CA Blues plan expands use of Heal’s home visits, telehealth

Blue Shield of California is partnering with a company that is making use of telehealth services to enable follow-up care for home care visits by physicians.

The Blues plan has worked since 2016 with Heal, a California-based company that provides on-call, in-home doctor visits that patients order through an app.

Beginning this summer, Heal expanded its house call services to include telehealth for returning customers, making follow-up visits that much easier. The house calls and follow-up telehealth visits are combined with Heal Hub, launched last year, which collects a patient’s vital signs—including blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and other health status indicators—in real time.

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Home visits are crucial because they give physicians a deeper understanding of what’s really going on with a patient, says Malaika Stoll, MD, senior regional medical director for BSC. For example, when doctors visit a patient in the home, they can actually see where the medication is kept and perhaps discover why a patient is not adhering to it. Physicians also can detect anything in the home that might be contributing to chronic health conditions.

Justin Zaghi, Heal’s medical director, says a unique effect of Heal Hub on patients is that often just by knowing their physicians will be monitoring their vitals, patients work that much harder at maintaining their own health. In addition, follow-ups via telehealth and the use of Heal Hub help to refine prescriptions for high blood pressure in a matter of weeks vs. months gets patients on the right dose of medication that much quicker.

Heal also monitors for and addresses social determinants of health; its physicians have access to prior health records through its integration with the Apple Health Kit, the company says. By combining in-home context with prior health records and real time vitals, Heal telemedicine enables precise, personal and data-driven care, the company contends.

The use of Heal’s house visits fits into BSC’s larger strategy of improving access to care, “and that’s one of the most important places to put our energy,” Stoll says. Early BSC survey data on the use of Heal suggests it has cut down on unnecessary emergency department visits, Stoll says.

Heal is in-network with all major PPO insurance companies in California. It is covered by UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Cigna, Anthem and Health Net and is available in California, northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Atlanta. According to Jessica Gelzer, senior director of strategic growth for Heal, the company just started seeing Medicare coverage at the beginning of year and use by that population is growing. “It’s only the beginning,” she says.

Heal reports it has delivered more than 110,000 house calls across the U.S. in less than four years, driving more than $71 million in healthcare cost savings and reducing unnecessary trips to the emergency department and urgent care by 71 percent.

“Typical telemedicine is plagued by low uptake, underdiagnoses and overprescription,” says Nick Desai, CEO and co-founder of Heal. “There’s a huge difference between an awkward encounter with a random provider and talking to your own doctor with whom you have a relationship and understands the context of your real-time health data.”

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