The move to value-based care was already in full swing when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted. But the health system’s response to the pandemic offers a clue to the bold idea that technology can enable healthcare delivery organizations to provide safe and cost-effective care.
Value-based care puts a premium on using approaches that get care to patients quickly, identifying problems as soon as possible, when they are less severe and can be treated at less cost and risk to patients. There’s been some adoption of simple solutions, but few bold initiatives had gained traction.
In March, COVID-19 came like a freight train, and provider organizations had little option but to change practices immediately. Telehealth is a case in point; data gathered by Harvard University and Phreesia, a healthcare technology company, and published by the Commonwealth Fund showed that the number of telemedicine visits, as a percentage of all healthcare encounters, rose from 1 percent in mid-March to 14 percent of all encounters by April 19. Years of resistance to telehealth were reversed as clinicians and patients alike became addicted to the immediacy of access.
The move to virtual care also raises a potential link between remote patient monitoring and home care delivery. Years ago, cable TV companies such as Comcast studied using their connections into consumers’ homes to bring healthcare services, but demand wasn’t there to support it. Now, with coronavirus concerns leaving more patients recovering at home and healthcare workers stretched too thin to care for them regularly, technology is seen as a way to fill the void. Healthcare providers must explore non-traditional partnerships to enter the patient’s home.
Froedtert Health has increasingly been prescribing Babyscripts, a smartphone-based app that enables pregnant mothers to have virtual visits and record personal information for review by their doctors. By doing so, virtual visits can be used to reduce in-person visits. For expecting moms at risk of complications, they can use Bluetooth-connected devices to monitor weight or A1c levels, and those measurements can be monitored daily.
The linkage between virtual care modalities became more evident in recent months with Teladoc’s acquisition of Livongo, which offers a platform for remote monitoring of diabetes and other chronic conditions, in an aggressive buy estimated at $18.5 billion. This acquisition solidified the future of bringing together technology solutions to provide intelligence on sensors or data points connected to a patient.
Gig company partnerships
CIOs should explore technology partnerships with other industries that haven’t worked together in the past, particularly to meet substantial deficits identified as social determinants of health (SDOH).
For example, health systems should explore working with a grocery delivery service platform like Instacart to ensure that patients get appropriate groceries as selected by a certified dietician. This model could also be used to ensure that patients get timely delivery of prescribed medications.
Other SDOH initiatives health systems are using include offering ride vouchers to enable patients to get rides from Lyft or Uber for medical appointments. The potential for technology to address SDOH is one reason why AHIP started Project Link to bring together industry players across different markets and geographies to work on social issues and barriers to care like housing, healthy eating, and transportation.
The acceptance of technology in a rush to safely deliver care during the pandemic has opened the door to the industry’s approval. Health system CIOs need to look at new options with no hesitation and take the leap now. A risk-averse mentality will not work in the new normal.