By Rich Prest, Senior Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy
In these unprecedented times, many healthcare provider offices we work with are struggling with very real concerns for staff and patient safety, cancelled appointments and declining revenue, how to adjust decisions on who to treat and what to postpone, and the rapid transition to virtual health.
We don’t know when this pandemic will end or what will change forever post-COVID-19. We do know that patients still need access to therapy and that patients and office staff should stay home where possible. We also know that many patients are nervous about visiting physician offices.
Specialists are re-evaluating what is really necessary when it comes to office visits. In a recent podcast, Dr. Bobby Green of Flatiron Health reported they saw a 22% drop in office visits in the past week across its network of offices. Utilization of telemedicine has grown from 5 to 10% of office visits to greater than 60%. In the same podcast, Dr. Sumit Shah shared that after his first telemedicine session he thought, “Where have you been all my life? That was easy.” Routine follow-ups and patients with compromised immune systems are easy decisions for telemedicine. An office visit becomes more likely when a physical examination, blood draw or other lab work is required.
Providers are having to make well-considered decisions about who they really need to see in person and who really needs to be started on a new therapy. Rather than postpone treatment, the motto becomes “keep doing what you can do safely.” The patients that do need to be seen and started on therapy now are most likely to be only the essential cases. For these patients, getting access to therapy is going to be critical.
We also know that most staff don’t have access to a fax machine in their homes. These combined factors create a golden opportunity for office staff to use proven alternatives to the fax for initiating patients on specialty therapy. These are not new technologies, however the imperative to try them was less clear than it is now. While not every office staff member will have desirable office space, a HIPAA-compliant laptop or the necessary bandwidth, many can be appropriately equipped.
At AssistRx, we’ve already seen significant numbers of new users adopting our free, browser-based iAssist software. These new users are taking advantage of the ability to move away from paper and to electronically check patient benefits, obtain prior authorizations, enroll in manufacturer-sponsored patient services, take advantage of copay offset programs and send electronic prescriptions to specialty pharmacies. In this challenging time, specialty therapy manufacturers are showing increased interest in technologies like iAssist that can help reduce barriers to patient starts. Therapy-specific workflows can be created to facilitate enrollment in the programs offered by a manufacturer, as well as leverage industry-leading electronic prior authorization, real-time pharmacy benefits check and electronic prescriptions over the Surescripts network. More information and a request for a demo can be found here.