As mission-driven organizations, SCAN Group and SCAN Health Plan have leaned into trying to solve some of health care’s biggest problems. In particular, keeping seniors independent and healthy at home has been a major area of focus.

SCAN Group is a nonprofit organization focused on helping older adults age in place. Founded in 1977, Long Beach, California-based SCAN Health Plan is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, serving more than 200,000 members.

In June, Dr. Sachin Jain took the helm as CEO and president of SCAN Group. When coming on board, Jain — who previously served as CEO of Aspire Health and CareMore Health — saw an opportunity to take on problems that other organizations in its position may not attempt to tackle.

“I had a tremendous experience leading Aspire and CareMore but felt like I could do more for the U.S. health care system writ large from a platform like SCAN, which is very ambitious in its bones,” Jain told Home Health Care News.

As of late, SCAN Group has zeroed in on addressing the “digital divide” through its HEALHtech benefit.

In light of the COVID-19 emergency, telehealth has emerged as a critical means of delivering care services. Home health providers, for example, have embraced virtual care more than ever before.

Despite telehealth’s role in providing safe care delivery during the pandemic, SCAN Group noticed that, for some seniors, a lack of comfort with digital technologies became a barrier to receiving these services.

“We recognize the need,” Josh Goode, CIO of SCAN Health Plan, told HHCN. “Our seniors were being forced into this digital world, and there is a digital literacy gap. We see a lot of older adults who are, what I would consider, tech-savvy, but there is still a pretty sizable population that is struggling in a digital world.”

SCAN Group’s HEALHtech benefit offers its members free tech support. This can include things like setting up email accounts or installing video conference technologies.

As part of the benefit, the organization also helps older adults learn to navigate their providers’ online health systems.

The benefit has its origins in a technology support line SCAN Group set up for its members after the onset of the COVID-19 emergency.

“We did a pilot where we would triage the calls of those members that were needing support, accessing a telehealth visit or anything else — from a digital standpoint — to help enable them getting care in the home,” Goode said. “We would support them, and it’s been wildly successful.”

The benefit is still in the pilot phase but will officially be available in 2021.

The current embrace of telehealth during the COVID-19 emergency will be the new normal moving forward. That’s because 2020 has allowed providers to become more comfortable with this form of care delivery, according to Jain.

“I think it’s a little bit of an unknown, in terms of what form or fashion, or how widely adopted it will be, but I think [telehealth] is here to stay,” he said. “Obviously, reimbursement plays into this. We’ll see what happens in the long run, but … everybody recognizes the need to deliver care in the home and break down those barriers to access. People are recognizing how effective telehealth can be.”

Looking ahead, SCAN Group will continue to make home-based care a priority.

“We believe that the home is where most people want to stay,” Jain said. “We believe that bad things happen to seniors when they actually step out of their homes to access care. They are exposed to hospital-acquired infections. The orientation of SCAN has always been around [keeping] people in the home.”

To this end, the organization is in the process of launching a home-based geriatric primary care medical group that will include hospital-at-home and primary care services.

“We believe that geriatrics is a medical specialty whose time has really come,” Jain said. “Historically, geriatrics has been something that has been made available to seniors after they’ve had a primary care relationship with someone for a while And as a result, very few patients actually transition in their older age from primary care to geriatric care.”

SCAN Group also has plans to enter the palliative care space. Additionally, the organization is focused on building innovative solutions to address homeless seniors.

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