How Humana is helping members and providers navigate the coronavirus

Humana’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Shrank recently participated in USA Today’s “Just the FAQs Live! A Coronavirus Conversation” a weekly webinar live-streamed on their Facebook page. Moderated by Megan Finnerty, host of the USA Today Network Facebook Live Show, Dr. Shrank was joined by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel health and science reporter Mark Johnson and USA Today health reporter Ken Alltucker. 

Dr. Shrank focused on how Humana is addressing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and helping members and providers navigate the crisis. This included highlighting Humana’s recent announcement to waive member costs for treatment related to COVID-19-covered services, including inpatient hospital admissions, for its Medicare Advantage plans and other populations. “At a time where there is incredible anxiety and stress, both in terms of our economic stability and in terms of our health, the last thing we want is for anyone to be worried about their finances when they’re combating this disease,” said Dr. Shrank.

Dr. Shrank also touched on Humana’s expansion of telehealth to members to help them continue getting the care they need from their homes. “Telemedicine may be one of the really transformative pieces of our healthcare system throughout this pandemic,” Dr. Shrank said. “We know that if we have a patient or a member who is potentially infected but not that sick, the last place we want them to go is to a clinical setting where they’re going to be exposed to others.”

Humana is using telemedicine to make it easier for physicians and patients to engage. “We’ve opened up the opportunity for everyone’s doctor – a primary care doctor, a specialist, a behavioral health physician – to call their patients just using a cell phone,” said Dr. Shrank. “We will pay the provider the full cost that they would have charged us had it been a face-to-face visit, and we are eliminating all cost sharing for our members. The rationale here is that we have a role to play by leveraging the right set of financial incentives and policies to keep our members safe and at home and to reduce the spread of the disease.”

Four months ago, some of the most progressive primary care practices were not using telehealth. Now Dr. Shrank said we are seeing that 90 to 95 percent of patient visits are being conducted via telehealth.

Beyond expanding telehealth and waiving member costs related to COVID-19, Humana is also working to address social isolation.

“I think every one of us is struggling with social isolation in one way or another. Personally, my parents are both around 80,” said Dr. Shrank. “They would not describe themselves as elderly or fragile, but they’re there around 80 and they have a number of medical problems and very much at risk during this time period.”

“We call them regularly and try to get our grandkids involved, we tell them not to watch TV all day…we recommend that they go out and get a little walk in and that they call people that they think are most in need of help so that they feel like they’re participating and engaging. The goal is really to somehow try to maintain some sense of a new normalcy and ideally keep their spirits and energy up so that they can come out the other side even stronger.”

At the end of the conversation, Dr. Shrank stressed the importance of ensuring that we do everything we can to supporting the physicians and clinicians who are caring for patients. “We believe and trust wholeheartedly and holistically the providers who are out there really doing great work, risking themselves, risking their families to try to take care of patients.”

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