Technology Enhances Population Health Programs, but the Personal Experience is Still Important

| URAC Staff

With the transition to value-based healthcare and the growth of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), healthcare providers and payers are looking for ways to overcome barriers to meeting population health goals.

One such solution is telehealth. Envolve PeopleCare, a healthcare management solutions company owned by Centene Corporation, leverages telehealth to keep patients healthy between appointments with their doctors and reduce overall costs.

“It’s is bridging the gap between visits,” said Jeremy Corbett, MD, Envolve’s chief health officer. “Telehealth relieves the pressure doctors increasingly feel to keep tabs on their patients when they leave their office.”

Hear Dr. Corbett speak at the Telemed Leadership Forum 2018: ROI of Telehealth in Washington, DC.

Also known as connected health or mHealth, Corbett defines telehealth as any use of technology to provide care or services to members. The blanket term can apply to telemedicine, or using video screens for remote patient-provider interactions, smartphone apps, and internet-connected devices, among other possibilities.

Several such possibilities are brought together in Envolve’s On.Demand diabetes management solution, a population health approach using telehealth to treat patients with diabetes. According to Corbett, the program enables patients to take readings such as blood glucose or weight in their home or office, then electronically transmit the data to appropriate care team members. If the data raise concerns, health coaches intervene to discuss with patients the readings and the behaviors that caused them, then help coordinate an improvement plan.

“On.Demand is part surveillance, part intervention. But when we intervene, we’re intervening on the right people,” explains Corbett. “As a result, we reach 2,000 diabetes patients instead of 300 or 400.”

While technology is instrumental to this approach, Corbett stresses the importance of striking a balance between digital and human elements when implementing any telehealth strategy. “It’s critically important that healthcare remains a personal experience,” Corbett says. “You may lean into the tech because it extends providers’ reach, but care is still ultimately provided by a person.”

And it’s human beings, after all, who must be convinced that changes in their behavior are worth making, Corbett pointed out.  

With providers and patients both expressing reservations over the encroachment of technology into healthcare, a little strategic reassurance can go a long way, Corbett said.

“Create a storyline,” Corbett said. “Change is hard. Find a way to tell the story you want to tell, with the people in your story being better off today than they were yesterday.”

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