While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, US health care providers are in the midst of a unique pendulum effect. During the first few months of the outbreak, ‘normal’ health care utilization plummeted as patients quarantined at home and put off non-emergency procedures and appointments. As providers reopened and offered more services, the demand for health care started to surge above and beyond non-pandemic levels as patients attempted to catch up on many months of unmet health care needs. As we move into 2021, preventive needs are again being delayed by patients out of an abundance of caution, or by systems limiting elective procedures and in-person visits. Though the situation continues to evolve almost daily depending on local prevalence of COVID-19 hospitalizations, this trend is expected to continue well into 2021 and beyond.
This seeming tidal wave of health care utilization may appear overwhelming, but fortunately, ACG System users have a variety of analytics tools at the ready for just such an occasion. Here are a few ways the ACG System can help providers navigate this newest stage of the pandemic.
Tracking patients over time to lower health care costs
Prior to the pandemic, ACG System user data revealed that between 35% and 50% of emergency department (ED) visits were actually for non-urgent issues that could have been treated in an urgent care center or a primary care physician’s (PCP) clinic. During the first few months of the outbreak, ED visits plunged as people stayed home out of fear that an emergency room visit might expose them to COVID-19. Currently, providers can take advantage of this reduction in ED usage to encourage usage of lower levels of health care, like a PCP or urgent care clinic.
Here is where the ACG System’s ability to track patients over time can really shine. By identifying individuals who previously visited the ED for non-emergency care, the ACG System can help users identify the exact patient group who can be redirected to lower levels of care. At the same time, the ACG System can target individuals who visited the ED and also have more complex medical needs, giving PCPs an opportunity to provide specific preventive services to head-off potential future ED usage.
And the ACG System won’t stop there: it can continue monitoring these patient groups after these changes are made, to measure their success over time. By identifying groups of patients who could use a lower-cost level of health care, the ACG System can help users redistribute their patients more effectively, ultimately reducing health care costs.
Utilizing a whole-patient view to provide effective preventive care
The ACG System can analyze multiple types of data about a population at once, creating a holistic understanding of a specific population’s health care needs. This is more important than ever, as many preventive care services (pediatric immunizations, cancer screenings, or basic lab testing) have ground to a halt as patients and providers prioritize emergency and COVID-19-related services. Preventive care is the cornerstone of improved population health and reduced health care costs, but with reduced capacities and increased demand, many providers are struggling to keep up with these types of services. Fortunately, the ACG System can identify those most in need of preventive care by tracking lab markers from bloodwork, adherence to medication refills, preventive visits, or even risk factors such as tobacco use or obesity, to help providers identify patients who may be most in need of preventive care.
Identifying highest-risk patients to prioritize services
Although providers across the US are in varying stages of reopening and offering or expanding services, one thing is fairly consistent–resources are limited. The ACG System can assist users in pinpointing the highest-risk patients so that they can prioritize their care. The System can identify patient groups based on a variety of factors, including predicted risk of hospitalization, number of chronic diseases, or treatment gaps, to help providers see who needs the most immediate care.
Ultimately, whether it’s lowering health care costs, providing effective preventive care, or gaining insights into those most in need of behavioral or physical health services, the ACG System offers a wide array of analytics tools for its users to meet the ongoing challenges of providing health care during a pandemic.