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article imageQ&A: Looking to the future of telehealth Special

By Tim Sandle     Aug 15, 2018 in Health
Telehealth could save millions of dollars within the healthcare industry. One example is Call9, a tech-enabled healthcare service that delivers immediate care to patients in skilled nursing facilities.
The Call9 model is to deliver telehealth to patients in the comfort of their own beds. The startup company will be launching SNF Assist. This is a patient care data platform that integrates with a electronic medical records to provide nursing homes with analytics, enabling them to make data-informed operational and medical decisions.
SNF Assist is initially being offered for free through March 1, 2019 to the first 500 nursing homes to sign up. It provides facilities much needed visibility into their operations so they can improve care for this vulnerable, often underserved patient population; make decisions that result in more efficiencies and lower costs for them and for payers; and - if they aren't already utilizing it - take the first step towards telehealth.
To discovery more about telehealth and the new platform, Digital Journal spoke with Dr. Tim Peck of Call9.
Digital Journal: How has healthcare changed over the past five years?
Dr. Tim Peck: The biggest change that's occurred, and that is continuing to take hold, is the shift to value based care. The traditional model of fee for service care -- i.e. payment to providers based on the amount of "services" they provide to the patient -- only incentivizes services. With many people, particularly with the patient population that we care for in nursing homes, running every test and performing every procedure can actually be detrimental to patients' health and quality of life. The shift to value is about knowing the patient and delivering care that meets their wants and needs.
DJ: Which technologies are disrupting healthcare the most?
Peck: From 2000 to 2017 no federal legislation related to telemedicine was introduced in the US. In the last 6 months 5 bills have been introduced supporting reimbursement mechanisms for telemedicine via Medicare -- the world's largest insurer. Those bills have been introduced because the value of caring for patients where they are has been proven, and further funding via Medicare will hypercharge telemedicine's disruption in a way that will be very positive for the patient and the healthcare system.
DJ: What is ‘telehealth’ or ‘telemedicine’?
Peck: Telemedicine is a solution to the problem of access to physicians. The way telemedicine is utilized can include anything from a primary care physician connecting with you on your cell phone because you have a cold, to a highly integrated technology platform -- like we have at Call9 -- that allows the physician to see the patient, see their medical history and their vitals, diagnose the patient remotely via on-site EKG, telemetry, real-time ultrasound, bedside labs that result in two minutes, etc., and direct care to the patient via an on-site first responder in a lower cost setting.
DJ: How does this help to reach more people?
Peck: The way Call9's platform works, the physician is able to move seamlessly from room 1 in nursing home x to room 2 in nursing home y and the nursing homes can be in different states. We're also practicing emergency and critical care in a nursing home -- which has never been done before -- and it's because telemedicine allows us to bring Emergency Medicine to the nursing home bedside.
DJ: Does telehealth bring cost savings?
Peck: In approximately 80% of our patient encounters we're able to treat patients in their nursing home bed. Every time we avoid an unnecessary hospital transfer we save insurance payors (or taxpayers) between $10k and $30k. Treating people in lower cost settings can bring massive savings to the system -- and value to the patient.
DJ: Is telemedicine popular with insurance companies?
Peck: I can't speak to telemedicine writ large but Call9's solution has been very popular with insurance payors. We were able to be brought in network with the four largest insurance companies in New York within 6 months of approaching them, and now we're establishing shared savings relationships with them. These are massive companies that moved very quickly to partner with a company that was less than 2 years old when we first approached them.
DJ: How does the SNF Assist service work?
Peck: There are 15,600 nursing homes in the US, and our full service -- with our on-site first-responder, suite of diagnostics, and remote emergency medicine physician -- can't be in all of them, at least not yet. But what we've learned since we started the company is insights into how nursing homes can operate more efficiently and effectively. SNF Assist integrates with the facility’s electronic medical record system to provide those insights to nursing home administrators and clinical staff in homes we're not yet in.
DJ: How did you test out the service?
Peck: Our clinical team was using this data product we created in the homes where we had our full service in order to identify spikes in hospital transfers and correct for them. We realized that this data product could be rolled out to facilities that we're not yet in and they could also benefit from the learnings we had attained, and thus SNF Assist was born.
DJ: How much does the service cost?
Peck: The pricing's dynamic based on the size of the customer but ultimately we're a very mission based company and we know SNF Assist can help improve care for millions of patients, so we're happy to work with nursing homes to find a price point that makes sense for them, us, and the patients we care for.
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