States continue to ease COVID-19 restrictions, patients return to regular healthcare, and vaccination numbers are rising. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have turned our backs on the pandemic. Healthcare leaders all acknowledge that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed healthcare, but how will care delivery models evolve? What does the future of healthcare look like?
While some healthcare leaders may point to the rise of new technology such as telehealth to provide care virtually, others will reflect on new models such as value-based care that have taken center stage. One important change that has not received the same level of attention is that, in many ways, the rise of the extended care team is equally important. We’ve long moved on from the point where concierge-level care was reserved for the wealthy. The pandemic has ushered in a new era of technology-enabled healthcare that supports patients more holistically, whether inside or outside the doctor’s office.
A patient health care “team” is growing, and below are some of the new players who will support patients in the COVID-19 world:
Care Manager: Quarterback of the patient’s health journey
Have you scheduled your vaccine appointment? Picked up your recipe refill? More than ever, patients are receiving personalized calls and messages from care managers to help assess condition, assure medication adherence, design care plans, provide education and facilitate follow-up care visits . In fact, between 2019 and 2020, calls between care managers and patients increased by nearly 70%, according to VirtualHealth data. Care managers empower patients to navigate the health care system more effectively, ensure equitable access and support compliance with prescribed activities and interventions.
While not new to the healthcare sector, the critical role of care managers has greatly increased during the pandemic. As payers and providers move towards value-based care models and proactive healthcare, patients and members are becoming more familiar with being a partner in their healthcare journey. Rather than waiting for patients to access the health care system when emergency care is needed, care managers proactively reach patients to prevent adverse health care incidents. For example, if a patient is due for an annual check-up, a care manager may reach out to help the patient schedule an appointment, while also coordinating a rideshare service to assist with transportation.
Community Resources: Non-Clinical Patient Support
While care managers may be considered the quarterbacks of the extended health care team, community resources are the deep benches that extend beyond the doctor’s office. As non-clinical factors determine 80% For a patient’s health, it is essential that care managers direct patients to community resources that support their socioeconomic, behavioral and daily living needs.
Community resources, from food banks to social work to transportation to housing assistance to behavioral counseling, are becoming an essential component of patient care planning. Consider the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Patients in rural areas may not have access to mass vaccination sites, or reliable transportation to get to distant pharmacies for a shot. Community resources are filling this gap by bringing vaccines to patients. In fact, as part of the US rescue plan, the US Department of Health and Services has allocated $1 billion Supporting vaccine education and distribution and expanding COVID-19 testing in rural communities by partnering with local community and health organizations. A care manager can easily determine what resources are readily available for a given member, schedule transportation to the vaccination site or visit the member’s home, and ensure that the member is vaccinated is.
Behavioral Health Professionals: Connecting Care for the Mind and Body
Between April 2020 and February 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 38% of adults Depression in the US had symptoms of anxiety, while between January and June 2019, only 11% of adults reported symptoms. There is a clear need for quality and affordable behavioral health support that will continue beyond the pandemic as the nation recovers.
Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen Growth in virtual mental health mobile apps and resources to help patients gain access to mental health care from the comfort of their homes. While these online therapy tools help address a critical need, it is important that these solutions communicate with the rest of the health care system so that primary care physicians and care managers are equipped with a 360-degree view of a patient’s health. Care management technology can bring these silos together so that patients can receive the proactive clinical and behavioral health support they need.
Responsibility of a Health Tech Innovator to Support Care Teams
As industry leaders envision the health care of the future, we see an important role for care managers, community resources and mental health professionals. Since 2019, we have seen a 34% increase in the frequency of interdisciplinary care team meetings between care providers and care managers across multiple specialties, and we expect this trend to continue. Each of these healthcare players plays an important role in providing a more equitable and proactive care experience for patients, especially our most vulnerable communities. As tech innovators, we must continue to provide technology solutions that provide seamless experiences for these healthcare heroes.
Photo: AlphaSpirit, Getty Images