– Cerner launches new Video Visit platform for CommunityWorks clients at no cost through 2021 to support rural health organizations.
Today in honor of National Rural Health Day, Cerner has announced the launch of their new telehealth offering to support rural health organizations through these tough times. The Video Visit platform will be offered to Cerner CommunityWorks℠ clients at no cost through 2021. The platform, which was announced at a virtual event for community and critical access hospitals earlier this week, aims to help make it easier for those living in rural areas to see providers. Initial sites have already started to go-live and are seeing strong adoption.
The CDC estimates about 46 million Americans live in rural
areas, which face distinctive challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Key
features of Cerner’s NEW CommunityWorks Video Visit Trial Program
• Video visits are part of a comprehensive suite
of virtual healthcare solutions that enable organizations to provide near
real-time, interactive communications between consumers and clinicians from any
• Delivers a comprehensive, integrated experience
that empowers consumers to be active participants in their health and care.
• Consumers receive convenient, quality care
using their modality of choice.
• FREE and rapid implementation and trial
of Cerner Video Visits until 12/31/21.
• Expedited implementation taking place in days,
not weeks or months.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a significantly increased desire from both consumers and health care providers for virtual health solutions and rapid innovation and adoption of existing products. One of those products is Cerner’s Virtual Visit solution that we are now offering free of charge to our eligible CommunityWorks clients through the end of 2021. This trial program delivers a comprehensive, integrated experience that empowers consumers to be active participants in their health and care. I am excited to formally launch this on the 10th annual National Rural Health Day as we celebrate the Power of Rural and I look forward to helping our clients provide another way to adapt to, and overcome, challenges presented by this pandemic in order to provide the best care and experience for their patients,” said Mitchell Clark, President, Cerner CommunityWorks, Senior Vice President at Cerner in a release statement.
– Intermountain Healthcare and Sanford Health sign a letter of intent to merge that will created a combined health system employing more than 89k people at 70 hospitals and 435 clinics across seven states.
Intermountain Healthcare and Sanford Health, one of the nation’s leading systems in rural health care delivery and clinical research, have signed a letter of intent to develop a strategic partnership. The boards of both not-for-profit organizations approved a resolution to support moving forward with the due diligence process. The organizations will enter this activity with the goal to sign a merger agreement that will bring both health systems together as a model for improving access to high-value healthcare across the U.S. The merger is expected to close in 2021 pending federal and state approvals.
The combined organization will employ more than 89,000
people, and operate 70 hospitals, many in rural communities. It will operate
435 clinics across seven states, provide senior care and services in 366
locations in 24 states, and insure 1.1 million people. The organization will
have headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, and corporate offices in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota.
“Intermountain and Sanford have a shared vision of the future of health care and have the aligned values needed to better serve more communities across the nation,” says Marc Harrison, M.D., president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. “This merger enables our organizations to move more quickly to further implement value-based strategies and realize economies of scale. Through coordinated care, increased use of telehealth and digital health services, we will make health care more affordable for our communities.”
In the late 1940s, the United Kingdom was busily reassembling country and what remained of the empire in the aftermath of World War II. Among many revelations, the war had convinced Britain’s leaders of the need to provide healthcare for all in the event of calamity upending the basic functions of a civilized society. With that, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was born.
In 2020, all perspectives about quality and the time it takes to see a provider aside, the NHS remains quite popular among UK citizens and is an enduring source of national pride.
With the United States in the midst of its own upheaval, it’s for a related question: Might the current COVID-19 situation give rise to significant changes to the American healthcare system?
Virtually no one thinks the correct answer is ‘No.’ Things will change. The question is how and to what extent. The healthcare system in place in the United States now is dramatically more complex than that in use by Britons after WW II. There are so many moving parts, so many things that can break.
So, in which aspects of the current American healthcare system are we likely to see changes after COVID-19 is dealt with?
Telehealth: Someone always benefits in a catastrophe. In this case, that someone may be Zoom shareholders.
From 10 million daily users in December, Zoom rocketed to 200 million in March and nearly 300 million a month later. Much of that was healthcare related.
Of course, Zoom is not the only direct beneficiary of coronavirus as venerable meeting platforms like WebEx and Skype, among others, have also experienced dramatic growth.
Hospitals and health systems were incrementally implementing telehealth services prior to the coronavirus outbreak, but there was no sense of urgency that accompanies a rapidly spreading virus. Since then, the federal government, states and insurance companies have allocated funds and rewritten regulation to expand the use of telehealth.
But there are more telehealth related-issues to address, some of which have thorns. Service and payment parity across insurance companies is an issue. If telehealth is going to be a regular component of healthcare, technology gaps will have to be addressed, especially in rural areas.
This is something the federal government recognizes. The White House recently drafted an executive order oriented around improving rural health by expanding technology access, developing new payment models and reducing regulatory burdens. The EO tasks the secretaries of health and human services and agriculture to work with the Federal Communications Commission to “develop and implement a strategy to improve rural health by improving the physical and communications healthcare infrastructure available to rural Americans.” But until Congress gets involved and provides funding for something like this, it will probably never get out of the proposal phase.
In fact, there are enough concerns—parity, technology gaps, added costs—associated with telehealth to wonder if it will endure after coronavirus is in the rear view. Enough about telehealth benefits both providers and patients for it to stick and proliferate, but that could also be said about any number of healthcare initiatives that seem to languish for lack of coordination and political will.
Health Insurance: This is where the NHS analogy is the most relevant. Many millions of workers are furloughed or simply laid off with the impact of COVID-19 on frontline jobs like restaurant worker, massage therapist and barista. Those who had insurance through work may not have it anymore, leaving them doubly vulnerable—no coverage, no income—to illness or accident.
Mass unemployment episodes reveal, each time, the weakness in the patchwork employment-based healthcare insurance system we’ve sort of made peace with for decades. Sure, Medicaid exists to fill the gaps, but it may make sense to render Medicaid unnecessary, especially since its value is questionable in particular states.
“You notice the number of band-aids that Congress is having to apply to help people who have lost their jobs,” said former CMS Administrator Don Berwick, MD. “What we have now is a whole series of band-aids and special measures. What if instead, we just had universal health insurance?”
What if, indeed. Will COVID-19 be the straw that burns the bridge of employer-based health insurance, to mangle a metaphor? That may depend on how long the pandemic lasts, who is president sometime after November 3 and how much damage is done to the national fabric before economy and society start a process of repair.
Payment Models: For years now, hospitals have been in the middle of slow shift from fee-for-service care to value-based care and alternative payment models. That transition didn’t happen quickly enough to prevent most hospitals from falling into a financial chasm. If elective procedures are a big part of revenue, it follows that revenue will fall if those procedures disappear.
To be fair, the hit to hospital finances has been catastrophic enough—more than $200 billion in losses over four months, according to the American Hospital Association—that federal government support would have been necessary even if a full pay-for-quality model had been in place.
But the pandemic spotlights the downside of treating essential services like healthcare as though they are mere services one selects or rejects. And it exposes the folly of not making sure everyone has insurance coverage (a payer) when the individual costs for COVID-19-related hospital admission can range from $20,000 to $88,000.
End-of-Life Care: According to one analysis, 42 percent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The families of those unfortunate souls who’ve died while in a facility have generally endured the agony of saying goodbye outside a window or over a video link. It’s hard to believe, after COVID-19, that the assisted living industry will continue as before.
“The crisis surely will lead nursing home administrators to reconsider the way patients are cared for,” says Modern Healthcare. “Among the ideas Harvard’s [Professor David] Grabowski believes will get a longer look in the wake of the pandemic are using telemedicine services, creating specialized Medicare Advantage plans for the homes and pursuing smaller settings.”
Perhaps. And perhaps a son or daughter that remembers coronavirus will simply choose not to risk everything by putting their parent in a home. Could enough of them make such a decision that the industry contracts? Is forced to take quality care more seriously? Attracts more serious federal regulation?
As the deaths mount, it’s hard not to give every option serious consideration.
Supply Chain: These days we’re bickering in public and on social media (looking at you, maskless Karen throwing food in Trader Joes) about whether or not masks should be mandated. Look back with me to February, however, and you’ll fondly recall concerns about there being enough masks at all.
Back then we learned that the United States had exactly one mask manufacturer, and that all other masks are sourced from overseas. That it takes longer to get stuff from China than from Amarillo creates obvious potential problems when a crisis hits, but it also pits hospitals and government entities against one another and guarantees that the winner will pay more for supplies than they would in less-critical times.
It also creates weird, unnecessary scenarios that could be avoided using coordination and leadership. The governor of Maryland, for example, used his wife’s connections to South Korea (her country of birth) to secure 500,000 coronavirus tests, which he then put in an undisclosed location and protected using national guard troops.
What’s the remedy?
Modern Healthcare has called for a national supply chain czar, which in other times may have just been the head of FEMA. The suggestion, however, highlights the need for a coordinated central clearing house where supplies can be ordered, managed and dispersed based on need.
Individual hospitals, clinics and health systems can also help themselves by using a robust supply chain software system that keeps track in real time of available supplies, covers all ordering systems and methodologies, and reacts swiftly to certain thresholds.
The uniquely unfortunate aspect of the American political system among western democracies is that, for the most part, it responds to the demands of special interests. Think about your local representative. Chances are good the shouts of specific business interests are ringing in his or her hears so loudly that little else is audible.
As such, there is a significant danger that the American healthcare system will return, post-COVID-19, to the same dynamic it had when the virus arrived, which will be unfortunate. What we need post-pandemic is not necessarily specific changes to hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, etc., though they could be part of an overall solution. What will be necessary is an examination of where every aspect of the healthcare system overall, inasmuch as there is one, didn’t do its job.
Disasters are social sodium pentothal that, while active, force groups of people to take an honest look at their failures. Once the disaster is passed, however, there is a danger that Upton Sinclair’s maxim—“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”—will rule the day.
No one hopes for more dramatic damage to the American economy and social fabric, but the irony is that necessary change sometimes only comes when reality is undeniable, as in a shellshocked Britain instituting the NHS. If COVID-19 doesn’t shock us sufficiently into making substantial changes to the healthcare system, it’s a pretty safe bet the same disaster will occur again.
– Cerner announced a new offering, CommunityWorks
Foundations aimed at reducing costs and speeding up the implementation process
for Rural and Critical Access Hospitals.
– This much-needed offering caters to small rural healthcare providers, who often face challenges such as geographic isolation, workforce shortages, educational disparities, and diminishing resources that can make it harder to deliver high-quality care.
– Rural hospitals serve about 20% of all Americans, and
Cerner is committed to providing technology and services to help individuals in
all communities get access to quality comprehensive healthcare.
today announced a new tailored cloud-based technology offering, CommunityWorks Foundations, created to help
Critical Access Hospitals across the U.S. reduce financial burdens. This new
technology, geared toward smaller and rural hospitals, offers a fixed-fee
payment structure with no up-front capital spend to help reduce costs and
lengthy implementation processes.
Rapid Cloud-based Deployment
CommunityWorks Foundations, a cloud-based
version of the Cerner Millennium® electronic health record
(EHR), is designed to expedite implementation with a six-month kick-off to
go-live timeline and will make it easier for small hospitals to better serve their
As with all hospitals deploying CommunityWorks, those using CommunityWorks Foundations will also leverage Cerner’s solutions and services designed to help improve clinical and business outcomes, the patient and provider experience and satisfaction while reducing physician burnout. CommunityWorks clients have seen success, with more than 70% of new clients beating baseline accounts receivable by 180 days post-implementation. These hospitals averaged a 5.5% improvement in this area.
Why It Matters
Healthcare providers in small communities often face challenges such as geographic isolation, workforce shortages, educational disparities, and diminishing resources that can make it harder to deliver high-quality care. The National Rural Health Association found COVID-19 has exacerbated these trends, with significant financial impact on these specialty hospitals – half of which were operating at a financial loss prior to the pandemic. Rural hospitals serve about 20% of all Americans, and Cerner is committed to providing technology and services to help individuals in all communities get access to quality comprehensive health care.
“Working with this segment of clients for more than a decade, we have evolved this cloud-based model to meet the various challenges community and rural health care organizations face,” said Mitchell Clark, president, CommunityWorks, Cerner. “CommunityWorks Foundations is the next evolution based on what we’ve learned from our more than 200 rural and critical access clients and the broader industry. It is built to help reduce financial barriers and better support communities that sometimes face challenges accessing the most innovative health care technology.”
With the successful early adoption of CommunityWorks Foundations
at organizations like Macon
Community Hospital, Cerner continues to demonstrate value to clients.
Johnson County Hospital (JCH), an 18-bed Critical Access Hospital with two
clinics located in southeast Nebraska, recently signed for CommunityWorks Foundations.
Hospital leaders cite cost, ease of implementation and vendor support as top
drivers behind the switch to Cerner.
“The numbers don’t lie,” is a famous old adage and quite appropriate with regard to the rapid rise and deployment of telehealth solutions in the medical community. It may have taken a global pandemic for society to recognize and investigate the rewards of its adoption, but statistics reveal that telehealth’s moment has indeed come. And it certainly seems like it’s here to stay.
How did we come so far, so fast? By undertaking forward-thinking policies and bold action, the health care industry nimbly and quickly adopted this technology to mitigate the immediate threat of COVID-19’s lethal contagiousness.
As it pertains to effectiveness, the federal government’s overwhelming response to shore up commerce, industry, and unforeseen unemployment levels has been met with mixed reviews. But the designated programs specific to the healthcare industry have been an undeniable success. Thanks to a sudden and massive infusion of funding and support for telehealth medicine, initiated by federal and state governments, the health care industry is witnessing a historic sea-change in its processes, procedures, and practices. The widespread, rapid adoption of telehealth solutions is the prime example.
Beyond the impact of funding, now in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the utilization of telehealth also benefited from additional measures which simultaneously boosted its appeal for trial and adoption. For the first time, health care providers were permitted to use telehealth to treat Medicare patients, opening the door for insurance companies and state governments to follow suit.
Subsequently, many of the nation’s largest private insurance providers then took it a step further—waiving copays for patient consultations via telehealth. For both the insured and uninsured, the elimination of out-of-pocket costs is likely to increase consumer trial and adoption of virtual physician visits. The bold and swift decisions to relax certain restrictions and requirements within the traditional health care model has created fertile ground for telehealth’s trial and adoption.
The use of telehealth as a practical solution has been available for some time, but its adoption by consumers faced difficulty, as many perceived virtual visits would not measure up to the value of in-person doctor appointments. But recent research and surveys on telehealth’s usage reveal this barrier may be crumbling. In April, Sage Growth Partner (SGP) and Black Book Market Research collaborated on a survey revealing that, prior to COVID-19, only a quarter of respondents had used telehealth. But amidst the backdrop of our current pandemic, nearly 60% of those surveyed say they are now likely to consider telehealth in addressing their personal health care needs. Additionally, other studies have concluded that after an initial trial of telehealth, a majority of consumers expressed high levels of satisfaction with their experience—and a strong likelihood of follow-up use.
Yet only viewing the benefits of telehealth through the narrow lens of a physician-patient consultation is to overlook its full value proposition across the health care industry as a whole. What are some other examples of how telehealth is changing the health care landscape for the better? Here are a few ways in which its adoption and use are improving our models of caregiving:
Protecting our Collective Health
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, an obvious benefit is the option to seek care remotely while maintaining isolation through the practice of social distancing. There are no crowded waiting rooms or hospital hallways to deal with, thereby lessening the risk of exposure and infection to patients and caregivers alike.
Meeting the Caregiver Demand
In some areas of the U.S., a steep demand for health advisors has spiked, due to postponement of elective surgeries and the need for ongoing treatment of patients with chronic health care conditions. Pack Health, Birmingham, Al. chronic care coaching provider utilizes certified Health Advisors to help patients get access to care options while helping them develop self-management skills to gradually improve their conditions. With a surge of over 50,000 new patients, the company rapidly transformed its onboard training program to a telehealth platform to meet the demand for new hires. In doing so, Pack Health was able to scale up staffing much faster and cheaper than ever before.
Impact on Rural Health Care
According to the consultants at Guidehouse, one in four rural hospitals are deemed high-risk for closing—and this was reported before the pandemic. Through the use of telehealth platforms, a large portion of the rural United States can now receive access to clinical care services and at-home monitoring services. In effect, telehealth can become a new tool to help alleviate rural America’s serious deficit of accessing critical care.
Impact on Mental Health Care
The rise in telehealth adoption is also having a positive effect for patients who require access to mental health services. Even before the pandemic, many people with various mental health needs chose not to seek treatment due to perceived social stigmas. Using telehealth as a solution, they can now obtain access to providers, care, therapy, and treatment in the privacy of their homes. Likewise, those patients already under the care of mental health professionals are able to keep routine appointments, in spite of COVID-19’s disruption.
As for telehealth’s future, it is certain to benefit in multiple ways from its current trial by fire. Perhaps there is no better proving ground for assessing its total value proposition than during a global health crisis that shows no sign of relenting. Being at the right place at the right time can be an invaluable proving ground and the future of the telehealth industry appears to be positioned for staggering growth. In April, Global Market Insights, market research, and consulting company released a report predicting the telemedicine market will reach $175.5B by the year 2026.
Furthermore, healthcare providers need to think of telehealth as only one component of comprehensive care. Patients need to have several different touchpoints throughout the healthcare continuum to ensure the best quality of care. Examples of these touchpoints include advanced biometric wearables, real-time data collection, and advanced analytics to provide actionable data for patients and care teams.
As technology continues to drive the rapid pace of improvements in digitalization, platforms, high-speed broadband access, and mobile devices, the widespread adoption of telehealth and telemedicine solutions will become even more commonplace. As a result, the ever-increasing capacity to improve our traditional health care delivery models may indeed be forever changed for the better.
About Ernie Ianace
Ernie Ianace is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at VitalTech® Affiliates, LLC. Based in Plano, TX, VitalTech is a rapidly growing provider of fully integrated digital health solutions and smart biomedical wearables that provide real-time monitoring for patient wellness and safety. The company’s connected care platform, VitalCare®, enables health systems, skilled nursing facilities, home health providers, physicians, and senior living facilities to streamline workflows while improving health outcomes, increasing patient safety, and lowering the cost of care.
Episode 133 of Health in 2 Point 00 is brought to you by the letter P — that’s P for PBMs, of course. In this episode, Jess and I talk about Genome Medical extending their series B and getting another $14 million on top of the $23 million they already raised for their remote genetic counseling services, the FCC adding another $198 million to their rural health program, bringing the funding to a whopping total of $802 million, Anthem’s PBM IngenioRx acquiring pharmacy startup Zipdrug, and Capital Rx, a startup PBM, announced a deal with Walmart. —Matthew Holt