If you need to transfer money and it is late at night, do you wait? Of course not. You easily make the transaction regardless of the time of day. In many communities you can buy groceries 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Why is healthcare so different? In many communities, going to the local emergency room for care may be your only option. Although the care can be provided for non-emergencies, it can be at a large cost.
Access to healthcare in America is a concern for a variety of reasons and has been described by some as unreliable. There are many people who do not receive appropriate or timely care. Some of the barriers identified are normal clinic hours, lack of providers, geographic location, and the use of narrow networks. There is growing evidence about delayed access. People can wait a week or weeks for an office appointment or longer for doctors who can accept their insurance plans. Unfortunately, lengthy waits to get an appointment is becoming a norm in many parts of America, particularly for primary care providers and some specialists.
3 creative alternatives
The healthcare landscape in the U.S. is in a dynamic period of change because costs are high and our quality outcomes are not where they should be. Many healthcare providers and employers are looking for more creative ways to provide appropriate and timely care at the right location with the right provider, and at a lower cost. The goal is to find a lower-cost option whose focus is on providing appropriate best practice care.
On-demand healthcare is becoming more popular because of convenient access to care and, more importantly, an ability to get timely and appropriate care at a predictable and transparent cost. Although options are growing, let’s focus on three: the retail clinic market, on-demand house call models, and remote monitoring.
What is a retail clinic?
A retail clinic is described as a walk in clinic located in a mall, grocery store, or adjacent to a pharmacy. They are known by many names such as convenience care clinics, now clinics, minute clinics or retailed-based clinics. Regardless of the name, the goal is to provide convenient and timely access for:
- Minor illnesses or non-urgent conditions like rashes, sore throats, or earaches
- Acute conditions like bronchitis
There are some clinics expanding their services to include managing chronic conditions. These clinics emphasize convenience with no appointment is required and extended hours in the evening and on the weekend. Although visits in the retail clinic market is small compared to overall outpatient visits, over 44% of the visits occur when typical provider offices are closed, according to the National Institutes of Health. This allows the consumer to receive the right care at the right location at the right time, instead of seeking emergency room care at a much higher expense.
Concerns have been raised about the quality of care at these retail clinics, but a growing body of evidence suggests this is not the case. A study funded by the RAND Corporation found that retail clinics provide the same quality of care as ambulatory care facilities and emergency departments, but at a lower cost. However, these clinics are not meant to replace the primary care provider or manage patients with complex conditions. They are a complement to the healthcare system and is meeting a need for access.
What is an on-demand home visit?
Some of you might remember your family doctor coming to your house for a healthcare visit. It has been a while since this was a common occurrence (I have only been told).
There are a number of companies across the country attempting to enhance access and quality care by bringing the care to employees’ homes, offices, or whenever is most convenient with creative pricing arrangements. Again, convenience is a factor that is drawing consumer attention. However, when you are sick and can have a nurse practitioner, primary care provider, or pediatrician come to your home to provide appropriate care at a predictable cost, it can be priceless.
On-demand care sounds great because it should decrease your spend, but the primary question should be: Are they focused on providing quality care at a lower cost? Many of these companies are now expanding their services to include care management, telephonic, and telemedicine services to provide the right care, at the right time, with the right provider, at the right location.
What is remote healthcare monitoring?
Remote patient monitoring (RPM), also called homecare telehealth, is an area that is growing rapidly. These services allow a patient to use a mobile medical device to perform a routine test and then send the data to a healthcare professional in real time. It can include monitoring glucose for patients with diabetes or blood pressure. The advantage is a timely response to the results without an office visit, taking time off from work, or leaving their home. More importantly, with appropriate and timely care, these services decrease the need for an emergency room visits or hospitalization.
There are many different options or combinations employers can explore to improve the health and well-being of their employees and reduce the spend. Our Health Management Solutions team can partner with you to develop a plan that will meet the needs of your organization and your team. To learn more about Health Management Solutions, attend one of our upcoming webinars. For more information about telehealth specifically, join our June 21 webinar "Making telehealth work for your company." For more information about our workplace wellness solutions in general, please contact us.