Across the health care system, COVID-19 has demanded fast, thoughtful transformation to deliver care. Recognizing that members still needed support even when in-person visits weren’t possible, Optum® HouseCalls created a highly flexible, responsive solution. Learn how Optum HouseCalls was able to use telehealth to continue “visiting” members and support other front-line teams.
Continuing member care safely and effectively
As COVID-19 emerged as a global health threat, Optum HouseCalls developed a strategy to continue providing care and guidance in a way that is not only effective, but also safe and applicable to optimize each member’s experience. That meant developing and operationalizing virtual visits for members as well as continued in-home visits after it was deemed safe for participants.
The move to a virtual visit depends on the member having the means to engage in a virtual meeting. From iPads to smartphones and every device in between, the HouseCalls team found a way to conduct the visits using the technology most convenient for each member.
The visits — virtual or in-person — not only include conducting a comprehensive health assessment, but also include sharing preventive care strategies and information to ensure each member understands COVID-19 and how to seek help if they do become symptomatic. As part of the HouseCalls visit, advanced practice clinicians can take the time needed to answer the member’s COVID-19 questions in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The clinicians also connect members to local resources, such as nearby testing locations.
During this time, HouseCalls clinician-member encounters have focused on five key areas:
1. Medication adherence — Can the member safely access a nearby pharmacy to stay adherent with medications? If not, the member can use home delivery services in their health plans to have medications sent directly to them.
2. Primary care provider — Is the member able to continue any needed care with primary care providers? If not, HouseCalls helps the member to understand best options for virtual primary care, other treatments or specialist visits if needed and provide assistance to schedule appointments if needed.
3. Social determinants of health — Does the member have enough food and clean water to support them if they have to isolate or if they get COVID-19? The member is asked about these and other social determinants of health topics, such as: transportation to purchase essentials or seek health care; feelings of depression or anxiety; continued access to basic services such as electricity or gas.
4. COVID-19 education — Do they understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and the recommended ways to avoid contracting it? HouseCalls advanced practice clinicians use screening questions to determine if a member may be at risk for or symptomatic for COVID-19 and provide education to manage health and safety to reduce transmission of COVID-19 per CDC guidelines and when to seek additional medical attention.
5. Chronic condition management — Is the member able to effectively manage their chronic conditions? As a part of the HouseCalls visit, advanced practice clinicians talk with members about how to monitor and control chronic conditions including hypertension, diabetes, heart failure and other conditions during this stressful time and coordinate care with PCP if needed.
Increasingly, we have been able to safely resume in-home visits with the right safety measures aligned with CDC guidelines and we are being greeted warmly. For some members, we are the first health care provider they have had in-person contact with since the pandemic started. Virtual visits are also still available for those unwilling or unable to receive in-person visits and this will continue to be an option for members.
Early in the pandemic, as in-home visits were paused and rescheduled, the HouseCalls team also quickly redeployed many advanced practice clinicians to the pandemic front line, such as urgent care clinics and COVID-19 testing sites. The team also supported other COVID-19 initiatives, including nurse support lines and making calls to families with loved ones in nursing homes, to address family member concerns and to support advanced care planning needs.
From supporting COVID-19 initiatives to virtual visits across the country, HouseCalls has provided compassionate care to members during a very challenging time. HouseCalls will continue to help members live healthier lives for this important and vulnerable population.
Learn more at: optum.com/housecalls.
Meet the Author
Jennifer Pryce AHNP-BC, GNP-BC, CNE, DNP
Vice President, HouseCalls Clinical Field Operations, Optum
Dr. Jennifer Pryce is a nurse practitioner currently serving as Vice President of clinical field operations for Optum HouseCalls. Her responsibilities include oversight and management of the clinical workforce. Dr. Pryce earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Masters of Art with dual concentrations of Adult Health Nurse Practitioner and Gerontological Nurse Practitioner from New York University. She completed George Washington University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in 2014 specializing in nursing education and has since achieved Certified Nurse Educator designation.