What an extraordinary journey we have all been on these last few months.
As the path to re-entry after Covid-19 continues to unfold one state and one county at a time, the healthcare community is focusing on how to best protect and support our families, employees, customers and citizens. Here are three things we absolutely must get right if we want to protect our most vulnerable citizens during this next phase of our nation’s recovery:
Support our seniors
Vulnerable seniors are especially at risk, socially isolated and struggling to get the support and services they need from an overwhelmed healthcare system. In the thousands of virtual health and well-being assessments we conduct every day, we see clear themes: medication and food insecurity, loneliness, safety concerns and access to healthcare. These are our mothers and fathers, relatives, teachers, mentors. They need us now more than ever.
It’s critical we come together as a healthcare community — across PCPs, facilities, health plans, service providers and caregivers — to support our seniors. For those who need to be hospitalized, our focus must be on getting them back into the home as quickly and safely as possible. For those already at home, it is imperative we find ways to engage and enable them to reenter society while recognizing there will be many unknowns for some time to come. I urge everyone to be part of this collaboration as we find new ways to enable seniors to experience more healthy, stable days at home.
Double-down on mental and behavioral health support
The immediate (and long term) impact of this period on mental health is not yet known. But it’s felt, by all of us. Through our virtual in-home visits and worksite screenings we have seen a high inflow of calls related to social determinants of health, things tangentially but importantly related to healthcare, such as discussions about financial hardships and stressors around “the unknown.”
Our experience tracks with other data showing the impact of coronavirus is going beyond life disruption to mental health conditions such as depression, substance abuse and PTSD. How well we manage our mental health after re-entry will depend on how well we can collaborate at the community level to support what is an already overstressed mental and behavioral health system.
Maintain momentum toward value-based care.
We need to protect the value-based infrastructure that the industry has spent a decade building out through CMS-led Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced Model and other demonstration programs that are driving more coordinated patient-centered care. Anything less would be a massive setback for achieving high-quality patient outcomes driven through the alignment of care delivery and care financing. What we’ve learned through Covid-19 is that there’s a great opportunity to complement these value-based programs with virtual and in-home health services to address patients’ holistic care coordination and social determinants of health needs.
This pandemic has really illuminated what is possible when we remove some of the administrative and financial barriers getting in the way of things that can improve care and allow people to manage their care from home or get home sooner. Recently, we’ve seen doctors become more directly involved in the discharge planning for patients and more patients returning directly to the home after hospital stays. What we’ve been able to do using telehealth and virtual monitoring tools, paired with a strong network of social workers, is turn the home into a place of care, helping people heal and recover faster. This approach frees up Skilled Nursing Facilities and Long Term Acute Care facilities to focus on those who are in most clinical need – a positive change and one the country should continue to embrace.
While nothing could have fully prepared us for these unprecedented challenges, these challenges come with an unprecedented opportunity for us to chart a path forward building on what we have learned. It has been amazing to see what human ingenuity and spirit can make possible.
Photo: itsarasak thithuekthak, Getty Images