Why Tailoring Chronic Care Management during COVID-19 Is Important

August 5, 2020

Unlike any other pandemic in our lifetime, COVID-19 has rapidly transformed our world and the healthcare system in a short period of time. With the pandemic outbreak and increasing mortality rates touching nearly every corner of the globe, healthcare providers worldwide continue to endorse measures of social distancing, self-quarantining and adhering to strict governmental guidelines to effectively minimize the virus spread and ease the overwhelming burden within the healthcare system. Amid these precautionary recommendations to flatten the curve, coronavirus cases are growing, and the fear of overloading hospitals across the nation continues. The ripple effect on the healthcare landscape illuminates the vulnerabilities in the current system design and infrastructure. And, paradoxically, while it is advanced in some areas of care, it is also underdeveloped in a number of ways, intensifying the impact on the healthcare system.

And while doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have met the COVID-19 situation with heroic efforts and unprecedented ways of care, the coronavirus has not only amplified existing system challenges but also brought on a new set of pain points for providers and administrators, including:

  • Dramatic decrease of in-office visits
  • Care managers forced into administrative roles due to staff reductions
  • Providers discussing retirement as opposed to learning telehealth practices
  • The loss of patient attribution to their organization, which can impact their reimbursement and a variety of other factors

In an effort to alleviate these challenges, healthcare is acting upon some crucial learnings from this crisis. On March 17, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced their expanded opportunities for reimbursement of telehealth services. According to the organization’s official press release, previously restricted services will expand for a limited time to receiving telehealth services in any kind of setting, even in the comfort of their homes. These services can be a safer option by reducing potential exposures, the strain on healthcare systems’ surges and excessive use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

More than half of all adults have a chronic disease and, more than a third of the population is living with more than one chronic condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just seven chronic diseases – heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease – are the leading causes of death and disability and leading drivers of the nation’s annual $3.5 trillion healthcare costs. Telehealth can maintain continuity of care and can only be strengthened with chronic care management (CCM), helping avoid the negative consequences of delayed care. Coupling  telehealth for chronic care management, organizations can address many of these COVID-19 pain points head-on.

There are three essential components to consider when managing chronic care patients’ long-term health concerns:

Care Between Appointments

Telehealth can be as simple as a phone call, live audio-video interaction, email or interaction via a patient portal or other smart digital tools. These conversations increase a patient’s focus on their health and their participation, facilitating management of a patient’s condition from a distance. It preserves the patient-provider relationship, helps reinforce their care plans and improves a provider’s visibility into health issues, whether pre-existing or evolving.

Using All Available Data

With an unknown coronavirus looming on top of the patient’s chronic condition, every available tool needs to be utilized to remain proactive. Patients with chronic diseases may see a new symptom pop up from time to time. If there is something that raises concern, even if it may be minor, the right data can help care managers identify and intervene with personalized preventative care measures. These actions, in turn, can significantly improve patient compliance with value-based care steps.

Embracing Remote Care 

When there are deterring factors in play that make in-person consultations and visits unfeasible or more complicated, remote patient care will provide quantifiable impacts, both individually and financially. Though understanding and staying informed on telehealth and remote care reimbursement can be complex, the right resources can simplify the process and help in the delivery of patient care, while improving outcomes. Increasing the ease of access to providers, care managers and other wellness resources lowers the barriers of delivering consistent engagement, which is critical in an emergency situation like this pandemic.

Navin Balakrishnaraja
National Practice Director for Healthcare IT Services