Nearly 30 years ago, when I first pursued a career in healthcare, we were just at the beginning of a seismic shift, from focusing on the acute care people receive in the hospital to improving the quality of care for the entire healthcare journey. I was passionate about moving the needle in that direction, and I began my career managing large medical practices with an emphasis on leveraging primary care to do that. The goal was to make care more coordinated, personalized, and ultimately to keep people healthy while preventing unnecessary hospitalizations. If there was a hospital admission, we made it our goal to reduce readmissions.
We often hear that in healthcare, cost and quality are not correlated, but from that early experience, I learned that is a misconception. The highest quality care is often also the most cost-effective. If primary care practices invest in getting people the best care possible and delivering it in the right setting, they will ultimately be able to reduce the likelihood of costly complications.
In the more recent stages of my career, I have learned that principle holds true for other parts of the healthcare journey, particularly for post-acute care, when the need for care is greatest and the risk of readmission and complications is high, and for palliative care when the care setting really matters.
Over the past several months, getting healthcare at home has become a priority for many people. To help care for those with COVID-19, hospitals began providing innovative telehealth solutions to free up their hospital beds and keep vulnerable, at-risk individuals at home. This resulted in an explosion of telehealth usage: between April 2019 and April 2020, telehealth claims increased 8,336 percent, while nearly nine million Medicare beneficiaries used telehealth services during the first three months of the pandemic.
Considering the volume of care being delivered in the home, we need to ensure that the quality of care remains high. Before COVID-19, and still to this day, there has been hesitation regarding telemedicine solutions and questions as to whether these services can maintain a personal level of interaction between a provider and an individual. From my point of view, moving care into the home and relying on such services benefits the entire industry, is cost-effective, and ultimately, improves the quality of care.
In this case, I like to use the example of palliative care, which is one of the most personal and trying stages of an individual’s care journey. To have these difficult conversations, individuals and their families often want to be where they feel most comfortable, which is at home. If we’re able to incorporate telehealth and other virtual solutions into someone’s care plan, so that they are able to receive services where they feel most comfortable, we can improve the process, quality, and cost of care.
But to do that effectively, we need to ensure the technology is in place to expand a range of services into the home.
That’s the reason I joined the Board of CareCentrix. I share the company’s vision of creating personalized, coordinated, and tech-enabled services so that people can heal where they want. CareCentrix has decades of experience in the post-acute care space, working with health plans and other partners, and has proven to be successful in coordinating care and assembling the needed resources to allow a person to heal at home. And as we’ve seen with COVID-19, there is a strong desire for plans and providers to establish partnerships with home care companies, like CareCentrix, to help bring the vision of home care a reality.
As I reflect on the past 30 years and think back on the progress we’ve made in the healthcare industry, and areas we still need to improve, I’m confident that a company like CareCentrix, whose mission it is to bring more care into the home, is poised to drive the change we need.