Physicians Reap Value-Added Benefits with Technology

SEPTEMBER 11, 2016
Ed Rabinowitz
Practice Management, Technology, Columns

As a physician, you can only see one patient at a time. And when patients leave your office, they’re on their own. There’s not much you can do for them, right?
 
Well actually, wrong.
 
You see, that’s where technology enables physicians to add value, and care for patients beyond the four walls of their practice.
 
“Individuals need guidance, support, tools and information that allow them to better manage themselves,” says Star Cunningham, founder and CEO of 4D Healthware, a platform that helps keep track of patients with chronic conditions virtually. It also helps physicians capitalize on the Medicare reimbursement for chronic disease management, which is approximately $40 per patient per month.
 
So, are physicians embracing these new tools?
 
“Not as well as we should be,” Cunningham says. “Not as well as we could be. And definitely not as fast as we should be.”
 
Left on the Table
Cunningham says that millions of dollars in potential reimbursement are being left on the table every month.
 
“You have to ask yourself, why are millions of dollars not being taken advantage of?” she says, rhetorically.
 
Part of the reason, she answers, is a play-it-safe mentality that permeates the medical field. And in some respects, rightly so.
 
“You’re supposed to play it safe,” she says. “You’re supposed to follow protocol when rendering healthcare service to a patient. But there’s a lack of urgency when it comes to adopting these new technologies.”
 
Will the shift to value-based medicine, and associated reimbursement, bring about that urgency?
 
A Matter of Education
Cunningham says that when Medicare issued the code for chronic care management services ($40 per Medicare beneficiary per month), many physicians determined there was too much work involved and pushed the opportunity aside – despite the potential revenue opportunity that industry estimates between $90,000 and $237,000 per provider annually. But that reimbursement, she says, is just the tip of the iceberg.
 
“You have think beyond the $40 to the next step,” Cunningham says. “That quantifiable data that Medicare is searching for, that lets a physician, and lets Medicare, and the payer and patient know that they’re actually doing better under this physician’s care. That quantifiable lab result seeing those numbers trend in the right direction is what is going to be necessary in this value-based payment model world.”
 
That’s where technology like 4D adds value. The platform is device agnostic, disease agnostic, and provider agnostic. And it doesn’t ask physicians to do any heavy lifting. It’s a technology platform that integrates wearable devices to help patients better manage chronic disease without constant interaction from physicians.
 
“As a physician’s practice, you have to be able to engage the patient in their care in order to avoid hospitalizations and reduce re-admissions,” Cunningham says.
 
Physicians, she says, introduce patients to the technology – “We have a new tool that I endorse, and you’ll be working with a patient engagement advisor that will allow you to better manage your multiple conditions” – and then hand it off to 4D.
 
“It is our business to make certain that we are engaging with the patient the way they want to, when they want to, and how they want to,” Cunningham explains. “That we are customizing that engagement to fit the education level, culture, language, and ethnicity of the individual. That we are learning with the data coming off those agnostic devices what times of day are best for [the patient] to engage in activity or receive that medication reminder and adhere to it?”
 
It’s All Technology
Cunningham says that physicians need to recognize patients are living in a different world today. They don’t want to take time from their day to physically sit in a doctor’s office and wait for a 10-minute appointment.
 
“You have to deliver care to patients the way they want it to be delivered in order to be successful in this new model.”
 
She emphasizes that physicians cannot learn all they need about their patients limiting the connection to the confines of the practice. More often than not there are social economic factors that can impede a patient’s progress.
 
For example, Cunningham says that sleep and dehydration are the two major factors that impact medication efficacy. But if patient engagement advisors can ‘nudge’ them into better sleep patterns, and you’re able to track their hydration level, you can determine that their medication will work better because they’re well hydrated and sleeping better.
 
“That’s a view of a patient that the clinician doesn’t have right now,” Cunningham says. “And that’s all technology. That’s the data coming from the devices. The doctors who don’t get it or don’t understand it will miss this whole wave.”


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