A COVID-19 silver lining? One pathway to investing in health outcomes

Nov. 25, 2020 / By L. Gordon Moore, MD

We’re in somewhat uncharted territory when it comes to measuring health care outcomes. Given the radical shifts in elective procedures, people avoiding care due to COVID-19 exposure concerns, and of course the impact of the pandemic itself, coming to meaningful conclusions regarding quality outcomes at a population level poses a significant challenge.

When we also consider the influence of non-medical factors on health care outcomes, we are further challenged to think about how the health care delivery system might better intersect with the greater population health system. Reducing the rate at which people with diabetes experience heart attacks is a very good thing, but how about we expand our thinking to include ways to reduce the rate at which people develop diabetes in the first place? 

Click to listen to the podcastOne silver lining in these COVID-19 times is the willingness to invest resources in ways that used to be very challenging. Even though the evidence to support good telemedicine outcomes has been around for quite a while, it took COVID-19 to change payment guidelines and behavior, resulting in rapid adoption and expansion. This bodes well for a future of enhanced access to care, access being one of the four pillars of high performing health care.[1]

Samantha Olds Frey, the CEO of the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans (IAMHP) describes how Illinois Medicaid returned the entire 2020 quality withhold so that Illinois managed care plans could invest those funds in community initiatives to improve health and health care outcomes for the people they serve. On the Inside Angle podcast, Ms. Frey describes one initiative that purchased Chromebooks for children with diabetes so they could attend virtual American Diabetes Association camps.  As a silver lining benefit, these children could also use the computers to attend school virtually.

I don’t know the impact of the Chromebooks on outcomes, but I love that health plans and Illinois Medicaid are being so inventive, in part by considering how resources can be deployed in ways that could improve health.

Listen to my conversation with Samantha Olds Frey, CEO of Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans on the Inside Angle podcast.

L. Gordon Moore, MD, is senior medical director, Clinical Strategy and Value-based Care for 3M Health Information Systems.

[1] Starfield, Barbara, Leiyu Shi, and James Macinko. “Contribution of Primary Care to Health Systems and Health.” The Milbank Quarterly 83, no. 3 (September 2005): 457–502. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0009.2005.00409.x.