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HomeNewsCaribbean NewsIn-person contact helps fill gaps in telehealth treatment and dervice

In-person contact helps fill gaps in telehealth treatment and dervice

By PYMNTS

It’s an awkward moment during a telehealth video visit when that tech hits a physical wall, and the doctor or clinician needs to schedule you to come in for tests and exams. HealthTech firms are addressing this last-mile challenge with services that bridge virtual and IRL appointments.

Gap closures between virtual care and the need for physical testing and data are major hurdles to the make increasing in-home care model work to their fullest extent, and they necessitate a small army of skilled clinicians to go into homes to get samples and specimens.

Sprinter Health chief executive officer Max Cohen told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster that after starting with at-home blood draws using its group of “Sprinters” — full-time phlebotomists and other healthcare workers — the company is moving to a more complex set of tests that reflect a more complete list of services delivered in the comfort of home.

Gap closures are a focal point now, making sure that patients are adhering to prescriptions and treatments while getting needed data and samples back to doctors for analysis.

“We’re going into the home, we’re doing diabetic retinal exams, we’re doing diabetic foot exams, doing A1C draws,” he said. “You have folks who frankly weren’t as engaged with their primary care physician who are either pre-diabetic or diabetic and we’re making sure that we’re getting the data needed back to their provider.”

Moving into areas like cancer treatment in the fall, Sprinter Health will begin doing at-home blood draws for chemotherapy patients in the days leading up to an infusion.

“It’s much better for the patient, it’s better for the health system to know about capacity planning for the infusion center, it’s better for the provider because they want to get follow ups,” he said. “The question is, does the cost to do that exceed or is it lower than the value that’s created? We’re going to be able to learn a lot about that over the next few months.”

There’s a lot to be gained as these programs scale, from better scheduling when office visits are needed, to cut patient wait times, all the way to the timing of formulary so that premixed cancer drugs are dispensed before having to be discarded.

The math on how much time and cost in involved moving around a flock of full-time (no gig workers) phlebotomists and skilled nursing techs will be among longer-term learnings for Sprinter Health as it finds its own niche in an increasingly competitive set including everyone from Amazon to Walmart and many others vying for a piece of the home healthcare pie.

Read: Digital Diagnostics, In-Home Lab Tests Make Final Mile of Connected Healthcare Possible

A mix of models

Part of the growing value-based care movement that ties compensation to clinical outcomes, Cohen sees a direct connection between payments and outcomes as healthy for the system.

“It’s just so much cleaner that it makes sense. In value-based care, especially in global companies, you’ve got someone that is responsible,” he told Webster. “They are on the hook whether you see them or not, so they need to do a good job and get you that care and make sure that you get what you need.”

By “cleaner” he means that the wildly varying prices charged for medical procedures in the fee for service model — what costs $200 from one provider might cost $2,000 from another — is made clear in value-based delivery, saying that Medicare Advantage and other value-based arrangements make it easier to find a business model that works. And while they certainly play a major role, Cohen doesn’t necessarily see Big Tech moves into the space as the be-all solution, including Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical and deals like it.

“One Medical is straight-up fee-for-service primary care where there’s an added fee on top that paid by an employer or something like that,” he said. “And they don’t do house calls.”

See also: Sprinter Health Launches at-Home Lab Appointments in LA County

Competition and expansion

Big Tech will be part of healthcare’s future, but there will be checkpoints to clear for Amazon, Google and the rest as health data privacy and security dominate digital healthcare discussions.

While he sees huge firms like Apple and Google running into data-sharing concerns with health systems and consumers themselves, the convenience of voice and consumers’ comfort level with it promises to usher in new paradigms that Big Tech is poised to be part of.

Cohen hails from both Google and Facebook’s Oculus VR unit, so his insights are informed by experience.

For example, he agrees that voice will play a larger role in healthcare — especially in home — going forward. And Cohen said, “If you can’t use Apple, Amazon or Google for some reason, there are tons of other companies that have great [Natural Language Processing] solutions. If you’re committed to the patient experience you can make a pretty darn good one right now.”

Sprinter Health is primarily concerned with its own expansion now, adding to its services now available in California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and a mystery state to be announced.

Not spilling the beans, he said of the next site up: “I’ll just say, in the mountain area.”

Saying, “The joke I like is that value-based care has been two years away for 20 years,” Cohen said Sprinter Health is complementary to Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and other modes of in-home healthcare and that figures into longer-term planning as the company expands.

While some early investors said RPM made services like Sprinter redundant, Cohen countered that “we’re extremely well positioned to set up those RPM devices or license and help greet them ourselves. I don’t worry too much about like the far future stuff. The reality is for the next zero to 10 years, there’s so many problems to be solved. I just want to help with that.”

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