A recent report from NPR highlights telemedicine’s application in community health outreach to keep patients out of the ER.
Mary’s Center, a community health center based in Washington, D.C., is piloting a program that brings primary care to Medicare patients in their own homes. Medical assistants and nurses visit patients and facilitate telemedicine consultations with physicians at the center.
Many patients do not have reliable transportation, or face other access barriers such as work conflicts or lack of childcare. That means when preventable issues compound, these people can easily end up in the ER.
Mary’s Center pilot program grew out of AmeriHealth, a Medicaid managed care organization in D.C., approaching the health center and wanting to brainstorm how to get the District’s unnecessary emergency visits down … The managed care organizations get incentives from the city if they reduce ER overuse. And the D.C. council is considering legislation that would expand reimbursement for these types of visits.
But it’s not just about reducing ER visits. Bringing care directly to the patients is part of a long-term push to improve Medicare beneficiaries’ health across populations. And with the increasing emphasis on patient-centered care, more programs may follow in its wake.