How Value-Based Care Not Only Survived but Thrived Through COVID-19

Sep 09, 2020

Very few physicians and providers woke up in January 2020 believing that they might be prohibited from delivering care to patients, find themselves furloughed, or even face termination. The national physician shortage gave physicians the comfort that not only were their jobs safe, but they were in fact in the driver’s seat. Organizations paid ridiculously high fees to fill difficult jobs with locum tenens physicians. Hospitals and healthcare systems crisscrossed the country buying practices and offering contracts to physicians to solidify patient pipelines. 

Enter March and COVID-19. Our fee-for-service reimbursement model screeched to a halt when any non-virus-related healthcare was eliminated. Physicians enjoying healthy practices and incomes suddenly sat at home, wondering what happened. Locum tenens physicians were escorted out the door and non-emergency physicians were furloughed or in some cases had their contracts canceled. No services – no fees. 

Unless of course, you had the foresight to join a value-based patient care practice. In April, I was fortunate to garner an invitation to a happy hour hosted by Dr. Faisel Syed and Dr. Daniel McCarter with ChenMed. Dr. Syed is the National Director of Primary Care and Dr. McCarter is the National Director of Primary Care Advancement for ChenMed.  

Expecting to hear the same doom and gloom messages, that I typically heard coursing through the industry, I was pleasantly surprised to find Drs. Syed and McCarter decidedly upbeat and energetic. When I asked about the impact ChenMed was seeing from the pandemic, the response was surprising. “No real impact, except that we are seeing our patients via telemedicine.” What??

I learned that ChenMed delivers full-risk value-based care to senior citizens in ten states across the southeast from Florida to Chicago. Value-based medicine rewards physicians for providing individualized care for each patient that is proactive, preventative, and patient centered. Patients in a value-based care practice receive ongoing treatment for chronic illness designed to prevent the acute situations that can often accompany underserved patients, requiring emergency room visits.  

“We need to stop paying for sickness and start paying for health,” said Dr. McCarter.

In a full-risk value-based model, the physician is paid to keep the patient healthy and they receive their reimbursement up-front. “ChenMed physicians see an average of 350 to 400 patients when an average primary care physician might see 2,500 or more,” explained Dr. Syed. 

Lower patient panels mean physicians and support teams are free to build deep, trusting relationships with their patients. Physicians who understand the many socioeconomic challenges the patient may face, can create a treatment plan the patient can adhere to. For example, caregivers at ChenMed frequently arrange transportation, ensure access to food and supplies, and monitor and treat mental health issues to name a few. This total patient view results in greater patient adherence to treatment.

Dr. Syed passionately believes that value-based care is the cure for a healthcare system in crisis. He says, “If you’re treating the symptoms without looking into the root causes — stopping the runny nose, but not what’s causing it; getting the blood sugar down, but not looking into what’s making it a problem — that’s bad medicine,” Syed says. “Good medicine, true medicine, is the patient and the doctor working together to reach a goal.” 

In the full-risk value-based care model, the physician accepts complete financial responsibility for their patient’s medical costs. The average senior citizens spend a significant percentage of their retirement income on healthcare. That retirement income often determines the quality and quantity of care that the patient has access to. It is widely known that the more money you have, the better care you receive.

Not at ChenMed. Income has no impact on quality or frequency of care. Care is delivered equally to each patient as they need it. And they can back those claims with facts. In a report published by The American Journal of Managed Care, ChenMed patients reduced ER visits by 33.6%. 

We were so impressed with the passion and message we heard from Dr. Syed and Dr. McCarter, we asked them to share their message at one of our Inline Sessions on healthcare in July. They graciously accepted and their session was one of the most attended. If you were unable to attend that session, or you are interested in hearing from physicians who are both energized and enthusiastic about the future of their medicine, you can view the session here. Drs. Syed and McCarter offer a variety of ways for you to learn more about value-based medicine. We are certain that we will hear a great deal more, as ChenMed moves west.