Intermountain at Home looks to push the boundaries of tech-enabled virtual care

Intermountain Healthcare will expand its longtime Homecare & Hospice program into a new technology-supported initiative called Intermountain at Home, the health system announced last week.

Intermountain at Home will use telemedicine and remote monitoring along with homecare visits to expand the program from palliative care and dialysis, which the system already offers at home, to include home-based primary care and some traditional hospital services. They are also looking to expand their existing programs, aiming to move from treating 15 percent of dialysis patients at home to treating 25 percent that way over the next year.

“Intermountain first and foremost is mission-oriented and we are always looking for ways to help our community,” Rajesh Shrestha, Intermountain’s COO of community-based care, told MobiHealthNews. “We really believe that affordability is an issue in our community and we’re looking to help with that. We also realize that patient preference is critical as we think about being in much more contact with our patients where they feel comfortable and we feel that those settings allow us to take better care of our patients. Essentially, you no longer have to come to Intermountain. In certain scenarios, Intermountain can come to you and can help you where you feel most comfortable.”

Another part of the initiative is Homespire, an in-house company focused on helping seniors in their daily life as well as mitigating negative effects from social determinants of health.

“We truly believe that it’s not just these care components. Those are great, but it’s wrapped around a social determinant service that truly will help people in need in the community,” Shrestha said. “A lot of these people that are homebound and can’t get to the facilities have social determinant issues, and [Homespire] plays a big part.”

What’s the impact

As an integrated care delivery system, Intermountain has more leeway to implement a home care program than many health systems that are more dependent on reimbursement codes. That puts them in a position to lead the industry, Shrestha said, and prove that this kind of home care can be profitable for a hospital as well as useful and convenient for patients.

While telemedicine and remote monitoring are only a part of the initiative, they are an important part that helps to stretch Intermountain’s resources further. The initiative, which will be rolled out in phases over the next year, includes virtual urgent care through Intermountain Connect Care, a 24-7 telemedicine offering, as well as appointment-based virtual visits and remote monitoring for certain patients.

“Our providers truly believe this is an extension of them and their service to patients in the community that they don’t get to touch as often, and this makes our providers feel really happy that they are able to do this,” Shrestha said.

What’s the trend

Virtual care programs are getting to be quite common in hospitals around the country, but most are still narrow in scope. Intermountain’s initiative shows one way that scope can be broadened.

Integrated systems have often served as leaders in the space because of their flexibility around payment; Kaiser Permanente CMO Dr. Patrick Courneya spoke about the same thing this year at HIMSS.

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