Multi-Specialty Telehealth Collaborative Offers One-Stop Healthcare for Underserved, Remote Patients

Friday, October 24th, 2014
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

It’s all about the patient.

That’s what prompted Blue Shield of California and Adventist Health, both not-for-profit organizations, to collaborate on a telehealth program that could afford quality care to all Californians, when and where they need it, says Lisa Williams, senior director of strategic integration and execution, healthcare quality and affordability, Blue Shield of California, during Creating a Virtual Multi-Specialty Physician Network: A Payor-Provider Telehealth Collaborative, an October 15th webinar, now available for replay.

The presentation also featured Robert Marchuk, vice president of ancillary services at Adventist Health, and Christine Martin, director of operations, Adventist Health; all three shared the inside details on the collaboration and the shared mission and values that has led to the program’s success.

Located in largely rural markets, access to specialists is especially critical for the program’s success, Ms. Williams says. The nine-site program, which launched in March, includes 11 specialties, ranging from cardiology to dermatology to orthopedics and rheumatology, which account for the majority of volume in pre-op and post-op care. Specialists are all board-certified and credentialed. The program will expand to an additional 16 sites by the end of this year, with plans to add telepsychiatry, she says.

Central to the program is its care coordination center, a full-service, virtual, multi-specialty physician practice with robust patient and provider supporting services, says Mr. Marchuk. Similarly to a one-stop shopping site, when patients enter a site, clinicians make one phone call regarding that patient to the center, which coordinates all aspects of that patient’s care, from scheduling an appointment with the provider and the clinic itself, ensuring all patient records are available and uploaded to their electronic medical record (EMR), to scheduling follow-up ancillary services and physician appointments and billing. “It’s been very successful,” says Mr. Marchuk, “and really sets us apart from other programs.”

Identifying gaps in their markets, and then finding the right specialty and specialist for that market are big parts of the process, Mr. Marchuk continues. “There are physicians out there that can be wonderful on a face-to-face visit and very, very good clinically, but don’t necessarily lend themselves well to a video interaction, so we screen very carefully.”

Clinician engagement, extensive training, and communication at all points of contact are also important, says Ms. Martin. “You can never over-communicate,” she says. Patients, staff, local providers and specialty providers all need to know what’s going on, so the experience can be as seamless as possible.

Reimbursement for telehealth is still on the negotiation table, Mr. Marchuk adds. But ultimately, it pays to invest in the technology now for the future.

“It’s one of the fastest growing growing fields. It’s affordable, accessible, and cost-effective. Telehealth really can enhance the physician and patient relationship.”

Listen to interviews with Robert Marchuk and Lisa Williams.

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