DENVER, April 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- With an increasing number of Americans subject to mandatory shelter-in-place orders, the number of people utilizing telemedicine services has increased dramatically – but not everyone has the luxury of being able to access their doctor remotely through a video, phone call or text. Paladina Health, one of the nation's largest direct primary care providers, is seeking to change that.
Paladina Health has changed its policies to make virtual care available to potentially thousands more people across the country. The company started this initiative by first expanding videoconferencing capabilities to all of its 126 clinics in the U.S. As a result of this expansion of services and the increased demand resulting from COVID-19 exposure fears, the company witnessed a 5X increase nationwide in the number of virtual care visits in March vs. February of this year.
Beyond offering telehealth services in all of its clinics to serve existing employers and organizations that contract with Paladina Health for direct primary care services, the company has introduced an unprecedented 90-day trial agreement for employers to offer virtual care services to their employees without committing to the full suite of data-driven, population health services the company offers.
Unlike most telehealth services, Paladina Health's virtual care model is unique in that patients are consistently "seen" by the same doctor who has access to their health history and is, therefore, in a better position to offer advice for acute care needs, as well as the management of chronic health risks. This includes ongoing management of common health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure – some of the same underlying issues that have been shown to have a direct link to the mortality rate of COVID-19-infected patients. In addition, Paladina Health schedules its virtual care visits for 30 minutes at a time, providing ample time to fully address a patient's immediate and long-term health needs. Most primary care providers are paid as part of a fee-for-service model which means they make more money by seeing more patients. Paladina Health, on the other hand, is reimbursed via a flat per-member fee, so there is no incentive to rush patients.
"Enhancing patient access to quality care is a cornerstone of our company's mission," says Chris Miller, president and CEO for Paladina Health. "Virtual care is just one of the many ways we provide 24/7, convenient access and care. During the current COVID-19 crisis, however, when patients are fearful of being exposed to the virus and hospitals need primary care physicians to serve as the front door to keep patients from going to already overburdened hospitals, virtual care in the form of video chats, phone calls and texts, is more important than ever."
According to Miller, the company's ability to extend telehealth services to more people is partially the result of recently relaxed government guidelines and restrictions. HIPAA guidelines, for example, now allow healthcare providers to use more commonly available, but unsecured, technologies such as Face Time or Facebook Video Chat for video visits. The DEA has also relaxed rules on prescribing drugs via phone or video appointments. In addition, many (but not all) states have modified their laws to enable physicians to practice across state lines.
"We are continuing to review our services and operations to align with the fast-changing needs of our patients," says Miller. "Our direct primary care model is especially well suited to survive and thrive during the current crisis because we are able to continue providing quality care and enhanced access all at a lower cost than traditional fee-for-service models. In addition, we are nimble enough to quickly respond to new demands placed on us by employers. For example, we are already working on ways to help employers – especially manufacturers – screen new employees and returning employees for COVID-19. Ongoing screenings may well be the new norm for employers for some time to come and Paladina Health is ready to respond."
For more information on Paladina Health's unique direct primary care model, the services it offers and a full listing of existing clinics, visit paladinahealth.com.
SOURCE Paladina Health