As it switched to telemedicine for the pandemic, the clinically integrated network prioritized patient engagement to smooth the process and capitalize on the promise of virtual care.
Southwestern Health Resources in Dallas, Texas, is a clinically integrated network with 5,500 community providers and more than 700,000 covered lives in North Texas. As a value-based care organization, it provides population health management for its parent organizations, Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
When the pandemic began, Southwestern was very concerned about its most at-risk members. Primary care providers saw a more than 50% drop-off in volumes during the second quarter of 2020. The people who most needed their doctors were also the most likely to shelter in place and not seek care.
As patient volumes plummeted, Southwestern also recognized an increased risk to quality improvements due to the long-term impacts of undiagnosed cancers and other disease progressions among the people it serves.
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“So we needed to ensure our community PCPs could connect to patients who most needed them, as well as support outreach to all patients for preventive care,” said Dr. Anthony Ziskind, senior executive officer of Southwestern Health Resources. “Continuity of care, especially for complex patients, is at the heart of what we do. And telehealth, which had not played a significant role in patient care previously, was the clear solution.”
Telehealth would enable Southwestern’s community physicians to reach out to at-risk patients, ascertain their needs, reassure them of their safety if they needed an in-person visit, or connect with community partners to deliver care in their home.
In early March 2020, the Southwestern operations response team created a network-wide command center to increase efficiency and provide patient outreach support to its provider network. The team quickly focused established communications channels with community providers – physician pod meetings, newsletters and more – on educating them in the use and reimbursement process for telehealth visits.
Source: Healthcare IT News