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Saul Marquez, Host at Outcomes Rocket Podcast

Helping Underserved Patients Get the Quality Specialty Care They Need

Wednesday April 29th 2020

Helping Underserved Patients Get the Quality Specialty Care They Need

Helping Underserved Patients Get the Quality Specialty Care They Need

Access to Healthcare Services Sets the Baseline for Health

Easy accessibility to quality health care services means early detection and treatment of disease, improved physical and mental well-being, lower mortality rates, and higher life expectancy. Delays in receiving health care lead to poor management of a disease or late detection, increased financial burden, mental, and emotional, possible disability, or worst still premature death. 


Unfortunately, the high cost of health insurance means a majority of U.S. adults delay getting the care they need because they cannot afford it1.  Medicaid and Medicare are available, but even then, if you need the help of a specialist, you will find that many specialists opt-out of these federal and state health programs. 


This was the problem Dr. Daren Anderson faced as a doctor in a community health center in Connecticut. Though the clinics are the best primary care facilities one could hope for, things change when he refers to a patient out to a specialist. 


ConferMED as a Solution to Specialist Access


In our podcast interview, Dr. Anderson recalled that back in 2012, his clinic faced a nine to twelve-month wait minimum to get one of their Medicaid patients to be seen by an orthopedist or a dermatologist. 


He stated.  “Pretty much all of the special things had at least some sort of a delay. This presents a real challenge for the primary care provider. You may have a fairly good idea of what you need to do, but you may not be sure.”


“The only way to get answers to your questions or get a patient to have the procedure they need is to refer them to a specialty center. And no, unfortunately, uninsured patients and even those with Medicaid have great difficulty finding specialty care, because the simple fact is reimbursement rates are relatively low and many, most specialists, in fact, limit or do not accept most patients without insurance or Medicaid. And so that presents a substantial challenge to us. And that was the issue that we sought to address with ConferMED.”


Where others may have just let things be, Dr. Anderson’s proactive attitude led him and his team to the formation of a telehealth solution designed to improve access for the underserved population. 


ConferMED is a national network of specialists providing eConsults and other telehealth services to providers across the country


Dr. Anderson works with a team of primary care providers, nurses, and referral coordinators. 


How does it work? According to Dr. Anderson, “It essentially allows the primary care provider to send questions and some of the details about the case from the medical record to a specialist so they can get eyes on that consult question rapidly…and most of the specialists respond within the same day. 77% percent responded on the same day the question was submitted. They’re able to put eyes on that consult, review the information that we submit and send back to that primary care provider advice and guidance.”


ConferMED allows primary care providers and specialists to communicate more effectively, co-manage when necessary, and most especially, provide easy access to specialty care. 


Backed by Clinical Trials and Published Papers


Before ConferMED was created, health centers in Connecticut partnered with the state Medicaid Department and set up a randomized controlled trial. The result of that trial was published in five different papers. Essentially the results show that when primary care providers and patients get the clinical process started, a whole series of positive things happen from a clinical and financial standpoint. 


The first paper showed that implementing e-consults get patients’ treatment faster. The second paper showed that patients who had access to e-consult had fewer emergency room visits. He shared the example of the study on dermatology where 80% of patients who were referred to specialists were never seen at all, while that used e-consult were looked at in no more than two days. That result clearly shows that e-consult’s impact is substantial and is a faster and easier way of getting quality specialty care. 


Not only is it creating a clinical impact, econsults like ConferMed also significantly affects the bottom line. 


Patients can save up to $500 per consult. The savings do not only come from preventing the face to face visit. Think about the money patients can save on gas. They do not need to be absent from work. They can save time. There will not be any last-minute doctor cancellation. 


Aside from patients, another stakeholder that can benefit from this is the employer. If you are an employer paying the pay, you want to reduce the cost. You also want to lessen absenteeism, which can happen if your employee must constantly visit a specialist. Econsults make specialists visit easy and cost-effective. 


As we move to new models of healthcare and now with the Corona pandemic, we need telehealth more than ever. ConferMED is making traction and adding a lot of value to healthcare. 


Listen to our whole conversation here: https://outcomesrocket.health/confermed/2020/03/





Written By

Saul Marquez

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