Health insurance giant Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) has not been shy about its strategy of moving further and further into the home.
Right now, the company is busy with its many in-home endeavors, which include Humana At Home, Curo Health Services and Kindred at Home, the largest provider of home health and hospice services in the country, according to some measures.
For an update on Humana’s strategy, Home Health Care News sat down with Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Shrank at the 2019 HHCN Summit in Chicago. Shrank took on the CMO role in April.
During HHCN’s conversation with Dr. Shrank, the executive touched on Humana’s efforts surrounding social determinants of health, continuing health care trends and the ongoing alignment of the company’s in-home care operations.
These and other highlights are below, edited for length and clarity.
HHCN: What are the big trends in health care that have your attention right now?
Dr. Shrank: I think there are a variety of trends that are all intersecting and increasing our interest in being more supportive in the home.
The issue of health care affordability is critical for everyone. It’s at the center of the health care reform debate.
And there is a growing amount of data out in the ether capturing a whole host of characteristics about patients and members. We’re increasingly acknowledging and realizing the importance of social context in the health of our members. We’re increasingly thinking about whole-person health and how to manage not only the physical health issues or the behavioral health of our members but how to couch it within the social context in which they live.
We want to better understand the social barriers that influence their ability to achieve their best health. When you put all those things together — with the fact that more complex seniors are living at home and prefer to be cared for at home with personalized health care services — you can see why we’re driven to leverage all of these in-home pieces.
Can you talk a little bit about telehealth broadly and how Humana sees it in terms of value? It’s kind of a challenge right now reimbursement wise, though the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking some steps to change that.
It’s true, and we’ve been working really closely with CMS to endorse those steps that allow us to figure out ways to pay for telehealth.
Ultimately, the view is that we want to be able to provide as patient-centric care as possible.
A lot of patient care needs do not have to happen face to face. A lot of that can happen synchronously or asynchronously when the patients at home.
As we move more rapidly to engage our providers in value-based arrangements, the value that telehealth produces will become more obvious both in the patient’s experience — and physicians’ ability to meet those needs.
Looking at your in-home care operations — Humana At Home, Kindred at Home and Curo Health Services — how’s that alignment coming along? I know that the company recently named Susan Diamond president of the home care segment.
There are lots of home services out there today. What’s different about us deeply aligning with our own is that we do not want to have pharmacy interacting with our members, home care interacting with our members, telephonic case management interacting with our members without knowing what all of the pieces are doing.
In fact, we think that would be highly counterproductive.
The future of being able to really care for vulnerable patients — ideally, in the home — is to coordinate all those resources. Coordinate them in terms of making sure everyone’s operating at the top of their license and focusing on their area of expertise, but more importantly that everyone’s working on a longitudinal patient medical record that allows them to communicate with each other.
[This way], the pharmacist knows exactly what the primary care doctor prescribed and the primary care doctor knows exactly what happened on the telephonic interaction two days ago.
The more we are operating as a team, we will build much more trust with our members, we will have a much more efficient mechanism of interacting with our members and, ultimately, we’re going to do a much better job of caring for chronic disease.
Where are we on that, you ask? We are moving full speed ahead. It’s something that will continue to evolve and get better.
What else do you have going on at Humana?
I think one thing that I would want to continually reiterate is that we do not treat physical disease — we treat people. We do not treat behavioral health — we treat people. And you can’t treat a part without looking at the whole.
We are trying to be really systematic in terms of collecting information about social needs, social determinants.
We’re trying to be really thoughtful about creating data registries to be able to understand our members better and to follow them over time. We think that deeper integration of the social, behavioral and physical is going to allow us to take much better care of people.
It’s a key focus and an area of real investment for us. Right now, we are in 13 markets, putting a huge amount of resources on the ground to connect all the local community-based organizations and create local advisory boards, to get the community to activate, to help address these social needs.