The co-founder and CEO of Elation Health, Kyna Fong, PhD, was interviewed by HIStalk last week. Kyna spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of healthcare, and the importance of healthcare technology. HIStalk also interviewed Natalia Southerland, MD, president of Brand New Med, PLLC in Texas, who discussed the changes presented by the pandemic and the need to consistently engage patients as part of the future of primary care.
Even though Elation Health is focused on providing quality healthcare technology to independent physicians, Kyna emphasized that “Our systems aren’t about upcoding, billing, and RVUs at the sacrifice of care. They’re about strengthening the patient-physician relationship and enhancing the craft of primary care.” She sees primary care and its evolution as the future of healthcare. Information technology in healthcare holds the key to unlocking sustainable healthcare in this country.
In her interview, Kyna cited studies that show that beyond the technology, good patient-provider relationships lead to reduced healthcare costs and better livelihood. She describes a recent study in which the researchers “asserted that poor outcomes flow from an impaired doctor-patient relationship.”
The digital aspect of primary is growing, particularly as telehealth gains in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Kyna points out that there are many rural areas in the US that have not been able to keep up with the digital move. She emphasizes that it’s necessary now to improve access as well as to provide electronic health records (EHRs) that don’t require significant resources and technical support. Underserved areas, such as those served by rural practices, need assistance as they move toward digital care.
In her experience and in Elation’s experience, the answer is uncovered by asking providers what they need and how best to tailor their healthcare application so they can better serve their communities. Most rural providers want a system that reduces administrative burdens, offers purpose-built technology that is easy to develop and implement, makes data sharing and collaboration with larger systems easier, completes parity in pay for both in-person and digital / virtual healthcare in the pandemic, and offers support and pathways for moving to value-based care.
One aspect of the pandemic that has affected primary care providers is that it appears to have leveled the playing field for the move toward value-based care. Kyna points out that “We’ve seen big moves toward capitated and value-driven agreements for independent practices offered by payers across the country. The pandemic showed us starkly that the specialty-driven, fee-for-service model of healthcare fails to keep patients healthy when it really matters.”
Technological advances have also come out of the pandemic. The recent movement toward telehealth technology like Zoom and video-based platforms and the integration of these systems into EHRs have been enhanced by the pandemic. This helped practices adopt new workflows to increase their treatment ability and reimbursement. Kyna added that the shift towards telemedicine showed the world how quickly medicine can evolve when given the right incentives and support.
In a separate interview, Elation physician, Dr. Southerland discussed the fact that inspiring people to take wellness into their own hands is important. She became a doctor to serve the underserved and to provide healthcare access to everyone, launching Brand New Med to accomplish those goals. Now, Brand New Med provides services that allow people to understand that they are more in control of their healthcare than they know.
Dr. Southerland has had to make some changes in her practice as a result of the pandemic’s effects. She said, though, that the technology used to reach and treat patients has been of utmost importance throughout the virus outbreak. In particular, she said that staying in contact with people through the pandemic is more important than ever.
Having a good EHR and having the ability for that EHR to change over time is critical. “Using an EHR to send out mass messages to people, what information I got recently from the department of health, or information about where they get vaccines,” Dr. Southerland said. “Being able to contact them from that standpoint.”
Technology that allows for interactions with the patient, including group visits, will be the future of primary care, she noted, adding that “Anything that is going to help the patient provide us with more information to diagnose and treat or to follow their condition is going to be a lot more helpful.” Dr. Southerland emphasizes that proactive care versus reactive care will benefit patients and providers alike, and technology can and will continue to help fill those gaps.