HRSA Grant Opportunity Alert: Optimizing Virtual Care

News | June 22nd, 2021
virtual care innovations

The Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) recently posted a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Optimizing Virtual Care. Through the grant, HRSA will be awarding up to 25 health centers one-time funding to develop, implement, and evaluate innovative strategies for virtual care. Health centers responding to the NOFO should include how they plan to use virtual care to increase and improve clinical quality for underserved and vulnerable populations, and provide suggestions of how their strategy could be adapted and scaled across the Health Center Program.

Grant opportunities like this are especially important to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Centers (RHCs), as reimbursement for various types of virtual care are still lacking for FQHCs and RHCs.

Components of Virtual Care

Typically, “telehealth” calls to mind video conferencing with patients. HRSA defines telehealth a bit more broadly, as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, and public health and health administration.”

“Virtual Care”, in contrast, is defined as inclusive of, but not limited to, telehealth and telemedicine and includes the use of Remote Patient Monitoring and any tools to support virtual patient care and engagement.

Below are key components to consider in your virtual care strategy:

Remote Physiological Monitoring
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) refers to the use of digital technology like connected devices to collect patient biometric data remotely and securely send it to their doctors. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, RPM adoption was slow. However, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) added several temporary flexibilities for virtual care as part of the Public Health Emergency, the RPM market took off. RPM could be especially beneficial for minority and vulnerable populations, as these communities have a greater likelihood of experiencing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. RPM is an effective way to ensure these populations receive the continual care their condition requires--whether they’re at home or in the clinic.

Video-based Patient Education
Equally important for underserved populations is flexibility in how patient education is delivered. Traditionally, patient education such as diabetes self-management education and support is offered in person through provider offices for efficiency and reimbursement purposes. For patients with a lack of childcare, time off work, or transportation, in-person health education becomes deprioritized. Patient education should be as accessible, if not more, than streaming services like Netflix. Digital health education that is accessible to the patient from their own home on their own device can help solve this issue.

Virtual Collection of Social Determinants of Health Measures
A patient’s situation or priorities may have changed since the last time they visited their doctor. They may have lost access to transportation, may be having a hard time getting their medications, or may be struggling with competing priorities. In order to provide the best possible care and outcomes for vulnerable populations, providers need to proactively bring the patients’ voice into their clinical dataset and care decisions. Sending virtual surveys to check in on a patient’s Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) offers a way to increase engagement and adherence.

Best Practices and Considerations for Virtual Care

Collecting patient data virtually--whether its biometric data or responses to social determinants questionnaires or standardized screening surveys--is only part of what should be included in your virtual care strategy. Clinicians don’t just need more data, they need to know what to do with it. A robust virtual care strategy that can truly change clinical outcomes should be easily scalable and work within the existing clinical workflow. Below are a few questions to consider while developing your virtual care strategy.

1. How will new virtual care tools work with my existing EMR workflow?
Look for solutions that integrate directly with your EMR and enhance the clinical workflow rather than add to it. Single sign-on and two-way data exchange make integrated RPM platforms more secure, efficient and scalable within your organization. Thankfully, the 21st Century Cures Act will make data sharing and collaboration between third party solutions and EMRs much easier.

2. What type of clinical decision support is available for data that is collected virtually?
Clinicians are already tasked with looking at an overwhelming amount of siloed patient data. RPM and other virtual care solutions will not work if they provide clinicians with more data without distilling it down to specific, actionable, personalized insights. Look for solutions that offer clinical decision suppor based off of clinical guidelines as well as your clinic’s protocols, enabling more productive face-to-face visits and real-time alerts concerning biometric data.

Eligible health centers can submit their application for the Optimizing Virtual Care NOFO here.

Rimidi’s mission is to help clinicians optimize data--whether virtually collected or already existing in the EMR-- to enable better clinical workflows, better clinical decisions, better patient engagement, care and outcomes, and ultimately – a better healthcare system. To learn how Rimidi can help you create a scalable virtual care strategy, contact us today.