In the News: Aug 4–11

Safety Net Providers Can Help Expand Care Access

A recent Healthcare Finance article found that safety net providers can increase telehealth services by investing in new staff and technology to better increase patient access to medical specialists. However, it was identified that by expanding these telehealth services, more generous reimbursement policies or revenue from other sources, like grants, would be required.

Federally supported centers provide comprehensive primary care to medically underserved populations regardless of ability to pay or insurance status. A Rand Corporation study mentioned in the article focused on the experience of 9 community health centers in California that provided telehealth services to specialists from their primary care clinics. Clinics enrolled in the Sustainable Models of Telehealth in the Safety Net were examined to help transform the centers from low-volume to high-volume telehealth providers. Costs, high no-show rates, limited connectivity, restrictions for providers who can’t provide telehealth services and space needed for telehealth services were common barriers. To assist with expanding access, the overall recommendation included hiring a telehealth coordinator to lead efforts and incorporating a home model into telehealth services.

The safety net provider has been driven by its mission to provide care to the most vulnerable: the poor, those without insurance and populations largely dependent on Medicaid. By investing in partnerships and programs that address the social, environmental and behavioral needs of patients outside of the traditional medical setting, safety net providers have provided their peers with a blueprint to map their own social determinants of health (SDOH) Systems of CARE. Please read the Sg2 Expert Insight Improving the SDOH System of CARE: Lessons From Safety Net Providers to learn more about how some safety net providers are investing in partnerships and programs to increase access for their patients.

WellCare Partnership Provides Free Delivery Services to Seniors

A recent FierceHealthcare article discusses how WellCare Health Plan has launched free home delivery services for its Medicare Advantage members in partnership with Shipt.

Older Americans often struggle with accessing food and transportation, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. From March 1 to June 30, more than one-third of calls received to WellCare’s toll-free, national helpline were requests for food assistance among Medicare members. In response, WellCare is now offering a new delivery service to simplify access to everyday essentials such as food and medications.

Providing high-quality, cost-effective geriatric care and services is a formidable challenge facing health care organizations. Leading organizations have developed a variety of geriatric programs to meet their needs—from comprehensive, soup-to-nuts offerings to more limited options—and have adopted innovative approaches to overcome staffing challenges. The key to success when developing geriatric programs is striking the right balance between community need and financial feasibility. To learn more about how hospitals and health systems are addressing the growing needs of the aging population, read the Sg2 FAQ Silver Tsunami: A Coordinated Response to an Aging American Population.

Understanding the Role of Race in Health Outcomes

Another FierceHealthcare article calls out the role of structural racism in patient experiences in health care, questioning whether the industry itself actually understands its implications.

It’s become clear that medical interventions don’t solve poor health outcomes, health equity and racial disparities—60% of health outcomes come from social determinants of health (SDOH). However, for a multitude of reasons (eg, prioritization of strategies, decision-making barriers), not all organizations have embraced innovative models of care that address community health, and only some states reimburse for social services. Now, looking at SDOH with a 2020 perspective, study, intervention and progress must be an enterprise-wide effort, which will not only create health for the benefit of patient/provider/community, but also for the financial viability of the health system.

Disparities from poverty to homelessness to food insecurity contribute to poor community health outcomes and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Sg2’s view, all systems are well positioned to play some role—but not in single-handedly solving SDOH. Instead, organizations must collaborate with community partners to stitch together disparate services and stakeholders. Learn how to determine the extent to which your health system should contribute in the Sg2 report Social Determinants of Health: Stitching Together Solutions.

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