It seems like only yesterday when discussions centered around the lack of physician and nursing bandwidth due to heavy documentation and EHR requirements, overwork and long hours. Addressing population health issues was deemed critically important but all too often had to take a back seat since providers were already stretched to their limits. Now, with the onslaught of COVID-19, providers are digging deep to keep up and the need to closely and consistently manage the overall care of other patients coming into health systems is up against a tough fight.
Here is where Population Health Assistants (PHAs) step in; they can play a vital role in ensuring that the health outcomes of those not affected by the pandemic can be maintained and even improved. CareThrough PHAs often perform a dual role of Care Navigator, to help improve care coordination, patient engagement, and clinical outcomes, and Care Team Assistant, to perform essential administrative tasks that help optimize the care team. The PHA role is vital because the effects on the public healthcare system of unmanaged health conditions are staggering.
For example, look at the critical need to have mammograms. About one in four women in the U.S. ages 50 to 74 years have not had a mammogram in the past two years per recommended guidelines. Yet, in 2020 alone, the American Cancer Society estimates 42,170 women will die from breast cancer. Or take the very real risk of falls among older adults. Thirty million older adults fall each year, resulting in about 30,000 deaths.
How many of these deaths could be prevented with timely and consistent screenings? CareThrough has shown that with the oversight of PHAs, breast cancer screenings increase by 7.3 percent, and screening for future fall risk increases by 14.3 percent. These increases have a dramatic effect on quality measures and clinical outcomes for patients.
PHAs Take on Critical Role
While our healthcare system is struggling to stay operational during this pandemic, PHAs can take on the much-needed job of “navigating” patient health conditions, both acute and chronic. PHAs assume responsibility for proactive patient outreach and care coordination that physicians and nurses simply cannot do alone. Creating additional patient access points, supporting the Medicare CCM program, closing open care gaps to improve quality metics, and providing a critical level of focus and support leading to both increased patient and provider satisfaction are just a few of the vital tasks PHAs perform.
PHAs enhance the productivity of the care teams they serve. They do this by rightsizing the labor spread across the healthcare team, allowing physicians and nurses to focus on their own critical and lifesaving work, and providing support in caring for patients with complex needs. This includes preparing patients for appointments, follow-up after visits, scheduling appointments, and, most importantly, providing ongoing support and guidance, all of which help to reduce healthcare spending and costs.
PHAs, by virtue of their role to serve as a single point of contact for patients, enable physicians and nurses to practice at the top of their license. As a result, they free up providers to see more patients per day to get the care they need, leading us down the path toward the much sought after goal of value-based care.
Patients who are paired with Care Navigators report feeling less anxiety, and an increased ability to self-manage their conditions between visits. And providers report increased job satisfaction from improved efficiency, and knowing their patients have access to care teams, and strategic support.
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