Retail’s role, focus on equity, value-based pay amid COVID-19: takeaways from HLTH 2020

The future of alternative payment models, the importance of health equity, and the key questions of the rapidly evolving telemedicine industry were some of the main topics of the HLTH virtual conference last week.

Along with a wave of expansion in digital health funding and new product lines, retail giants Walgreens and Rite Aid have made plans to change the pharmacist’s job, and Trump administration officials mocked them details of a possible reimbursement for COVID-19 vaccines.

Here are six key highlights from the third year of the massive health conference that saw the industry grapple with an unprecedented COVID-19 outage.

Retail pharmacy players double down

Large pharmaceutical retail companies are re-evaluating the role of the pharmacist and trying to introduce new technologies and workflows so that the pharmacist can exercise his license to the fullest, according to HLTH executives.

Along with the brand redesign, the Rite Aid drugstore chain, with 2,400 locations, plans to redesign its locations to focus more on the pharmacist, Chief Operating Officer Jim Peters said in a keynote address Wednesday.

“Pharmacists are the underutilized providers and possibly the missing link in this last mile of healthcare,” Peters said.

Rite Aid has not only connected its pharmacists with other providers and health plans through virtual care but has also certified its approximately 6,300 pharmacists as additional pharmaceutical specialists to educate consumers on potential alternative and non-traditional remedies for their medical problems.

Peters also made it clear that Rite Aid was not interested in providing primary care, in direct contrast to its rivals CVS Health, Walgreens, and Walmart, which have doubled their healthcare provision in recent years.

“We are pharmacists at our center. We take on this role” Peters said.

Value-based efforts helped with quality, not cost

The pandemic has exposed a wide variety of problems in the healthcare industry, including the payment of fees for the service. Alternative payment providers were better positioned to handle the headwinds of COVID-19, such as the sharp drop in in-person visits in March and April.

Brad Smith, who took over the leadership of the Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center in January, said Wednesday that he was busy reviewing the 54 payment models that the innovation agency had developed in its ten-year tenure. Only about five had saved the system money, while one number was even and a handful of outliers – usually the larger models, Smith admits – had actually cost more than they.

However, some have dramatically improved service outcomes, and none have led to a degradation in quality, according to Smith, who noted that the understanding of the model’s results was several years ago and he expected more payers to join the models when they were released demonstrate return on investment.

Targeting underserved populations

Several major health systems have announced major changes in the social determinants of health and the integrated care space at HLTH.

The program, which is currently in the trial phase, will screen all patients for factors such as access to housing, food safety, and transportation, and then refer them to non-profit services, said DeAnna Minus-Vincent, vice president senior of RWJBH.

And nonprofit giant Common Spirit plans to offer behavioral health in primary care through a partnership with virtual care provider Concert Health, CEO Lloyd Dean announced Wednesday. Common Spirit is also expanding its partnership with Docent Health, a navigation assistant, with the goal of expanding access to health care, especially in disadvantaged communities.

Greg Adams, executive director of the Kaiser Integrated Health System, said on Monday that the nonprofit is trying to find out how ethnic and racial factors can be included in quality and care assessment. The Kaiser Council is still pondering what that means in practice, but the ultimate goal is to “eliminate the differences in health care for all the care we offer,” Adams said.

Back-to-work products pick up steam

Small startups, along with big names like CVS and UnitedHealth Group, have launched products in recent months that aim to safely reopen workplaces and other public spaces. This dynamic continued in HLTH.

IBM has launched an application for companies that can be used to check people’s health before they enter a public space such as airplanes, workplaces, or sports stadiums. Health status relies on verified data sources, such as B. COVID-19 test results, and companies can choose which requirements are needed for entry, said Paul Roma, CEO of IBM Watson Health on Monday.

In the coming weeks, the project will launch trials on multiple intercontinental flight routes with major airlines in partnership with accredited governments, airports, and laboratories, Perkins said.

And Vivian Lee, president of health platforms at Verily, Alphabet’s life science business, on Wednesday stressed the importance of testing asymptomatic people on a regular basis. Verily, which tests its employees weekly, also sells a COVID-19 screening and testing program to employers and universities that began in June.

Telehealth on fire, but needs to prove ROI00

Many consumers, encouraged by COVID-19, have tried virtual assistance for the first time and found that they value convenience, while payers see an opportunity for efficiency in providing services to people at home, it said Wednesday. Cigna CEO David Cordani.

Tools for gathering information from longitudinal patient data, such as remote patient monitoring devices, for example, are particularly important to this change, the participants said. Sensors and embedded elements are becoming increasingly popular to allow clinicians to access biometric information at home so they can take full advantage of their licenses.

“We need to give them some degree of cognitive automation so they can make decisions about actionable information, not just data,” said Neil Gomes, vice president of digital and human experiences at nonprofit giant CommonSpirit Health, during a panel Thursday.

However, the industry is still trying to strike a balance between physical and virtual care, even as telemedicine providers focus more on areas such as primary care, behavioral health, and chronic disease management. Increasing investments in digital health have oiled up these extensions and sparked massive posts and transactions in the space.

Vaccine looms, distribution plans ramp up

As the pandemic highlights health inequalities, the Food and Drug Administration tells drug companies developing COVID-19 vaccines that their clinical trials must include a large and diverse patient population, Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a release.

The agency wants a vaccine to be at least 50% effective in patients of different races, races, ages, and comorbidities, Hahn said. But the FDA could eventually approve a vaccine for the general population or a more targeted vaccine for a specific population.