COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution And Value-Based Care: Humana

posted by AHIP

on January 27, 2021

To start off Season 4 of The Next Big Thing in Health podcast, hosts Matt Eyles, AHIP president and CEO, and Laura Evans were joined by Dr. William Shrank, Chief Medical Officer at Humana. They discussed value-based care initiatives, including Humana’s focus on population health and improving health outcomes, and of course, the COVID-19 crisis and what’s next with vaccines.

Listen to the full interview on AppleSpotifySoundcloud, and Stitcher.

Laura Evans: What is Humana doing to make sure that there is information out there to educate your members and make sure that there is appropriate vaccine distribution?

Dr. William Shrank: We’ve been really proactive in calling our members to understand the very personal challenges they’re facing. We built a basic needs team to try to address these basic social needs that suddenly became so salient and that were so disrupted by the uncertainty and the unpredictability of the pandemic. This is the kind of approach that we need to apply as the vaccine becomes available.

It’s not as though we’re going to be able to put a PSA in the local newspaper and assume everyone’s going to show up. This is personal. Some people don’t necessarily believe that the vaccine is safe. Some people don’t believe in health care in the first place or have trust issues with these institutions. There are some people that frankly don’t believe that the disease is that risky. And there’s a whole host of different reasons why people may or may not want to choose to get the vaccine.

For us to think that we can come up with a single message and push it out in the media and think we’re going to convince people would be unrealistic. It has to be a really personal approach.

Matt Eyles: What do you think the current state of testing is like right now for the country? What do you think we could be doing better?

Dr. Shrank: I think the biggest opportunity we have is really around clarifying who needs testing and when. I think there’s a tremendous amount of confusion there. The CDC recently changed its quarantining expectations. This was not a pandemic that anyone had evidence about at the outset around how to manage. This is something we’ve been consistently synthesizing and digesting as more and more evidence is coming through. Our ability to make this easy and simple and straightforward for Americans is challenged by the reality that this is not like something that we have a playbook for.

The playbook is being written as we’re playing. I think this is a huge opportunity for us. Many of us are working hard in this area to try and be a mechanism for support and to make it easy for our members to know in what settings they need a test, where to get tested, and what kind of test makes the most sense for them.

We made a big commitment to making tests available in our members’ homes. We announced a partnership with LabCorp. We have a health bot on our website and our members can input their conditions and medical history to get a better sense of the kind of risk they have. And the bot stratifies their risk and makes suggestions about whether they need to be seen in-person, whether they need to test, and what the appropriate next step is.

The goal is to get as many of those people tested in their homes. They don’t have to go and expose others or expose themselves in a clinical setting. That’s one strategy we’ve applied to try to make it easier for people. But I think the biggest challenge out there is that people are confused.

Laura Evans: Humana has one of the largest Medicare Advantage plans in the country. What is top of mind for you when you think about seniors and people with disabilities heading into the new year?

Dr. Shrank: The delivery and the safe and appropriate adoption and administration of the vaccine is one of the great public health interventions in this country’s history. Getting that right in the next 6-8 months has to be top of mind for all of us. In the last 8-9 months we’ve seen a remarkable transformation in our health care system. Whether it be telehealth, the use of data and analytics, or increasing care in the home, we’ve seen a real change in how we organize and deliver health care. As I look to 2021, I think a lot about how we build on some of those gains.

As a practicing physician, I spent most of my time thinking about how I could be most efficient. And now in my current seat, I’m thinking about the patient’s workflow. I’m thinking about how to get the right care to the patient that’s most convenient to them. I’m trying to make sure to think about the efficiency of life, and the existence, and the experience of our members.

If we can truly make that shift—a health care system that focuses on the patient as a consumer that delivers care and services to the right place at the right time in the workflow of the patient’s life—we’ll have done something incredibly special.

Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.