit 1). Of those without telehealth use, only about one in five were in the process of actively implementing or exploring telehealth. Meanwhile, 47 percent of the centers using telehealth were doing so only with specialists such as those at referral centers, rather than with patients. Of those using telehealth, the majority (68 percent) used it to provide mental health services; fewer used it for primary care (30 percent) or management of chronic conditions (21 percent), suggesting that most CHCs with telehealth capabilities prior to COVID-19 were not using it for the most frequent types of services provided at CHCs.

CHCs not using telehealth reported several barriers to implementation (exhibit 2). Thirty-six percent cited lack of reimbursement, 23 percent lacked funding for equipment, and 21 percent lacked training for providing telehealth. Although most barriers were similar in both urban and rural regions, a greater proportion of rural clinics compared to urban clinics (18 percent versus 7 percent) reported inadequate broadband services as an issue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the enormous disparities in telehealth capacity. Without adequate telehealth capacity and support, many CHCs will be left without means of providing the continuous preventive and chronic disease care that can keep communities healthy and out of the hospital. During the crisis, the Health Resources and Services Administration estimates that CHCs have seen 57 percent of the number of weekly visits compared to pre-COVID-19 visit rates, 51 percent of which have been conducted virtually, suggesting that many CHC patients have forgone care that they would have otherwise received. Given CHCs serve a disproportionate share of low-income, racial/ethnic minority, and immigrant populations—populations hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic—any disruption to CHC capacity may exacerbate the racial disparities that have rapidly emerged.

While an important first step, policy makers cannot simply infuse more funding to CHCs and expect them to withstand the challenges of the COVID-19 era. We recommend three targeted strategies to help CHCs adapt and perhaps even thrive beyond COVID-19: legislate permanent parity in telehealth reimbursement for all insurers; allocate sufficient funding and guidance for telehealth equipment, personnel, training, and protocols; and implement telehealth systems tailored to vulnerable populations.

Permanent All-Payer Parity For Telehealth Reimbursement

Payment parity—where telehealth is reimbursed at the same level as an in-person visit—is a crucial issue that must be addressed and instituted beyond the current public health emergency. Without commensurate reimbursement for telehealth, CHCs cannot maintain patient volume or make the long-term investments necessary to remain financially viable. A “global budget” of paying CHCs a fixed payment per patient per month would give practices flexibility in how and where to treat the patient, although this may be politically and practically challenging. Meanwhile, payment parity has already been implemented and could simply be permanently codified into existing reimbursement schemes, giving providers the option to select the best mode of treatment without making financial trade-offs.

In reviewing state telehealth policies during COVID-19, all states have implemented temporary executive orders or released guidance on telehealth access—although with significant variations. At least 22 states have explicitly implemented telehealth parity for Medicaid. For Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded access to telehealth beyond designated rural areas, loosened HIPAA requirements around telehealth platforms, and instituted parity in reimbursement with in-person visits.

To build on these significant steps, states should mandate telehealth parity across all payers and cover all services provided at CHCs, not just COVID-19-related care. At least 12 states have mandated all-payer parity for telehealth. Meanwhile, private insurers have individually adjusted telehealth policies on a state-by-state basis if there was no statewide mandate. Nevertheless, all payers should reimburse at parity given the patchwork quilt of insurance plans that exists at CHCs.

Furthermore, state legislatures and CMS should look to extend parity beyond the current COVID-19 emergency so that CHCs can make sustainable investments that continue to benefit patients. Even as states reopen, in-person visits are unlikely to return to their previous volume as the threat of infection continues to loom. Temporary measures should be made permanent so that CHCs can make sustainable investments that continue to benefit patients.

Funding And Guidance For Equipment, Personnel, Training, And Protocols

For telehealth to function smoothly and reduce errors, proper hardware and software are critical, including telephone service, computers, broadband internet access, and electronic health records. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released funding to procure telehealth services and devices and some CHCs have received private funding; similar targeted funding mechanisms from states and the federal government are necessary at scale to equip hundreds of CHCs with the necessary telehealth capabilities.

However, merely having technology is not sufficient. Proper personnel with appropriate training are key to a high-functioning telehealth system along with support from information technology specialists. Additionally, CHCs need ancillary systems in place to allow for the effective use of phone and video visits. Empanelment systems to attribute patients to providers can allow for longitudinal follow-up even with telehealth. Daily huddles and team-based care can enhance the inherent complexities of coordinating care remotely. Protocols should be tailored for different specialties and services such as nutrition management and social work. Meanwhile, a robust e-consult referral network should allow primary care providers at CHCs to easily connect patients to specialty care when necessary. Adding robust protocols and systems will allow for the successful implementation and scaling of telehealth.

For example, groups of CHCs called the Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs), which have traditionally collaborated to leverage health information technology, are positioned to harness their economies of scale and group purchasing power to widely adopt new infrastructure while standardizing protocols. They could be a means to accelerate the adoption of telehealth technologies, trainings, and care models to optimize the use of telehealth across CHCs.

Telehealth Support For Vulnerable Patients

The patient population seen by CHCs presents unique challenges that not all ambulatory practices, particularly those in affluent neighborhoods, may face. Health centers care for many immigrant patients with limited English proficiency. Thus, clinics need financial support to contract with telehealth interpreter and translation services to provide equitable access and care. Better yet, all telehealth platforms contracting with CHCs should be required to provide multilingual support to deliver equitable access to telehealth services.

Moreover, many low-income patients lack health and digital literacy. Virtual telehealth platforms should design applications such that interfaces are intuitive and easy to navigate. They should provide specialized support to guide patients who are not familiar with telehealth systems. Additionally, insurers can reimburse CHCs that provide patient navigators, care coordinators, and shared decision-making support that bridge the health literacy divide.

Many around the US also do not have access to high-speed internet, consistent telephone services, and phones or computers with video conferencing capabilities. First, to allow for flexible access to telehealth for all patients, insurers should permanently waive geographic and originating site restrictions that limit the type and location of facilities from which patients can use telehealth. Second, insurers should waive audio-video requirements and consistently reimburse for phone-only visits to accommodate patients without video conferencing. Third, the type of services covered by telehealth should be expanded—ranging from primary care to physical therapy to nutrition counseling to behavioral health.

To address disparities in ownership of digital devices, taking a page out of the book of educators in low-income neighborhoods, local governments could loan laptops and smartphones or supply internet hotspots and phone-charging stations for these communities to enable access. Additionally, insurers could reimburse for the FCC Lifeline program to provide affordable communication services and cellular data to low-income populations to maintain their outpatient care.

Conclusions

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the US, health care delivery will never be the same. Health centers are struggling as many have been largely unprepared for the abrupt swing toward telehealth. COVID-19 may pose long-lasting damaging effects on CHCs and the patient populations that they serve. Nonspecific federal and state funding will allow CHCs to survive; however, deliberate action is needed to enhance telehealth capacities and ensure long-term resilience.

Similar to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ recent letter to CMS to make various telehealth changes permanent, both CMS and state governments should take immediate action by making permanent parity in reimbursement for telehealth services by all payers. State and federal policy should direct payers to lift onerous restrictions on the types of services covered via telehealth, audio/video requirements, and geographic and originating sites of telehealth services. States and payers should also explore innovative solutions to expand access to cellular data services and digital devices that allow low-income patients to digitally “get to their appointment,” similar to non-emergency medical transportation. Local governments should invest in digital infrastructure that expands broadband coverage and provides internet or cellular access points for people to engage in telehealth. Additionally, CHCs should come together under HCCNs to harness their group purchasing power to rapidly implement telehealth infrastructure that provides multilingual support and other tools that bridge gaps in digital literacy. Finally, best practices, trainings, and protocols should be standardized and disseminated across CHC networks to optimize the quality of telehealth.  

By reorienting the goals for implementing telehealth, policy makers, payers, and providers can empower health centers to thrive into the future and meet the nation’s underserved patients where they are, even during the pandemic. In the long run, telehealth can increase access and equity—but only if the right investments are made now to fill the gaps laid bare by COVID-19.

 

 

 

 

Kaiser Permanente: 8 key capabilities for a sustained response to COVID-19

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/kaiser-permanente-8-key-capabilities-for-a-sustained-response-to-covid-19?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1dRNE5UVmhOR014WVRBNSIsInQiOiJMbGJHalA3UVBpNnpFb1dmMlozajNmSmJ1ZFZMYjgxUWJqdER6dmdteENYZnVYVlg0ZFdpRDIwVTh6ZW56MjNVTTVHbm9mWHFtTVlPcllUN1JjbHpiUGw5MFJxVnpHN3JaRFhMdGZSdUdlSHdQRjBqbnY1Ym9pUTErbDdEdThOZSJ9&mrkid=959610

Kaiser Permanente: 8 key capabilities for a sustained response to ...

As the industry braces for the next phase of COVID-19, experts at Kaiser Permanente are sharing several key capabilities that will be critical to prepare for another potential surge.

In an article for NEJM Catalyst, leaders at the healthcare giant highlight eight focus areas health systems must consider as the country reopens and offer a look at how Kaiser Permanente tackled those challenges.

A critical starting point, they write, is a robust testing program that feeds into essential contact tracing and monitoring of any spikes in cases. As of May 18, Kaiser Permanente has performed more than 233,706 diagnostic tests and is also tracking the spread telephonically through its call centers as well as secure emails between patients and doctors.

The Oakland, California-based system is also mulling greater use of patient symptom surveying and harnessing data within electronic health records to further enhance the testing effort, according to the article.

Stephen Parodi, M.D., executive vice president at The Permanente Federation and Kaiser Permanente’s national infectious disease leader, told Fierce Healthcare that the goal of the paper is to spotlight how crucial it is to consider all fronts in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways here is that we need a complete and comprehensive approach to suppress the virus,” Parodi, one of the report’s lead authors, said.

Bechara Choucair, M.D., senior vice president and chief health officer at Kaiser Permanente, is also one of the paper’s lead authors.

The other capabilities included in the report are:

  • Enhanced contact tracing and isolation efforts
  • Robust community health efforts
  • Home health care options
  • Ability to maintain surge capacity
  • Targeted and safe strategies to reopen
  • Ongoing research on the virus
  • Effective communication with patients

Parodi said two of the biggest challenges Kaiser Permanente faced in working through this checklist of capabilities were a lack of supplies and the need to work alongside other organizations.

He said that didn’t only mean strengthening and reinforcing existing relationships with community groups but also reaching out to other health systems and providers to coordinate plans and work together.

It also required coordination between officials and policymakers at all levels of government, he said.

“Having the leaders at individual medical centers working with the county level folks is really key to making sure that we’re aware of each other’s work and response, then actually syncing them together,” Parodi said.

Parodi also said that Kaiser Permanente went “wholesale” into using telehealth during the initial surge of COVID-19 cases, and now the system and its physicians will be working together to determine where virtual care is most appropriate and effective, as the interest in and growth of those services isn’t going away anytime soon.

He added that moving into the reopening phase poses its own set of challenges, because it’s an “unprecedented” situation to navigate.

Kaiser Permanente is aiming to center shared decision-making and patient education in the response to reopening, he said, while also providing guidance to support providers. That way, decisions are ultimately made by the doctor and patient, but they’re informed and guided decisions, he said.

“There is no set playbook for how to do it right,” Parodi said.

 

 

 

 

Telehealth could grow to a $250B revenue opportunity post-COVID-19: analysis

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/tech/telehealth-could-grow-to-a-250b-revenue-opportunity-post-covid-mckinsey-reports

virtual visit

With the acceleration of consumer and provider adoption of telehealth, a quarter of a trillion dollars in current U.S. healthcare spend could be done virtually, according to a new report.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer adoption of telehealth has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace canceled healthcare visit, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company’s COVID-19 consumer survey conducted in April.

McKinsey’s survey also found that about 76% of consumers say they are highly or moderately likely to use telehealth in the future. Seventy-four percent of people who had used telehealth reported high satisfaction.

Health systems, independent practices, behavioral health providers, and other healthcare organizations rapidly scaled telehealth offerings to fill the gap between need and canceled in-person care. Providers are ready for the shift to virtual care: 57% view telehealth more favorably than they did before COVID-19 and 64% are more comfortable using it, according to McKinsey’s recent provider surveys.

Pre-COVID-19, the total annual revenues of U.S. telehealth players were an estimated $3 billion, with the largest vendors focused on virtual urgent care.

Telehealth is now poised to take a bigger share of the healthcare market as McKinsey estimates that up to $250 billion, or 20% of all Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial outpatient, office, and home health spend could be done virtually.

The consulting firm looked at anonymized claims data representative of commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid utilization.

The company’s claims-based analysis suggests that approximately 20% of all emergency room visits could potentially be avoided via virtual urgent care offerings, 24% of healthcare office visits and outpatient volume could be delivered virtually, and an additional 9% “near-virtually.”

Up to 35% of regular home health attendant services could be virtualized, and 2% of all outpatient volume could be shifted to the home setting, with tech-enabled medication administration.

Many of the dynamics that have helped to expand telehealth adoption are likely to be in place for at least the next 12 to 18 months, as concerns about COVID-19 remain until a vaccine is widely available.

Going forward, telehealth can increase access to necessary care in areas with shortages, such as behavioral health, improve the patient experience, and improve health outcomes, McKinsey reported.

Providers and patients are concerned that recent federal and state policies expanding access to telehealth will be rolled back once the emergency period ends.

Industry groups, including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), are calling on lawmakers to ensure the changes enacted by Congress and the administration become permanent.

McKinsey’s research indicates providers’ concerns about telehealth include security, workflow integration, effectiveness compared with in-person visits, and the future for reimbursement.

“We call on Medicare and all other insurers to continue to fund telehealth programs and work collaboratively on coverage and coding to lessen provider burden. We cannot go back to pre-COVID telehealth; instead, we must go forward. Patients will demand it and providers will expect it,” CHIME CEO and President Russell Branzell said in a recent statement.

Telehealth also is drawing bipartisan support. Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., urged Congress to “continue to support this expansion and codify the administration’s changes to support the health needs of the American people,” in a recent news release.

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Illinois, is introducing a bill directing HHS Secretary Alex Azar to oversee a telehealth study looking at the technology’s impact on health and costs, Politico reported in its newsletter today.

 

Taking advantage of the telehealth opportunity

Healthcare providers and payers will need to take action to ensure the full potential of telehealth is realized after the crisis has passed, according to McKinsey.

There continue to be challenges as providers cite concerns about telehealth include security, workflow integration, effectiveness compared with in-person visits, and the future for reimbursement. There also is a gap between consumers’ interest in telehealth (76%) and actual usage (46%). Factors such as lack of awareness of telehealth offerings and understanding of insurance coverage are some of the drivers of this gap.

“The current crisis has demonstrated the relevance of telehealth and created an opening to modernize the care delivery system,” McKinsey consultants wrote. “Healthcare systems that come out ahead will be those who act decisively, invest to build capabilities at scale, work hard to rewire the care delivery model, and deliver distinctive high-quality care to consumers.”

McKinsey outlined steps industry stakeholders should take to drive the growth of telehealth.

 

Payers: Health plans should look to optimize provider networks and accelerate value-based contracting to incentivize telehealth. Align incentives for using telehealth, particularly for chronic patients, with the shift to risk-based payment models.

Payers also should build virtual health into new product designs to meet changing consumer preferences, This new design may include virtual-first networks, digital front-door features (for example, e-triage), seamless “plug-and-play” capabilities to offer innovative digital solutions, and benefit coverage for at-home diagnostic kits.

 

Health systems: Hospitals and health systems should accelerate the development of an overall consumer-integrated “front door.” Consider what the integrated product will initially cover beyond what currently exists and integrate with what may have been put in place in response to COVID-19, for example, e-triage, scheduling, clinic visits, record access.

Providers also should build the capabilities and incentives of the provider workforce to support virtual care, including, workflow design, centralized scheduling, and continuing education. And, health systems need to take steps to measure the value of virtual care by quantifying clinical outcomes, access improvement, and patient/provider satisfaction. Include the potential value from telehealth when contracting with payers for risk models to manage chronic patients, McKinsey said.

 

Investors and health technology firms: These players also can support the new reality of expanded telehealth services. Technology firms should consider developing scenarios on how virtual health will evolve and when, including how usage evolved post-COVID-19, based on expected consumer preferences, reimbursement, CMS and other regulations.

Investors also should develop potential options and define investment strategies based on the expected virtual health future. For example, combinations of existing players/platforms, linkages between in-person and virtual care offerings and create sustainable value. Investors and technology companies also can identify the assets and capabilities to implement these options, including specific assets or capabilities to best enable the play, and business models that will deliver attractive returns.