Coronavirus threw the economy, healthcare system, and everyday life for a loop. While there seems to be negative news everywhere, one silver lining, Coronavirus is forcing the U.S. healthcare delivery model to reshape how it serves vulnerable populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that groups at high-risk for severe illness from Coronavirus are people 65 years and older and those with underlying medical conditions - chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, and liver disease.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 92.6 million adults (37.6%) in the United States are at higher risk of developing serious illness if infected by Coronavirus. About 55% are 65 or older and the remaining 45% are under 65 with an underlying medical condition.
Medical care prior to Coronavirus
Traditional medical care was built on a model of face-to-face interactions between the patient and healthcare practitioner, whether for routine check-ins, diagnostic tests, or procedures. A patient travels to a healthcare facility, checks-in, waits to be called back to an examination room, meets with a nurse, meets with a physician, receives a care plan, and then travels home.
As part of the Coronavirus guidelines, it’s recommended that high-risk populations postpone procedures and routine care and only seek medical care when absolutely necessary. This begs the question - how does 37.6% of the US adult population continue to receive medical care without unnecessarily exposing themselves to infection?
- In 2016, over 883 million physician office visits occurred, of which 239 million were by patients age 65 or older.
- Each year, almost 650,000 cancer patients receive chemotherapy in an outpatient setting.
- In 2016, over 726,000 patients were receiving dialysis treatments or living with a kidney transplant.
These are just a few of the high-risk populations in need of continuing care during the Coronavirus crisis.
Medical care during Coronavirus
Vulnerable patients are between a rock and a hard place during the heightened risk of a pandemic. They can continue to receive critical medical care in a healthcare facility but increase risk of Coronavirus exposure. Alternatively, they can put critical medical care on hold while reducing risk of Coronavirus exposure.
While not all healthcare service models can be changed, there’s been a quick response from companies to find ways for vulnerable patients to continue to receive medical care while limiting unnecessary exposure.
Practitioners are turning to televisits to conduct remote doctor visits with patients. Teladoc Health Inc., a leading provider of televisit services, said it’s conducted over 20,000 remote medical appointments per day since the start of the pandemic.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has broadened the scope of reimbursable services offered via telehealth to beneficiaries. Most commercial insurers, including Humana, mirrored the expansion of telehealth services by CMS.
Out-of-Facility Cancer Care
For some populations, like chemotherapy patients, medical care still requires a practitioner-patient interaction. Traditionally during chemotherapy treatment, patients travel to an oncology facility on a routine cycle to receive an infusion. This goes against Coronavirus guidelines for the high-risk..
To reduce exposure and continue care, some service providers responded by moving infusions to the patients’ homes. Penn Medicine and Jefferson Health implemented a program that is now providing routine infusions at home for over 2,000 patients per day.
Mobile Urgent Care
ScriptDrop, a pharmacy delivery startup, has seen prescription delivery volume increase sevenfold since the start of the pandemic.
Medical care after Coronavirus
As can be seen with these quick innovations, Coronavirus expedited the timelines and proved that a more convenience-focused, patient centric healthcare delivery model is viable.
We see a world where healthcare travels to the patient. No more getting in your car, driving to a facility, and waiting around in a crowded wait room. Not only can this model benefit vulnerable populations but also the general public who’s constantly on the go.
For tomorrow, as forces continue to push the healthcare industry to decentralize, Workpath is partnering with innovative companies to make a patient-centric future seamless. With Workpath’s technology, a day where a patient has blood drawn at their place of work, receives a nurse visit at their home, and has their prescription delivered to their front door while tracking its progress on their smartphone, is within reach.
Coronavirus put the traditional healthcare delivery model to the test and the healthcare world responded with innovative ways to continue care for the vulnerable. Hopefully, as Coronavirus begins to recede, these innovative models will not.
Eddie Peloke is CEO of Workpath. The company’s software enables mobile healthcare services to schedule or dispatch on-demand the right professionals to perform the right care at the right time and place. See how mobile healthcare companies use Workpath’s HIPAA-compliant platform to cut costs, ensure compliance, improve patient satisfaction and more at Workpath.co.