The absence of widespread testing continues to be a major roadblock when it comes to curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. One company, ConcertoHealth, is helping to close the care gap with its home-based COVID-19 testing and treatment program.
Since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, many people in the U.S. have faced barriers in getting tested for the virus. That, in turn, has made it difficult to determine the exact number of cases and take action.
Seniors who are especially vulnerable to the virus have even less access to testing, Dr. Chris Dodd, chief clinical officer of ConcertoHealth, told Home Health Care News.
“These patients can’t get to clinics or to these community-based testing sites with ease, or at all,” he said. “We knew we had to get to them. At the time, even local public health departments didn’t have the testing resources that they needed to get to these patients.”
Aliso Viejo, California-based ConcertoHealth is a value-based care provider organization that delivers a variety of home-based care services. The company’s teams consist of complex care physicians, complex care nurses, clinical pharmacists, LPNs, social workers and other clinicians.
“I like to always say, complex care is a team sport,” Dodd said. “We are a really wide array of clinicians that have the ability to deliver care to the entire spectrum of the frail and vulnerable, whether that’s frail seniors or vulnerable patients living with mental health or substance use disorders.”
The company, which also partners health plans, does this either as an assigned primary care provider or as an attributed primary care provider that acts as a specialist, according to Dodd.
Currently, ConcertoHealth delivers care to roughly 20,000 patients in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest. Homebound seniors who are frail, living with cognitive impairments and multiple chronic conditions make up a large portion of the company’s patient population.
As a response to the public health emergency, ConcertoHealth partnered with home testing and remote diagnostics company LetsGetChecked to obtain polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and implement a home-based COVID-19 testing and treatment program.
Since launching in May, the program has quickly expanded, according to Dodd.
“We started reaching out to public health departments, the three biggest in Washington state that surrounds Seattle,” he said. “We developed partnerships with all three of those county health departments whereby, when we identify a positive case in a congregate living setting, we then are able to obtain testing from them and undertake the testing of the entire group of people.”
These counties included Snohomish, King and Pierce.
The program taking place in Washington state has certain significance in regard to the history of COVID-19. A long-term care facility in Kirkland, Washington was ground zero for the coronavirus in the U.S.
When developing its home program, ConcertoHealth looked to countries such as South Korea that have been able to curb and prevent transmission between patients and health care workers, according to Dodd.
“We were looking ahead and trying to stay ahead of the CDC guidelines,” he said. “In many cases, we have exceeded the guidelines. For example, before universal mask-wearing was recommended for all caregivers, … we adopted that precaution and asked the patients to put on a mask. We deployed that immediately.”
As part of its program, ConcertoHealth care teams also perform regular health checks, which include oxygen-saturation monitoring, for its patients who have been deemed COVID-positive.
In some ways, the public health emergency drives home the need for the larger U.S. health care continuum to move away from a hospital-centric care model, according to Dodd.
“We have this conviction that the best setting to understand what’s really going on with someone who is frail and/or vulnerable, during a crisis, is the home,” Dodd said. “We’ve built our whole care model around this. This epidemic really accent-marks how incredibly important it is to deliver clinical treatment and care in the home setting.”
While ConcertoHealth doesn’t currently have any home health partnerships, the company has been in talks with providers, noting that home health agencies are well-suited to move along the value-based continuum and take on economic risk.
“Just as we are able to support other provider groups with their interest in taking additional economic risks for patients as they move across the value-based continuum, we are interested and excited to do the same thing for home health providers who have that interest,” Dodd said.
Moving forward, ConcertoHealth is in talks to bring its COVID-19 testing and treatment program to Ohio, specifically Youngstown and Dayton.
Overall, it will take a combination of public and private enterprise efforts to increase general access and delivery of testing, according to Dodd.
“I always think about the framework of building, leadership and execution,” he said. “Obviously, there’s been some conflicting messaging in the country, in terms of where testing sits. I believe there is a growing focus on the fact that to be able to successfully deal with this epidemic, we are going to need increasing amounts of testing. The good news is that testing is ramping up. The bad news is that it’s not happening fast enough.”