As the world settles back into a more typical pace post-pandemic, much has changed. The onslaught of virtual care solutions and remote workflows has forced health systems and providers alike to step back and assess what is truly needed to provide care in a post-Covid world. And that’s easier said than done—with call center volumes climbing and consumer preferences permanently changed, assessing what’s next can be a burden for executives looking to implement a truly sustainable hybrid care model.
During a recent webinar with Becker’s Hospital Review, Demystifying patient navigation: Industry viewpoints for sustainable care delivery, Matthew Warrens, Managing Director of Innovation at UnityPoint Health joined Bright.md’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Edward Abraham, and Medical Director, Dr. Christina Chen, to discuss the challenges associated with patient navigation post-pandemic. For Warrens, this has been an opportunity to capitalize on shifting consumer demands to streamline workflows as volumes pick back up.
“A year after the pandemic, there’s a population of new patients coming in and opportunities with digital strategies to increase market share,” he said. “Coming back, we’ve had to change the way we’ve operated, since consumers have also changed.”
The consumer push post-pandemic
The key thing the industry has learned during Covid, said Chen, was that things can be done remotely. “This is true of healthcare,” she said. “You can see virtual visits skyrocketed, and although numbers have come down, there are still significantly more being done now compared with pre-pandemic.” In addition to increased volumes, she said, the types of virtual care options have evolved, sometimes leading to patient confusion. “People don’t always know what to choose—what kind of virtual visit? Call? Email? Chat? That being said, there will always be a subset that prefers in-person.”
With all these options now readily available, it’s no surprise that 51 percent of patients polled need or want some kind of care navigator to help determine what next steps are right for them. And according to Chen, having a solution geared toward navigation is critical, since if not, “call center volumes can drive patients to seek out direct-to-consumer offerings instead.”
The clinical resource decline
Another notable challenge post-pandemic is the mismatch of clinical resources, said Abraham. He recognized confusion that exists for patients. “The patient doesn’t know where to go, and they have questions about where to be seen,” he said. “But there’s also a big issue for systems around getting the patient to the right provider at the right time, at the right place.” In turn, issues around provider expectations have come to the forefront. “How can I make sure I’m not overloaded with the wrong patients in the wrong environment?” Abraham said. “Navigation sits at the center of all of this.”
Nurse and provider shortages—which are expected to increase, according to recently-updated AAMC projections— also add to these concerns. “This creates the perfect storm for frustrating patients and providers,” said Abraham.
According to Warrens, these challenges are necessary to address but can also be beneficial for health systems as they consider what solutions can help. “When you think about the traditional patient journey—diagnose, treat, recover—these are all upstream. We can also be better at creating relationships, so when [patients] get to that diagnosis and treatment stage, we get them in the right place.”
To do this, Warrens suggests reacting to consumer generated data in order to better health management, address social determinants of health, and provide connected care. Health systems should reconsider their strategic partnerships and continue looking at employers, grocers, and government agencies, for example. “There are a lot of opportunities for health systems to rethink strategies further upstream in that journey, while also assessing access points that benefit the patients.”
How Bright.md can help
So how can health systems think about the benefits of navigation tools to address these challenges? Firstly, it’s important to recognize that these solutions can help both the patient and the provider. “It’s central to the whole process,” said Abraham. “It improves the patient experience and ensures providers see patients at the right time while optimizing provider workflows, load balancing, etc. But from a financial perspective, it’s cost effective—care in the right setting helps health systems’ bottom line. They don’t waste resources while processes can improve quality and care experience.”
Bright.md’s navigation tool, for instance, extends beyond just patient triage. The solution gives systems the tool they need to determine a care path based on what care options are available at the time of the patient complaint. “For example, what’s available on a Tuesday at 1 p.m. is different from what’s available at 3 a.m. on a Saturday,” said Chen.
Additionally, Bright.md works with health systems to automate clinical workflows, improve provider efficiencies, cut down on administrative burden, and improve patient and provider experience. Bright.md’s Treat—its most widely used product—is an end-to-end asynchronous solution for low-acuity conditions typically seen in primary or urgent care visits, or an ER.
“Asynchronous means no direct time between patient and provider,” Chen explained. “The clinical interview gathers patient information once they submit, and our platform uses that information to generate a full progress note, so the provider can review and diagnose with evidence-based insight.” Once the provider signs the SOAP note, the patient receives the summary, information on prescriptions, and recommendations for follow-up.
“Our data shows on average, patients receive care in five to seven minutes upon submitting their interview,” Chen said. “Since the platform automates 90 percent of the work, there’s no chatting necessary, and the provider can deliver care in under two minutes.”
Additionally, Chen referenced a popular statistic that shows just how much solutions like Bright.md can help alleviate provider burden. “Every hour of time a provider spends with patients, there’s an associated two hours of documentation work,” she said. “[With Bright.md] clinicians can be focused on follow-up questions versus data gathering, and building relationships with patients while also having information integrated seamlessly into an EHR.”
And relationship-building continues to be at the forefront of Bright.md’s mission, reiterated Warrens. “Not everything can be automated, nor should it be,” he said. “But there’s not going to be enough providers. If we look at it through that lens, then we need to look for solutions that extend the reach of our providers. Everyone that we bring in, we share that philosophy—we’re constantly looking for ways to make their jobs easier.”