3 key takeaways for community health centers on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment

As a member of the North Carolina Community Health Center Association’s Group Purchasing Organization, emocha attended last week’s North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) Clinical Conference on Quality and Chronic Disease—the only health center conference in the country specifically focused on clinical quality improvement for chronic disease management. Three key takeaways emerged from the sessions surrounding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chronic disease:

For the first time, HRSA will capture the number of virtual visits to health centers.

Part of a new requirement for the 2020 Uniformed Data System (UDS) includes the addition of reporting to capture the number of telemedicine/virtual visits, in order to better quantity and understand the applications & uses of telehealth among health centers. The change was implemented to support HRSA’s ongoing efforts to “enhance technical and policy guidance” in telemedicine–and the interests of health centers in exploring initiatives that both expand access to care and increase quality of care. Moreover, given the rapidly expanding use of telemedicine in the field of healthcare, health centers have specifically demonstrated a desire to better report this type of data: and more effectively represent the uniquely diverse models of care delivery. This newly developed requirement represents a critical shift in the changing landscape of healthcare, and a significant move towards the recognition of digital health and its capabilities.

Health centers focus on the applications of cutting-edge digital health research.

One session noted that 71 percent of FQHCs engage in research with academic medical centers. Dr. Dori Steinberg, Associate Director of the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center, presented on recently emerging technological trends in digital health, and highlighted the successful partnership between Duke and Piedmont Health. In illustrating the trial’s success, Dr. Steinberg discussed how the 12-month weight loss intervention holistically engaged and retained patients through regular use of a mobile application, health coaching, and weigh-ins on a smart scale. At the conclusion of the study, 96 percent of enrolled patients continued engagement, and connected patients lost almost ten pounds more than their counterparts. The recently published study demonstrates the ways in which a digital heath intervention, coupled with consistent human engagement, can significantly impact weight loss within low-income populations. Additional health centers highlighted for innovations in technological programming included Blue Ridge Community Health Services and Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center: both of which are collaborating with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill to improve access to colorectal cancer cancer screening through a centralized mailing program for fecal immunochemical tests.

Interpersonal care continuity drives improved health outcomes and lower costs for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Dr. Anne Gaglioti from Morehouse School of Medicine presented on a new measure of primary care continuity for chronic disease management: interpersonal care continuity, or seeing the same provider for a chronic care visit at least 2 times in one year. Dr. Gaglioti’s team analyzed Medicaid claims from over 20 state Medicaid programs to demonstrate how beneficiaries with interpersonal care continuity experienced 30 percent fewer emergency room visits, 70% fewer hospitalizations, and utilized approximately $1,500 fewer healthcare dollars than otherwise similar beneficiaries. If all Medicaid beneficiaries employed interpersonal care continuity, $2.6 billion could potentially be saved; yet only 36 percent of beneficiaries had at least 2 visits with the same provider in one year for a chronic care visit. With the availability of technology like emocha, connections between providers and patients can be facilitated in newly scalable ways. Additionally, new funding opportunities from HRSA can further strengthen the relationships between clinicians and patients: simultaneously enhancing care, and increasing access for patients seeking chronic treatment for behavioral health care.

Looking to more effectively manage chronic disease through cutting-edge & pioneering innovation? Contact us today for additional information surrounding emocha’s commitment to solving public health challenges through digital health technologies.