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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 6/3/21

June 3, 2021 Dr. Jayne No Comments

I had a virtual happy hour this week with some friends who also practice telehealth. We were swapping war stories about trying to help patients navigate their technology so that we could have more productive telehealth visits. One of them mentioned a story that they had seen recently about California-based Welbe Health and its goal to integrate telehealth into their PACE programs.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the CMS Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), it’s been around for approximately 30 years. It is designed to serve older patients who are covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. The goal is to keep the population healthy and provide additional supports beyond traditional medical care, including meals, socialization, and day programs.

Welbe Health has partnered with a company called GrandPad to provide “senior-friendly” tablets to allow program participants to easily access their care team along with additional health and wellness resources. Since PACE programs typically include a multidisciplinary team of physicians, social workers, dieticians, and home health staff, it makes sense to be able to bring all of those players into the patient’s home virtually when the patient can’t travel or otherwise needs to remain distant.

GrandPad published a case study on Welbe Health. It looks like they did a rapid rollout to more than 250 seniors over a few days, with the average age of users being 85. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more data and information on the project since it’s not one that many organizations seem to be tackling. If the devices are truly as intuitive as they sound, I’m sure all the grandchildren who may be used to performing tech support for their elders will be breathing a sigh of relief.

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Speaking of telehealth, Teladoc health has announced its annual Forum, to be held July 20-21 as a virtual event. They held a similar event last year that had some great speakers and offered some solid telehealth perspectives, so I’ve added it to my calendar. There are also regional receptions being offered for both face-to-face and virtual interaction, so it will be interesting to see how those play out.

I hope the Mayo Clinic System offers telehealth services to support the patients at the six clinics that it is closing across Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The clinics are said to have had low patient volume even prior to the pandemic. Patients are being referred to nearby communities for care. It’s never easy to have to change doctors, and I hope the transition is as seamless as the Mayo Clinic Health System website makes it sound. Physicians continue to retire at a rapid pace in my community and others who aren’t quite to retirement age are starting to reduce their practice commitments. The next few years will be challenging to those who are looking for primary care physicians.

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As someone who has spent many years dealing with patient matching, I’m always eager to read about initiatives dedicated to solving the problem. The Patient ID Now coalition recently released a document titled “Framework for a National Strategy on Patient Identity.” The coalition, which has 40 healthcare organization members, calls for a public / private partnership including the federal government, public health authorities, and the private sector. Many of us have experienced the perils of poor matching for decades and are gratified that the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on some of the challenges. We’ve seen problems with making sure that test results are affirmatively matched with the correct patient regardless of the site of testing or the setting of downstream care, and also issues with trying to have accurate vaccine data when patients may have received doses from a National Guard-run drive through clinic and also a retail pharmacy.

The Patient ID Now workgroup formed in January 2021 and includes representatives from HIMSS, the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), CHIME, Intermountain Healthcare, Premier Healthcare Alliance, the American College of Cardiology (ACC), academic institutions, hospitals, and more. Only time will tell whether the group can help kick the patient ID issue forward after years of congressional roadblocks and pressure from highly vocal opponents.

As many organizations are moving to make distributed workforce arrangements permanent, Epic has fired up its homing beacon to bring workers back to campus. Starting July 19, workers are expected to be on site at least three days each week. This increases to four days each week August 1, and by September 1, they will need to be onsite nine days out of every two weeks. Employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to mask and distance. The annual Epic Users Group Meeting is slated for August 23-25, but only for those attendees that are fully vaccinated. I’m curious what solution they’ll choose for validating vaccine status. All of my colleagues who work at Epic-using systems are still under travel restrictions, so it will be interesting to see how many people are actually able to attend.

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Uber continues to offer free rides for vaccine appointments. From May 24 through July 4, users can get up to four free rides (up to $25 each) to and from vaccination appointments. Users can select the Vaccine button to schedule a trip. Drivers will be paid in full, but according to the email I received, tips are still appreciated. I wonder how many drivers are thinking carefully about having unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people in their cars, as opposed to just generally not knowing the vaccine status of most of the people they are transporting. As a healthcare provider, whether my clients / patients were vaccinated or not gave me some sense of peace, but I suppose it’s different when you’re up close in a patient’s face examining them versus having them at least a couple of feet away in your back seat.

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I was invited to become a beta user for Accelerate, which states it is “the purpose-built digital platform from HIMSS.” I’m not sure whether this is a true beta testing opportunity or if they are just telling everyone who signs up in the first wave that they’re beta testers, but I was intrigued. The invitation notes that “Accelerate is still in development, access to the platform as well as any content posted on Accelerate is shared with you on a confidential basis; we appreciate your discretion.” I feel a bit spy-like, so I won’t even tell you if I signed up or not. If anyone else signed up and wants to anonymously share your impressions, leave a comment or email me.

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