What You Should Know:
– Genesis Health System has signed a partnership agreement
with Bright.md to offer patients in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois access
to its Bright.md’s SmartExam solution.
– The new virtual care offering offers an affordable way to get care for hundreds of low-acuity conditions, mental health, urinary tract infections, and upper respiratory infections including the flu and COVID-19.
Genesis Health System, today
announced it has selected Bright.md’s SmartExam solution to power its new telehealth offering
as part of an effort to expand its digital health strategy. Patients in the
bi-state region of the Quad Cities metropolitan area and the surrounding
communities of Iowa and Illinois will now have access to another convenient,
affordable way to get care for hundreds of low-acuity conditions.
How SmartExam Works
Bright.md’s care-delivery platform, SmartExam, works like a virtual physician’s assistant. The AI-powered platform automates 90% of a primary or urgent care visit, boosting provider efficiency 15x and increasing the capacity to treat hundreds of patients in a single provider shift. Healthcare systems use SmartExam to deliver treatment for hundreds of conditions, such as flu, pediatrics, dermatology, muscular-skeletal, and behavioral health issues.
By intelligently and automatically combining patient-intake data, interview information, electronic health records, and clinical-workflow integration, the platform enables providers to rapidly diagnose and treat patients with low-acuity conditions, escalating those with more serious conditions to a higher level of care.
Why It Matters
“Demand for virtual care options was growing even before people around the country were asked to stay home due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Kurt Andersen, Senior Vice President, Physician Operations/Chief Medical Officer President of Genesis Health System. “With Bright.md’s innovative telehealth delivery platform and our umbrella of convenient care services, we’re well-positioned to address the situation at hand—for both coronavirus-infected patients and those with other conditions—and be prepared to serve the needs of our patients in a post-COVID-19 landscape.”
The pandemic has shone a light on digital health and in particular telehealth. $5.4 billion has been invested in the digital health sector this year, and analysts predict that telehealth appointments could top $1 billion by year-end. Increased demand for virtual care solutions is fueling this funding frenzy.
Genesis has offered virtual video visits with their providers since 2015. However, Dr. Andersen and his team recognized the demand for more innovative telehealth tools to complement their current convenient care of services, especially in times of high-demand due to the pandemic. “SmartExam gives Genesis patients another telehealth option and provider’s a greater ability to navigate, triage, and treat patients virtually,” said Dr. Andersen. “And because the automation built into SmartExam streamlines provider workflows, we know our providers will also agree it is a great tool to treat our patients.”
By RAY COSTANTINI, MD
Imagine three months from now when the predicted ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 is expected to resurge and we’re still without a vaccine. Telehealth has become the entry-point to care, widely adopted by patients both young and old. Now, when an elderly diabetic patient wakes up in the middle of the night with a dull ache on her left side and back, she doesn’t ignore the symptom, like she may have during the first COVID outbreak. Instead, she logs online to her local hospital’s website from a cell phone and accesses a simple questionnaire to report her health history and presenting symptoms. The whole process takes just a couple of minutes and she immediately hears back from her health provider with the suggestion to schedule an in-person appointment for further testing to rule out any kidney issues.
This patient doesn’t become one of the nearly 50% of Americans who delayed care during the initial COVID pandemic. She was able to access care without having to download an application or wait to schedule a virtual appointment during normal business hours. She receives virtual asynchronous care on-demand, coordinated to sync with her electronic health record. The next day, she receives a follow-up call from her primary care doctor to ensure her symptoms were alleviated with the over-the-counter pain medication she was prescribed.
I applaud the article written by Paul Grundy, MD, and Ken Terry, “Primary Care Practices Need Help to Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic,” in which they called on Congress to make health policy decisions that will provide immediate financial relief for primary care practices. We must mitigate the real risk we face: the highly possible shutdown of our healthcare system. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. healthcare system has taken an enormous financial hit and primary care practices have been especially affected and are struggling to survive. As the authors point out, telehealth has taken the spotlight to fill the acute need for an influx of patients needing to access care under social distancing practices. Telehealth can increase access to care, relieve provider burden, reduce costs to systems, and improve patient outcomes. However, this is only possible with on-demand telehealth, or asynchronous care.
If COVID-19 has a silver lining, it is that forced social distancing has accelerated telehealth adoption by as much as 20 years, according to Deloitte. And while no one is certain when or how the crisis will end, one thing is abundantly clear: widespread use of telehealth is here to stay. Or, as CMS administrator Seema Verma said, “The genie’s out of the bottle on this one.”
That said, in the rush to implement telehealth solutions, CMS and many providers—failed to include asynchronous virtual care as a viable alternative to in-person care. Now though, we have the opportunity to develop a more thoughtful strategy going forward––one that can brace our system at a time when it needs the support.
First, we must establish a broader definition of “telehealth” that includes modalities other than video visits. Non-video forms of virtual care also deliver value for both patients and providers. In some cases, they may go further than video can to increase access and affordability and to protect a patient’s continuum of care.
Take asynchronous virtual care delivery, for example.
According to the FCC, approximately 21 million people lack broadband access, which makes video-based telehealth unavailable to large portions of the U.S. Asynchronous telehealth solutions don’t require high-speed internet or even a 4G mobile connection to deliver care. The store-and-forward nature of these platforms means very little data is required to exchange the crucial information needed to provide a complete episode of care.
Asynchronous telehealth platforms that fully integrate into clinical workflows ensure a patient’s electronic health record is intact. This is especially important during times of crisis when a patient seeks care remotely to avoid possible infection. If he or she receives care that isn’t reflected in their record, important information is lost and can impact the quality of care they receive in the future.
Because store-and-forward telehealth platforms boost clinical efficiency by saving provider time over in-person or video visits, they provide cost savings for all involved—healthcare systems, payers, and patients. When some of those savings are passed on to patients, reducing their overall out-of-pocket costs, those patients are less likely to avoid care due to financial concerns that include the threat of surprise bills.
It is likely, if not inevitable, that how patients access care has been changed forever by COVID-19. Telehealth will continue to play a major part in how patients get care, but virtual care has much more to offer than video visits. Regardless of the modality, if a provider is able to deliver an episode of care that is held to the same standard and quality of in-person care, that visit should be reimbursed at a level that is fair to all parties involved.
CMS has a real opportunity to help strengthen our injured healthcare system. In addition to patients who have access challenges, providers and systems are struggling financially. If patients put off visits because securing a video or in-person appointment is a challenge, we are going to see fewer ambulatory and non-acute patients, which has an immediate financial impact on systems and could lead to more chronic and emergent conditions that could have been avoided.
Now is the time for Congress to take action and adjust the CARES Act to include ALL types of telehealth solutions, including virtual care like asynchronous telehealth, and to compensate providers for using it accordingly. These telehealth policy changes should be permanent – our new normal. Perhaps then we will look back at the COVID era as a pivotal time in our nation’s history when healthcare changed for the better. When we considered new entry points to care that are effective, reduce burden on clinicians, and offer more immediate care beginning with triage for patients. It’s the silver lining in this cloudy mess.
Ray Constantini, MD is the CEO and Co-Founder of Bright.md.