How remote patient engagement can help risk-based providers improve chronic condition management amid the pandemic

With patients continuing to forgo care amid the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations need a way to engage with patients with chronic conditions.

During a June 2 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by CareSignal, industry leaders discussed how healthcare organizations how they are scaling remote patient engagement across their populations and why it is so important for improving chronic conditions.

The speakers were:

  • Blake Marggraff, CEO of CareSignal
  • Chris Schlanger, MD, Director of Virtual Care, Mercy Virtual, Mercy Health System
  • Carla Beckerle, DNP, APRN-BC, Vice President of Clinical Programs, Esse Health
  • Erin Stamm, MBA, Chief Operations Officer, Esse Health
  • Rob Jennetten, Director of Innovation, OSF Healthcare

Below are five key discussion points: 

1. In historically similar situations, providers that wait for volume to ramp back up to normal levels experience lower patient volumes for longer periods, Mr. Marggraff explained. During the 2002-04 SARS outbreak, patients with chronic conditions perceived their care as less necessary. This worsened outcomes and drove down utilization and revenue. Even when the outbreak had ended, "Average monthly service volume for the base year… and the following two years were 55 percent, 82 percent and 84 percent," according to research published in 2008. Patients, particularly those with ambulatory care-sensitive conditions, and their providers, may not have the opportunity for "catch-up care" or "rebound revenue” after COVID-19. Telemedicine and digital engagement have the potential to bolster otherwise vanishing revenues and increase market share, Mr. Marggraff said.

2. In order for provider organizations and plans to be successful in the short and long term, remote patient engagement and symptom monitoring is essential in the new healthcare environment the pandemic has created. CareSignal technology collects and stratifies patient-reported health data to identify patients who need care. A clinician provides a list of eligible patients to CareSignal specialists call identified patients, gather consent, and enroll them in the program, Mr. Marggraff detailed. Patients send in clinically-relevant data in response to automated text and phone calls. CareSignal then categorizes at-risk patients and triggers alerts in real-time. Healthcare providers or care managers receive escalation notifications.

3. The condition-specific solution uses accessible texts and phone calls to promote long term engagement. Half of patients stay engaged with the technology for 12 months or longer. CareSignal's technology is evidence-based and has been featured in 10 positive-outcome publications in peer-reviewed medical journals. Findings from the studies include 50 percent improvement in blood pressure control over 12 weeks; more than 100 percent increase in follow-up appointment adherence; and 62 percent decrease in congestive heart failure emergency visits.

4. Multiple healthcare organizations have benefited from CareSignal's technology. Mercy's Dr. Schlanger said the texting technology is cost effective and emphasized its alignment with needing to scale care management for financial impact in value-based care. Communicating and engaging with a greater portion of patients (not just the top 3%) has a larger positive clinical and financial impact than spending the same resources on a smaller subset of the population, he said. He also emphasized that simpler technology is often better. Complexity causes friction and is an opportunity to disengage. Investing in low-friction technology has delivered the biggest results over complex tech solutions, he said. CareSignal enables the Mercy care teams to extend care to more patients. For information on the CareSignal and Mercy partnership, click here.

5. At Esse Health, CareSignal is used to engage and create a feedback loop between Medicare Advantage patients and Esse’s care managers. Erin Stamm and Carla Beckerle, DNP said the automated platform expanded their ability to reach more patients. Patients like that their care team is watching and monitoring them; our nurses like knowing when a patient is worsening in real-time so they can reach out to help, Beckerle said. Physicians previously slow to utilize virtual platforms use CareSignal with success and enthusiasm, Beckerle said. Patients appreciate the texts, which helps relay potential issues to the care team before they have an opportunity to become a larger issue, Ms. Stamm said, adding that upfront costs pay off in the long run, especially for high and medium risk patients. CareSignal’s remote patient engagement platform improved both patient and provider satisfaction at OSF Healthcare, Mr. Jennetten said. OSF’s centralized innovation model breaks down silos and the collaborative approach benefits providers and patients. 

For more information about CareSignal, click here. To watch the webinar, click here. 

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