Breaking the mold: why UCM’s model is better for the patient

By Keith Algozzine, PA-C, founder and CEO, UCM Digital Health

Typical virtual care is built upon a model of siloed care – and it’s even worse than you think.

Many digital health providers utilize a mix of many disparate companies or point solutions, that provide stand-alone, fractioned components of patient care – like primary care, urgent care, mental health care, or care coordination and navigation services. Other digital health providers claim to do it all under one roof, but still navigate patients behind the scenes to different service providers, even if they operate as if they are all under one company or one brand. In either circumstance, the patient’s health information isn’t shared, providers don’t communicate or coordinate, and no given provider has a full understanding of the patient needed to provide proper treatment. Patient needs are left unmet or only partially addressed.

Now if that weren’t bad enough, here is where it gets even worse. Most digital health companies are led by classically trained business leaders or experienced entrepreneurs. While they may have relevant experience in running a business, they may not have healthcare industry experience and definitely do not have clinical expertise and training. With business leaders at the helm, who is making decisions on care delivery? Who is providing common medical supervision and ensuring that patient quality standards are met and processes are in place, consistent, and followed?

Many digital health companies outsource their medical staff rather than hiring their own, using independent contractors, the same way Uber staffs its drivers. They tout their vast number of providers to show size and scale – 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 – but, what they don’t say is how that works behind the scenes.

While the contractor model may work in some industries, it’s fraught with risk and room for error when it comes to delivering consistent, high-quality, compassionate, and coordinated care for patients. In fact, it’s illegal to provide common medical guidance and supervision in the independent contractor model. So, these independents are working and providing care with unknown credentials, little to no supervision, no standards to abide by, and no quality control. Many work for multiple companies at the same time bouncing back and forth refilling a prescription for Viagra for company A, sending in birth control pills for company B, ordering lab tests for company C, treating an urgent issue for company D, and having primary care visit for company E. They dedicate little 1:1 time with patients, moving as fast as they can to make more money, as they are paid on a per-visit basis. This model inevitably leads to fragmented, episodic care, and doesn’t even scratch the surface on treating the patient holistically. And, many aspects of care – like care for emergencies – can’t even be touched by these players given their lack of providers that span disciplines and areas of expertise.

The net result: the patients suffer!

I hear stories every day, riddled with frustration about the poor experience, wasted time, and no help. Many patients disengage and decide not to care about their health. Suffering through symptoms is often easier than navigating the healthcare system.

What patients often don’t realize is that a lack of proper care and engagement in their health now may lead to undetected issues and more acute or chronic health conditions later. And of course, increased cost to all.

Now, what if you thought about health care differently?

UCM was established to change all this by being servants to the patient. To reimagine the future of healthcare, and to eliminate siloes. This is exactly what we are doing every day at UCM Digital Health for our patients, by delivering health care, where and when they need it, in a provider-led, team-based, coordinated fashion that always puts the patient first.

At UCM, our team, experience, and processes are designed around the patient, with their needs in mind first. We understand their issues and are working to minimize friction and make the experience easy for them to take control of their health. Our patients are taken care of throughout their healthcare journey, both during the appointment and afterward.

 – Clinical Leadership: We were founded by providers and remain a provider-led organization. We have our own, dedicated clinical team led by clinicians who make the decisions on how care is provided under one common medical direction, vision, and strategy that all clinical leaders and clinical team members operate under. We have established hiring practices, processes, and clinical protocols, and we measure quality to very high standards.

– Team Approach: We employ, not as independent contractors, the right number of dedicated team-based providers of varying backgrounds and skill sets. Many of them have prior experience and expertise in emergency medicine. Others are primary care providers, mental health providers, hospitalist providers, nurses, paramedics, and therapists. Covering emergency care, urgent care, primary care, mental health care, men’s and women’s health, pediatrics and adolescent care, acute care, chronic care, and more. With this team approach, we are able to resolve 96% of patient issues directly and immediately with our team, savings patients the added step of seeing another provider. Patients are never treated in a silo. We look at them holistically to address their medical, mental health, and overall well-being.

–  “Concierge” care from care coordinators: Our team of providers works together with a team of care coordinators to ensure that patients are taken care of even after their appointment. The care coordinator team helps with follow-ups, like making sure that the patient has their next primary care appointment set up, mental health appointment, set up labs, x-rays, or a referral to an in-person specialist in their network and in their local area if that is recommended by the provider, as an example. We contact 100% of our patients after a consult to check in and assist with questions or next steps. The results are 96% patient satisfaction and an NPS of 82.

– Coordination: our data platform and technology allow information sharing across other health systems and provider organizations. Not only do we have information on the patient’s experience with us, but we are able to collaborate and share data to have a complete picture of the patient.

– Ongoing care: Prescheduled follow-up and patient-initiated follow-up is not just allowed but encouraged. Patients can come back to us any time and are able to get appointments via schedule or on-demand, 24/7/365. We resolve immediate needs and are available to continue to provide both episodic and ongoing longitudinal care. All this means savings of up to 60% through claims reduction in ER, Urgent Care, and Office visits.

The result? Why are we doing this you may ask?

Well, that’s easy. We are servants to our patients. It’s what we as providers were called to do. You are not MY patient. I am YOUR clinical team. That’s our DNA. Breaking down silos, including lack of provider coordination and data sharing, inefficiencies, and poor processes, ultimately lead to better care, lower cost care, and improved health outcomes. With a seamless, “no hassle” experience for the patient, and help with the next steps and follow-ups no matter what they need, via a team-based care model and patients are happier and more likely to take care of their health. Costs go down for all stakeholders involved.

Keith Algozzine, PA-C is a board-certified Physician Assistant and founder and CEO of UCM Digital Health. He believes that the virtual ER will change the way emergency healthcare is delivered. A passionate advocate for change in emergency medicine, he is committed to ensuring patients receive the right care, at the right time — when and where they need it most. often authors blog posts on topics related to virtual emergency medicine and the innovations around telemedicine that are changing the way healthcare works.