Homeward and Blue Cross team up to expand healthcare access to rural Minnesotans

Steven Loeb · February 23, 2023 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/5650

Blue Cross Medicare Advantage members in 24 counties will gain access to Homeward's hybrid services

According to the CDC, rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than people who live in urban areas. On top of that, unintentional injury deaths are approximately 50% higher in rural areas, which is attributed, in part, to greater risk of death from motor vehicle crashes and opioid overdoses.

At the same time, 80% of rural counties lack a sufficient number of primary care providers, and it's only getting tougher to see a doctor in these areas, as at least 186 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, 143 of which have shut their doors since 2010. 

These are just some of the problems that rural residents face, and Homeward is a company looking to increase access to healthcare by offering a hybrid model that combines both virtual and in-person care.

Now the company will be able to reach even more people thanks to a newly announced value-based collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross). Through this collaboration, Homeward will be able to offer its services to Blue Cross Medicare Advantage members who live in 24 Minnesota counties outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area starting in the spring of this year; this is important because approximately 40% of all Blue Cross members reside outside of the Twin Cities.

Launched in 2022, Homeward's platform includes a multidisciplinary care team that is available both virtually and on the ground via mobile care units, along with in-home remote monitoring to capture biometric data, allowing the team to monitor their risk and get them care when appropriate. 

For example, a patient is suffering from heart failure is often diagnosed only when they arrive in the ER, but with Homeward, they get remote patient monitoring, which can detect the early signs of a heart problem. It also provides in-home visits to test, diagnose, and treat the problem; and virtual visits to follow-up until the problem is resolved.

One of the major problems in rural markets is limited access to broadband, which Homeward avoids by leveraging cellular-based monitoring devices and virtual services. The company also works closely with each community it enters in order to outfit an access-to-care model that augments, rather than displaces, local primary care physicians and hospitals. The idea is to take a tailored approach to each market, and not try a one sized fits all approach.

The 24 counties where residents will now have access to Homeward's services include Becker, Benton, Big Stone, Cass, Clay, Chippewa, Crow Wing, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Redwood, Renville, Stearns, Swift, Todd, Wadena, and Wilkin. Homeward and Blue Cross say they plan to continue expand into additional counties in Minnesota in the future. 

“Our agreement with Homeward is another important step for Blue Cross’ nationally recognized Medicare Advantage plans,” said Dr. Mark Steffen, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

“Blue Cross and Homeward will be working with local hospitals, clinics and care systems in each community to ensure that, together, we can work to solve one of the biggest challenges in the healthcare system today. We are excited for the opportunity to increase our support for populations and communities that are in need of more healthcare resources.” 


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