- The patient navigation technologies offered in the CMS eMedicare initiative will be helpful for seniors, despite some industry concern, said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a recent blog post.
The post outlined the new tools offered in the eMedicare program, which CMS launched to drive patient navigation in the public payer program.
“eMedicare is a multi-year initiative to modernize the way people with Medicare get information about their benefits, and create new ways to help them make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” Verma wrote. “eMedicare empowers patients with the kinds of tools they are used to using in the private sector and other parts of their lives.”
eMedicare tools include online decision support, an out-of-pocket cost assessment, a price transparency tool, and a webchat function in the online Medicare Plan Finder.
But some critics say these types of technologies will not reach the 65 and older crowd that Medicare primarily covers. Verma specifically cited one online article stating that older patients have yet to integrate health IT into their lives and that the CMS efforts will fall on deaf ears.
But that is not the case, Verma explained.
“CMS research has demonstrated repeatedly that many people with Medicare own smartphones and tablets, download apps, and use them all the time,” she wrote.
About 65 percent of Medicare beneficiaries use the internet nearly daily, Verma reported citing a statistic from Pew Research. More senior patients than ever are using the internet, jumping from 12 percent of seniors using the internet in 2000 to 67 percent currently.
This population is also adopting the smartphone, Verma noted. About 42 percent of seniors have smartphones, a number that is projected to increase.
Additionally, digital tools can support younger caregivers, such as adult children helping their aging parents or young professional caregivers.
What’s more, there is a noted need for these types of patient navigation tools, Verma stated.
Agency webpages outlining coverage options receive nearly 15 million views annually, Verma reported. The Medicare helpline receives over 3 million coverage-related calls each year. These questions come from all stakeholders, Verma noted, including patients and their caregivers.
The eMedicare initiative accounts for these types of queries, Verma said. The What’s Covered app, for example, helps patients and family caregivers determine which treatment options would be covered under a specific Medicare plan.
CMS has made the tool available on a mobile device, meaning users can log into it anywhere, including in a medical appointment. This can help patients make real-time decisions about their care while taking into consideration the financial implications of certain options, Verma explained.
As a result, patients are flocking to the tools. The What’s Covered app has received over 230,000 downloads since it was launched last month, Verma said. Beta test groups also reported to the agency that the app was easy to use.
And for patients who do not wish to adopt health IT into their healthcare experience, CMS will maintain its former information services, Verma added. Although the agency is expanding its navigation offerings, it will not get rid of previous tools that proved useful for patients.
“Our goal is to continue our efforts to empower patients and unleash innovation to deliver results,” Verma concluded. “We are developing eMedicare tools that will help people select their best coverage and evaluate the quality of providers. We will continue to anticipate the needs of Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers to help them take greater control of their healthcare. This is how we are putting patients first and strengthening Medicare.”