3 ways Arizona’s healthcare community can improve senior care

Senior care is a vital aspect of healthcare in Arizona that presents many potential problems. Overall, the eldercare industry in the United States is facing a shortage of caregivers which is projected to worsen as baby boomers enter their senior years. An NASEM research report noted in 2015 that there were seven potential caregivers for every person over the age of 80. However, by 2030 there will be only four caregivers per person over 80.

READ ALSO: Here’s how Arizona hospitals are leading the way during pandemic

Arizona has a larger elderly population than most states, with 22% of our citizens age 65 or older. The state is also facing a shortage of primary care doctors, ranking 44th in total active primary-care physicians, despite being the 14th largest state by population, with one of the fastest growing populations in the nation.

Dr. Kishlay Anand is the founder and CEO of Apricus Health.

This shortage continues to worsen due to a lack of in-state medical students. Phoenix currently has only 30% of the medical students compared to a market like Philadelphia, despite Phoenix having a growing and larger overall population.

So, how can the healthcare community in Arizona improve senior care for our growing elderly population, without overloading the state’s dwindling provider population?

Here are three ways the Arizona healthcare community can improve overall healthcare for our seniors:

1. Increase access and lower costs for prescription drugs. Prescription drug sales make up a big chunk of healthcare spending in the United States, accounting for 10% of total healthcare costs in 2015. Prescription drug costs represent a burden for seniors, often accounting for high out-of-pocket costs. National Statistics show that the older one gets, the more they spend on prescription drugs. Seniors are often left to pay one-third or more of the out-of-pocket expenses. These barriers to life-saving drugs increase overall healthcare costs; especially if patients are unable to pay for their prescribed medications.

In my view, we must ensure seniors can access their prescriptions as needed. We must continue to find solutions that lower pharma costs for seniors.  In Arizona, pharmacies are not easily accessible by public transportation for most of our senior citizens. Local companies like LitonRx are helping to tackle this problem by providing a modern, digital pharmacy that provides free same-day delivery of medications and aggressively low pricing. Models like this will play a big part in improving senior care over the next decade, as this type of company facilities delivery and lowers drug costs.

2. Improve communication around medical care. The use of personal care navigators has emerged as a new, helpful trend in healthcare. In this model, non-medical professionals act as a proxy to help seniors navigate their care options, working with them to book appointments, request fulfilling prescriptions and set-up telehealth interactions all with the goal of making it easier for seniors to get the care they need. Personal care navigators are often individually assigned to seniors giving them improved communication around their healthcare and a better understanding of their medical options. As a result of their increased involvement in senior care, health outcomes are more likely to improve.

Emerging tech-enabled health options, like healthcare web and mobile apps and easy-to-use telehealth (remote diagnosis and treatment of patients) are reimagining how care is delivered. Care navigators often explain and help seniors to use the various technologies to their benefit, helping to bridge their understanding gap and ensuring Arizona seniors get the best and most convenient care available.

Technology also helps physicians to maximize their time, enabling them to spend it on the important tasks vital to a person’s health and less on paperwork and other administrative functions. Care navigators can answer administrative and general questions that previously were performed by physicians. A care navigator can also be a bridge between the patient and the physician. They are trained to know the right questions to ask in an organized fashion, maximizing the time physicians spend on quality of care and guiding the patient to much-needed answers before they meet with their doctor.

3. Streamlined use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring. Telehealth has been around for a number of years, but only recently did it become an integral tool in the delivery of healthcare. Many initially saw telehealth options as a negative for seniors due to struggles with utilization of the technology. However, newer telehealth and telemedicine platforms have simplified the user experience to a point where little to no technology training is now needed. An AARP study found that 77% of older adults have a smartphone, so the adoption of these solutions coupled with an increase in interest amongst seniors to receive care whenever and wherever they are has dramatically increased usage.

Ultimately, telehealth allows for easier and more frequent visits with physicians – a key element in building a relationship and improving the quality of care delivered.  We must arm both patients and providers with information that is easily accessible. This is now achieved through a simple, streamlined approach.

Another important component of telehealth is remote patient monitoring, which has been found to reduce hospital admissions and ER visits while also improving health outcomes. Remote patient monitoring includes anything that gathers information about patients outside of a clinical setting, including blood pressure cuffs, EKGs, oxygen monitoring, etc. This technology, in turn, reduces healthcare costs for all who are involved – payers, patients and practitioners.

Supporting our senior population is vital for Arizona’s healthcare system. The answer to how we properly support our senior population lies in our ability to provide free delivery and lower prices for prescription drugs, improved access to care and two-way technology enabled communication through the use of telehealth and telemedicine, and implementation of health improving technologies like remote patient monitoring. While we always need to be working to increase the number of physicians in our state, we also must implement technology that allows physicians to efficiently deliver care which ultimately, improves the lives of Arizona seniors.

Dr. Kishlay Anand is founder and CEO of Apricus Health.

Scottsdale Health Care Startup Locks In $20M In New Funding

By Andy Blye  – Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal

Apricus Health, a health care company based in Scottsdale, has secured $20 million in new funding from San Francisco’s Virgo Investment Group.

Apricus provides a platform for doctors, including primary care physicians and specialists, to connect virtually with patients 24/7. The company was founded in December 2019 by a collection of Arizona doctors and aims to drive down health care costs by reorienting how patients access treatment.

The Apricus network now has over 590 practitioners in 220 locations across the state, including in Maricopa, Pinal, Coconino and Yavapai counties.

In an interview, Dr. Kishlay Anand, president and founder of Apricus Health, told the Business Journal that physicians need to be actively involved in improving our health care system through new care models.

“We need to really take a leadership role to transform health care. If we take a backseat, that’s not right for the community, as well as for health care.”

Apricus want to enable the shift away from episodic care — only visiting the doctor when things are really bad — to a more proactive form of medicine, which reduces costs and burden on the system. Anand described the shift as, “promoting health and wellness instead of promoting sickness.”

Apricus decided to partner with Virgo because of the firm’s breadth of health care experience and knowledge, Anand said. Talks began in October 2020 and the deal closed last week.

Anand is also the CEO of Akos, a telehealth platform for virtual care management, which raised $1 million to launch in 2017. He described Akos and its technology as a backbone for Apricus.

A key difference is that Akos is used nationally, but Apricus and its $20 million investment are focused entirely on expanding access to and quality of health care in Arizona.

This funding comes as Covid-19 accelerates the adoption of telehealth care across the country.

“The last year has highlighted a wide range of areas where health care delivery is ripe for innovation,” according to a statement from Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio).

“Technology alone is not the answer. Successful innovations must combine technology with a human touch in order to meet the needs of the users in a way that is embraced by the patient and efficient and effective for the caregivers,” she said. “When you have the right combination, everyone wins.”

Anand still practices as a cardiologist and he said that working during the pandemic has helped keep him focused on the patients.

“If the leadership is not ingrained and has an understanding of the fabric of care delivery that is not grounded, then the solutions are not attuned to the population,” he said. “Being a practicing physician allowed me to be able to understand this fabric and really create a solution.”

Phoenix Business Journal’s Angela Gonzales contributed to this report.

Get the Exercise Tips for Limited Mobility

Whether you’re anxious, busy, or just plain obstinate, following the recommended routine of going to the doctor every year for an annual physical exam is harder than it sounds. Despite the myriad of excuses we’re all guilty of making, the fact remains that yearly physical exams are exceptionally important.

How necessary can they possibly be, you ask? The truth is, even individuals in great health should make an annual doctor’s visit to get a more comprehensive view of their personal health, catch minor issues before they become major problems, and create an open line of communication with their doctor to share information and discuss concerns.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Yearly Checkup

Aside from the obvious aspects of annual exams that make them vital—updating your immunizations, for example—there are numerous compelling reasons to adhere to a yearly schedule. Many of these motivating factors boil down to one simple fact—preventative care is better than emergency treatment.

Most people go to the doctor for one reason—because they’re sick. The frequency with which this occurs varies from person to person, but it leads to a single result. Doctors end up fighting fires rather than preventing them from starting in the first place.

Annual exams give your doctor an opportunity to assess your health on a regular basis and identify problems before they manifest themselves via symptoms. This effectively nips issues in the bud and prevents them from developing into more serious illnesses.

While there are nearly limitless examples that could be employed here, the most common and obvious include issues related to blood glucose levels, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol. Evaluating these aspects of your wellbeing can help your doctor ascertain your overall health, specific areas of concern, and what changes should be implemented if necessary.

Identifying current and future issues early is one of the most important benefits of annual physical exams, but the advantages do not stop there. By maintaining a yearly schedule, you give your doctors—and yourself—the ability to observe your health in the context of several years. In other words, you can see how your body and wellbeing change over the years.

From vaccine records to shifts in your BMI, observing the long-term story of your health can establish context and alert your doctor to any concerning changes that may occur. A single exam is helpful and can be insightful, but the accumulation of years of annual exams provides a much deeper understanding of you and your health.

Without consistent physical exams, minor concerns can develop and turn into significant health problems. By visiting your doctor on an annual basis, you give them the chance to catch issues early, address them, and stop them from taking a turn for the worse.