Telehealth services available in region

Local Innovation Health members can now receive more comprehensive urgent care services and telehealth care.

Innovation Health is a health plan offered to Valley Health and Shenandoah University employees in this region.

Dr. Sunil Budhrani, emergency room doctor and chief medial officer with Innovation Health, said he wants to change the face of emergency medicine practice.

He had noticed that emergency rooms were providing care they didn’t need to provide because people didn’t know where else to go. He then created an urgent care system for the Maryland and Virginia markets.

“My goal was to extend the amount of care that you could deliver in the urgent care center,” he said. Broken bones and lacerations can now be treated at these centers.

It helps them “push the limits in the urgent care setting by treating those conditions and also putting in radiology so we can start doing X-rays at urgent care,” he said.

Budhrani then developed an interest in telemedicine and telehealth, which is providing care over the phone or through video.

He asked himself, “How can we take that access to care, not just from urgent care, but to the patient at home or in the workplace?” He looked at the various technologies available.

Virginia, along with 27 other states, he said, passed legislation to cover telemedicine by insurance companies. Budhrani wrote a paper in 2009 on evaluating patients through telemedicine. The American Telemedicine Association read the paper and asked him to chair the first national committee looking at telemedicine guidelines.

Budhrani began working at Innovation Health about seven months ago, and said he brought his skill set to the northern Virginia area.

“At Innovation Health we are one of the first examples of a provider and a payer coming together to deliver a seamless, connected delivery of health care to our members,” he said. “We are a joint venture representing a leading insurance company, Aetna, and a regional health care center of excellence, Innova Health Systems, to basically leverage each of those two partners resources to deliver better care.”

He added that patients needing behavioral health services have greatly benefited from this partnership and telehealth as patients can more quickly be given access to the services they need.

Patients with conditions such as substance abuse, anxiety, depression and psychosis can be referred to a physical resource based in northern Virginia where patients can go 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday on a walk-in basis, he said. There patients can receive immediate care, much like an urgent care center for behavioral health. These services allow patients to receive face-to-face care.

Telepsychiatry is also available, he said. This allows social workers, case workers, behavioral health specialists, psychologists and psychiatrists to remotely care for patients through phone or video 24 hours a day.

“We have fantastic remote and telephonic capabilities in that area for patients to access before that cycle of depression, or anxiety, substance abuse or addiction kicks in,” he said.

He added that this new way of delivering health care fills the gaps between how millennials and the older population want to receive care.

“In this country we have to start looking at health care in almost two generations,” he said.

Millennials have many of the same issues, he said, but they want to access healthcare in a different way through urgent care centers and using technology.

The older population tends to have more medical conditions at the same time, such as depression and diabetes, he said. “They want the face-to-face encounter, they want the more holistic care and they want the experience with their physician.”

“If you look at these two populations differently,” he said, “we are treated the same conditions, but we have to change our approach.”

Innovation health also has a program, he said – The Enhanced Care Coordinator Model, made up of nurses that pull a census at 6:30 a.m. from the day before on all the members that have had contact with a health care provider. They can call patients in the hospital room or at home and refer them to resources that may be helpful for them.

“We can intervene very early on in the care process,” he said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com