How Connected Health Plays a Critical Role in Addressing Social Determinants of Health

By Steve Abate, Executive Vice President, Healthcare Division of Connect America | February 8, 2021

Social determinants and inequalities in health care result in $309 billion in losses to the economy annually and disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations. In fact, every year, thousands of lives are lost to premature or preventable death caused by health inequities.1 Research suggests that social determinants of health such as access to care, education, economic stability, physical environment, and food insecurity can affect up to 80 percent of a health outcome.2

Addressing the social determinants of health can help reduce costs and improve health outcomes, but what role does connected health play?

Expanding Remote Access to Care

Limited access to health care services can increase the risk of poor health outcomes. In some rural areas, patients must travel long distances to access the most basic health services. For those who lack transportation, this can present a serious challenge. Older adults, chronically ill patients and those with limited mobility often have difficulties getting to and from appointments. With the current pandemic, they are also at a higher risk of infection if exposed.

Expanding access to quality care is a critical element and part of the effort toward reducing health disparities and addressing social determinants of health. Telehealth and remote patient monitoring can help patients avoid in-person clinic visits, minimizing the challenges involved with transportation and lowering their risks of potential exposure to COVID-19.

Connected Health Programs Improving Remote Access to Care

Idaho Health Data Exchange and Connect America’s Integration

Rural states such as Idaho are expanding access to care through telehealth during the pandemic when the ability to provide remote health services to their population is critical. The state of Idaho recently implemented an integration between connected health solutions provider, Connect America, and their statewide health data exchange for expanded care access using remote patient monitoring services. The implementation will enable the state to provide patients with remote access to preventative, routine, and chronic care through their web-based platform, which offers several services to educate, engage and monitor patients remotely.

Implementing remote patient monitoring provides safer and more convenient care options for older patients or those who live far away from their providers. It also aligns with the social distancing guidelines and keeps those at high risk safer.

“The integration between Connect America RPM and Idaho Health Data Exchange (IHDE) is helping facilitate public health mitigation strategies by creating a safer option for health care personnel and patients.”

– Hans K., Executive Director, IHDE

Urban Health Plan and Connect America’s Partnership

Another program expanding access to care for patients is the partnership between Urban Health Plan and Connect America. Urban Health Plan, a Joint Commission accredited, 501(c) (3) is a non-profit organization that delivers integral health services to thousands of patients living in the underserved communities of the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. This partnership will help increase remote access to essential healthcare services for high-risk patients living with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Rural and underserved communities across our nation face significant cultural, language and economic barriers and traditionally do not receive high-quality primary and specialty care. These barriers result in a higher prevalence of chronic diseases, acute conditions, and hospitalizations.3 Partnerships such as the one between Urban Health Plan and Connect America help increase remote access to critical health services for high-risk patients while reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure for patients and medical staff.

Connected Health During COVID-19

Health inequities are not a new battle facing our nation, but the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the severity of their consequences. These unprecedented times have presented a unique opportunity to leverage technology to help fill the gaps of inadequate access to care for rural and underserved areas. Through the utilization of services such as remote patient monitoring (RPM), patients can receive around-the-clock vital signs and medication monitoring for conditions such as diabetes, COPD, hypertension, CHF, stroke, pneumonia, sepsis, and COVID-19. These services not only help improve health outcomes for patients, but they help increase health engagement and protect both patients and medical staff from potential COVID-19 exposures.

St. Peter’s Health Partners and Connect America’s COVID-19 Program

Take St. Peter’s Health Partners, for example:

“On a Sunday in March, during an emergency internal COVID-19 planning call, I was asked to come up with a technological solution to remotely screen our nearly 1000 staff members for COVID-19 symptoms. Working with ConnectVitals™, our RPM partner for 4+ years, we had a robust, customized IVR COVID-19 screening platform up and running by that Wednesday morning.

The results: “We quickly replaced hundreds of inbound status calls and texts each morning with an automated outbound system that allows us to efficiently triage staff responses and ensure our employees are safe to provide patient care.”

– Lynette Turo, Director of Finance, Community Based Services, the Eddy

Connect America’s Connected Health Solutions

Connect America is a leading provider of connected health solutions dedicated to improving access to care, safety, independence and quality of life. Our growing portfolio of personal emergency response systems (PERS), remote patient monitoring and medication management solutions help bridge the gap between individuals and their health partners, providing a more connected care experience. For over 35 years, our organization has been committed to providing access to care through innovative technologies that help improve safety, health and quality of life. Our mission is to ensure that every individual, patient, and provider have access to the life-saving benefits of receiving the right care at the right time.

Mobile Application Designed to Help Address Social Determinants of Health

In addition to our wide range of connected health solutions, Connect America’s new mobile application was designed to help address social determinants of health. Individuals will receive access to resources for transportation, food services, and social networks, benefiting from our partnerships with organizations such as Uber Health and Papa. The app’s customizable profile provides a personalized experience and also encourages social and health engagement.

Addressing Social Determinants of Health

While enabling better access to quality care is one step toward improving health outcomes in rural, impoverished communities. Addressing health inequities will require a greater, more cross-sector approach to care that integrates services from across the social determinants of health.

Public health professionals, health organizations, policymakers and community partners will need to proactively work together to influence policies and ensure that health inequities are addressed and do not increase among the most vulnerable in our communities.

Steve Abate is the Executive Vice President of the Healthcare Division of Connect America. Headquartered in Bala Cynwyd, PA with regional offices nationwide, Connect America offers a growing portfolio of leading PERS, remote patient monitoring, and medication management solutions. With products and services designed to improve patient outcomes and contain the rising costs of healthcare, Connect America has been partnering with Medicare Advantage, Area Agencies on Aging, managed care organizations, home care, hospitals and many other healthcare organizations to deliver cutting-edge healthcare technologies to patients and individuals nationally for more than 35 years.

References:

  1. https://www.ajmc.com/view/the-importance-of-considering-the-social-determinants-of-health
  2. https://nam.edu/social-determinants-of-health-101-for-health-care-five-plus-five/
  3. https://www.urbanhealthplan.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Organizational-Profile-March-2017.pdf