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Sponsored by Grand Rounds and hosted by Employee Benefit News, “COVID 19: How Employers Are Transforming with Healthcare Navigation and Telemedicine” took a closer look at the growing role of virtual healthcare during the current crisis as well as how quality telemedicine can and does improve access and outcomes. In this webinar, Grand Rounds CEO and Co-Founder Owen Tripp led the way with a discussion that covered:

  • Key trends driving the need for an urgent healthcare transformation
  • The benefits of virtual care to support employees through and following a crisis
  • The future of healthcare navigation and telemedicine at Grand Rounds

Joining Owen was Gina Hanrahan, Salesforce’s director of North America Benefits, who talked about how her company took on such a transformation in order to successfully support its employees and HR teams. Following are excerpts taken from Owen’s portion of the hour-long session. To get all of the facts, forecasting and insights that Owen and Gina shared, view the full webinar.


Healthcare Is Going Digital

“[Healthcare’s] digital transformation … is well underway. Likely, you know that in the first Coronavirus aid bill, the CARES Act, $200 million was specifically earmarked for telehealth. [Meanwhile,] the CDC has taken an unusual move to urge virtual assessments and check-ins. … The CDC doesn’t usually make these proclamations on the healthcare delivery system, but if you think about the urgent public health need, we obviously need to embrace virtual.

“The four major telehealth providers (Amwell, Teladoc, Doctor On Demand and MDLIVE) have seen visit volume steeply increase. … As recently as January, I saw statistics that suggested that of the people who hadn’t yet tried telehealth, a little less than 20% were willing to consider doing telehealth in the future. Well, let’s harness [the COVID-19] crisis to a positive outcome—66% of people are now willing to try telemedicine for the first time. For those who have already used it, two-thirds are willing to use it again.

“As employers are thinking through return-to-work processes, we certainly hear a lot of energy around: What should the preparation look like from a facilities perspective? How should we think about testing and monitoring? … The thing we haven’t heard enough about is how we’re going to return to personal care, delivering healthcare in this new world order. That’s going to be incredibly important because that same demand that we saw in the early days of COVID-19 in the form of tele-urgent cases, it’s suddenly going to manifest in a demand for a lot of other services.

“If you think about telehealth in its current iteration as we return to care, what we know is that almost all employers have a telehealth provider, and in some cases, have multiple telehealth providers. But shockingly, those same employers will tell us that the utilization rates usually idle between 2% and 8%. Your traditional tele-urgent provider really isn’t equipped nor frankly built to provide a holistic experience to the member that can address, not just their urgent physical medical need, but their behavioral, financial and administrative considerations.”


Deferred and Canceled Care Are at All-Time Highs

“This gets us to the topic of deferred care … the elective surgeries, the high-profit procedures that hospitals rely on to make their bottom line. … One out of three members are canceling their upcoming appointments. And one out of four rural hospitals are at risk of closing. This is a real financial catastrophe. 

“Today’s cancellations don’t really mean that those people have permanently canceled care. In fact, most of these patients do plan to reschedule. But what will happen if they can’t get back in and the specialist that they thought they were going to see is no longer available?

“If the patient considers a return to care, he or she is probably not going to be the best witness to what care is actually urgent. You’re going to have people who think that they need to be first in line and in fact don’t, and other people who probably are going to defer care, because they don’t want to step back into a physical facility and they desperately need that care. This problem presents to all of us in a way that’s going to show up in lousy clinical outcomes and lousy financial outcomes if we don’t get ahead of it.”


A Growing Need for Full-Person Care

“Finally, I want to talk to you about a growing need for full-person care. Consider … 90% of those who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 have had an underlying condition. There’s now plenty of evidence across many placebo-controlled studies with pharmacy and without pharmacy that a lot of these conditions get worse under hospital supervision.

“While we’re addressing the immediate need of the disease and its symptoms, it’s almost certainly going to turn into a version of a chronic condition that we’re going to need to think about from a disease management program going forward—50% of all ICU patients experience difficulty with their daily activities one year later. They have ongoing respiratory issues, they have a need for inhalers, etc.

“In the spirit of full-person care, we also have to recognize that mental health support has never been needed more. We have seen a 900% increase in calls to the substance abuse and mental health services administrations. Now, this is true when we look across suicide prevention lines and other sorts of VAP vendors. There’s a real problem for folks when they don’t have their mental health addressed, because that tends to manifest in a lot of other physical conditions.

“The need for full-person care has never been higher. We want our members to flow through one experience where they can have their financial, clinical, and administrative questions answered. One of the things we’re proud to do a lot of work on right now is integrating with lead services and workplace administration and disability services to make sure that employees are able to get the full benefit of all the programs that you’ve put together so that they safely and productively return to work.

“Managing to that full person may sound intuitive and yet, there hasn’t been a service that has brought this all together until now.”


The Future of Healthcare Navigation and Telemedicine

“I want to talk to you about the future of navigation and telemedicine. In order to take care of that full person, in order to meet their administrative, clinical and financial needs, you [need] one seamless, one friction-free experience, where the doctor and care coordinator … act as one team in a collaborative model.

Urgent Response, or our rapidly deployed navigation solution, allows employers to get back to work and administer programs like taking care of patients who test positive, who are under suspicion or presumptively test positive for COVID-19, and take care of people who may be dealing with other situations. It brings together a set of Grand Rounds capabilities:

  • 24×7 access to clinicians
  • High-touch concierge support
  • Strategic partnerships with local assistance and transportation companies
  • Bringing peace of mind for your HR team

Telemedicine+ brings together those components we just described, but also allows those very same physicians to order tests to diagnose and to prescribe. Think of this as your traditional tele-urgent sort of infrastructure, but blended seamlessly with that first administrative call that the member may have made. 

“And for the first time ever, we can bring specialists live into the tele-urgent consultation. We’re applying the talent and expertise of our … over 120 member clinical team that brings together a variety of specialties and expertise, not only to take care of our members, but to take care of you, the employer.

“The fact that [telemedicine] is combined with navigation and you can flow without friction between that administrative and financial perspective and the clinical perspective, it’s going to lift the outcomes that you’re going to see in your population. Of course, whole person care is really important, so it has to tie together with all the other resources—behavioral health, pharmaceutical, etc.

Members want somebody they can trust, and they would love to hear the solution that actually doesn’t force them to get off the phone, call another 1-800 number, fill out another form. If they can get all those questions answered in one perfectly constructed video or phone call or chat-based interaction, you’re going to meet their needs too, and you will get NPS and satisfaction scores that you probably wouldn’t get on other programs.

“We have built [our 24×7] modules to launch within two weeks. We understand the urgency of the moment. We connect the members with all the care team members 24×7, 365. That relationship between the care team member and the caller or the patient is longitudinal. 

“If any of the topics related to navigation, return to work or telehealth were of interest to you, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email at, or visit the employer focus page at”


Stay tuned for the next blog post, which will get into how Salesforce—with the help of Grand Rounds—addressed healthcare transformation head-on.

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