Sometimes it is said that one needs to "slow down in order to speed up" -- meaning that the things that take time now can often save us time later.
UnitedHealthcare's HouseCalls program, which recently surpassed 5 million visits, seems like just that kind of "slow down to speed up" situation. You wouldn't think that the program -- which brings healthcare to people's homes with house calls -- would be any kind of revenue generator or money saving initiative. But the results have been surprising.The program brings healthcare providers into peoples' homes, primarily for checkups and preventative care. For Paul Engwall, the visit by Hesper Nowatzki, a nurse practitioner, was life-saving. A simple urine dipstick done during Nowatzki's home visit, revealed kidney disease, which has since been treated.
As Fierce Healthcare reports, "The program was solidified six years ago with the purchase of XLHealth, a Medicare Advantage plan that focused on beneficiaries with chronic conditions that were also eligible for Medicaid. At the time, UnitedHealth predicted it would add about $2 billion in revenues."
The program tends to cut hospitalizations and high-cost admissions. "Practitioners typically spend 45 to 60 minutes with each member, often addressing issues that a primary care physician can’t, such as access to food and transportation that may be inhibiting access to care."
This program may not win any awards for most cutting-edge technology, but the care and savings are exemplary. To us, it's a great example of a simple program that questions what we think are the most cost-effective ways to provide care, in order to prioritize care that is truly helpful for our patients.
Of course, we happen to think the program would be even more powerful if nurse practitioners like Hesper Nowatzki had the capability of collaborating with other providers (like specialists). How much better if any little "red flag" didn't mean the patient immediately needing to jump in the car, but could rather be additionally helped by a remote team. But for now, programs like these are certainly steps forward -- they question the things that we think will save money and prioritize the things that will really improve care.
Hear stories of how telemedicine programs are cutting costs and improving care: