In the News: June 11–18

Payers Up Their Investment in Affordable Housing

The UnitedHealth Group recently announced plans to invest an additional $100 million in affordable housing for 3 sites. Developed by The NHP Foundation, National Churches Residences and Volunteers of America, 1,000 units will be built in Washington, DC; Wharton, Texas; and Choctaw, Oklahoma. To evaluate the impact of housing stability on overall health status, an additional $1 million will be utilized for on-site health and wellness services and routine check-ins and monitoring for residents.

Since 2011, UnitedHealth Group has invested $500 million to help build 80 new affordable housing developments and 4,500 new homes in 18 states. The organization will be targeting individuals making 30% or less than the local median income, and these units will not be reserved for UnitedHealthcare members. UnitedHealth Group is joined by other competitors such as CVS and Kaiser Permanente who have also invested in affordable housing over the past few years.

Housing is oftentimes an overlooked determinant of health. Addressing housing instability can not only improve health outcomes, but it can also reduce the overall cost of care. To learn how 5 health systems and a health plan came together to address their community crisis in housing, please read the Sg2 case study on the Portland-based initiative Housing is Health.

Meditation App Improves Pain Management

A recent HealthcareIT News article highlights how Hartford Hospital has developed a meditation app to improve pain management for patients being treated for chronic pain, specifically neck/back pain, neuropathy and migraine headache. Treatment for chronic pain is shifting away from reliance on medication management and toward complementary and alternative medicine treatments that improve the function and quality of life for patients.

Although Harford’s medical staff has previously been interested in using meditation as part of treatment plans, they had issues with the consistency and variety of meditations as well as ease of access for patients. The new app eliminates these issues by providing reliable, data-driven meditation sessions and removing the need for meditation facilitators. Additionally, with the use of a mobile platform, patients can utilize the app from home or wherever they are being treated throughout the health system.

The need for pain management is anticipated to grow significantly over the coming decade due largely to scrutiny of surgical intervention and growing accountability for managing the health and health care expenditure for patients. Building a comprehensive pain management program is a significant process that should be done in a measured and careful manner. To find out more about the factors to consider before creating a chronic pain management program, please read the Sg2 FAQ Establishing a Comprehensive Pain Management Program.

What Will Happen to Virtual Care After COVID-19?

A recent Politico article discusses the explosion of virtual health usage during the COVID-19 outbreak and how there are expectations of virtual care being allowed to continue after the public health crisis has waned.

When the pandemic hit, the Trump administration lifted some regulatory restrictions on virtual care, and states and private health insurers also expanded their coverage. Early results have shown that patients quickly adapted to virtual health, and many people who might otherwise struggle with access to services have been able to get care. Virtual health has also helped those with chronic conditions keep up with care and has been vital for behavioral health. The question now is—amidst concerns regarding virtual health being an easy target for fraud, as well as its potential to drive up US health care costs—can Congress and Medicare be convinced to allow virtual care to continue long-term?

Sg2 anticipates virtual health utilization over the next 5 years will reach levels previously not expected for a decade, partly because consumers’ increased appetite for social-distanced care certainly will outlast this public health crisis. Thus, health systems must pursue any current ramp-up with an eye toward long-term strategy, as lasting impact on utilization trends is a certainty. To learn immediate and subsequent action steps organizations should pursue to ensure virtual health program success, read Sg2’s COVID-19 Action Steps: Accelerating Virtual Health.

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