Conference shows how the Medicaid market is embracing IT

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

Photo: Uditha Wickramanayaka via Flickr

Photo: Uditha Wickramanayaka via Flickr

Medicaid enrollment has jumped 27 percent since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, with 31 states and the District of Columbia choosing to expand program eligibility. Medicaid now covers 72.8 million Americans.

But reimbursement rates for Medicaid remain lower than private insurance and a shortage of participating providers is causing access challenges.

In response, Medicaid providers and managed care companies plan to increasingly embrace technology to help improve access and patient care.

So said panelists at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this week. The Medicaid panel, sponsored by the California Health Care Foundation, was especially illuminating because it showed how technology is being embraced by a wide variety of providers in the health sector to meet diverse needs of patient populations.

Reporters on the hunt for good health tech stories might just find them with their local safety net providers.

Take Inland Empire Health Plan, a Medicaid managed care plan serving 1.2 million members in the Riverside/San Bernardino area. A survey of their Medicaid members found that 70 percent had listed a mobile phone as their phone number. The plan decided to partner with mPulse Mobile, a mobile health engagement company, to deliver targeted text message alerts to members about upcoming flu shot clinics and other health topics.

“We sent a message to our members and saw a high interest in receiving text messages,” said Thomas Pham, the plan’s senior director of marketing and product management, adding that Inland Empire Health also has seen a demographic shift in Medicaid membership from primarily mothers and children to a larger percentage of entire families and singles.

Medicaid members generally have lower rates of health and technology literacy than patients enrolled in commercial plans, said Health 2.0 panelists, so any outreach needs to be planned and executed carefully. Opportunities for health IT in the Medicaid sector may look different than in the commercial sector, with a greater focus on population health management, helping patients manage multiple chronic conditions and improving care access.

For example, some Medicaid providers are adopting RubiconMD‘s eConsult platform. eConsult allows primary care providers to consult with specialists over a secure network and avoid in-person specialty patient referrals. A shortage of specialists serving Medicaid patients and long wait times for in-person appointments are driving adoption of eConsult among Medicaid providers. The Blue Shield Foundation of California is offering grants to California providers to adopt eConsult.

Gil Addo, co-founder and chief executive of RubiconMD, said the company’s goal is to create a seamless experience for the patient.

For reporters who cover the Medicaid program, take a look in your region to see which technologies safety-net providers and health plans are adopting to improve patient care. You may find some interesting innovations.

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