Leveraging Telehealth for Chronic Disease Care and Integrated...
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Leveraging Telehealth for Chronic Disease Care and Integrated Digital Solution

By Amanda Reed, Director of Operations for Mednow, Spectrum Health

Amanda Reed, Director of Operations for Mednow, Spectrum Health

Like other progressive health systems across the country, Spectrum Health is focused on transforming care and providing consumers with a personalized experience. Two initiatives underway that underscore this focus are expanded offerings for virtual care and digital health through Spectrum Health’s telehealth program, MedNow, and advancing digital innovations.

By integrating video visits into Spectrum Health Medical Group’s primary care practices, we are expanding the way we care for patients who are chronically ill. Our direct-to-consumer telehealth program, which incorporates an app for virtual visits for patients with low-acuity conditions, is also focusing on chronic disease management. In building upon the foundation of MedNow, we are providing patients with chronic conditions direct and convenient access to their providers. In turn, providers are now able to follow up and manage care for their patients for chronic diseases, all while the patient remains at home.

Six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease. Four in ten adults have two or more of them. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. They are also the leading drivers of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual health care costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this heightened awareness of chronic diseases, the need for ongoing medical attention to manage them is greater than ever. That’s why Spectrum Health has turned to telehealth as an intervention to effectively provide cost-effective education and care, while increasing patient engagement, provider efficiencies, and patient outcomes.

"There’s tremendous opportunity for mobile health to provide increased support and connections for patients in between doctor appointments, as well as to help them improve their health-related behaviors and health outcomes overall"

Spectrum Health designed its program to meet the needs of chronic care patients by focusing on three main principles to guide development: seamless technology, high personal touch, and an integrated approach. This model has led to early success. More than 1,000 patients with chronic conditions have participated in a video visit with one of 32 providers in the first year alone. So far, we have seen the greatest successes with patients who are being seen for medication checks, anxiety, depression, menopause or chronic pain.

Seamless technology has been the catalyst for adoption and utilization among both patients and providers. Providers want tools that help them become more efficient in their daily practice. Single sign-in with My Chart applications, video quality, and customized provider portals have allowed us to optimize technology. Patients want to know that secure, quality care is being delivered, yet they don’t want to feel like they need to be technology experts themselves.

High personal touch may seem counterintuitive in a highly digital world. Yet, it is a critical component in personalizing the patient’s experience. Using telehealth as a conduit to quickly access a real person has led to greater patient adoption. With medical assistants playing a significant role in scheduling and starting a video visit, patients find it easier to connect and troubleshoot, if necessary, and providers find it easier to incorporate these visits into their daily practice.

An integrated approach at the practice level was also an important part of creating a scalable model. Rather than launching with individual providers, we integrated the technology into the practice with everyone from registration staff to billing/coding representatives as well as the providers themselves.

Patient feedback has already demonstrated the value we are providing. For example, an elderly couple who require visits every three months were able to have a video visit during the winter to avoid driving on icy roads or cancelling appointments altogether. A truck driver pulled over for a roadside video visit, allowing him to fit his appointment into his challenging work schedule. A college student participated in a video visit for a medication check while working out at the gym.

Not only are we transforming the care model, but we are helping people prioritize their health and live their lives on their own terms. Over the next year, we are planning to expand this model throughout the entire Spectrum Health Medical Group, understanding that enhanced digital tools and services help us meet the patient where they are and put a greater emphasis on wellness and prevention.

Running parallel, Spectrum Health’s Lifestyle Medicine program recently implemented a formulary of Spectrum Health preferred mobile health apps into the electronic health record (EHR) via IQVIA’s AppScript platform. By embedding AppScript into the EHR, clinicians can prescribe evidence-based digital therapeutics and mobile health apps within a few clicks.

Our vision is that primary care providers who are helping patients manage chronic diseases virtually will leverage AppScript to prescribe apps, wearables, and devices to support disease management. Mobile health solutions can be a powerful modality to empower patients to better monitor and manage their chronic disease and control the related behaviors that drive the progression of disease.

Imagine a primary care provider prescribing an app, glucometer, wireless scale and a health tracker to a patient who has just been diagnosed with diabetes or who is struggling to manage it. There’s tremendous opportunity for mobile health to provide increased support and connections for patients in between doctor appointments, as well as to help them improve their health-related behaviors and health outcomes overall.

With a vision to bring more cost-effective, consumer-friendly tools to patients in our communities, Spectrum Health strives to find and encourage more ways to partner with consumers on their health journey. As we nurture these programs over the coming year, improving patient outcomes and transforming care delivery will remain our priorities.

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