While many seniors have access to telehealth, they often lack the expertise or confidence to use the services correctly.
That’s why the Centers for Medicine and Medicaid Services (CMS) established new rules aimed at reducing disparities in health outcomes for elderly patients who experience barriers to telehealth services.
The overview? Starting in 2024, Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) will have to offer digital health education to enrollees with low digital health literacy.
For our graduate 1501 Health cohort company, Candoo Tech, this is a remarkable sign of progress. The team provides technology support and training for older adults through one on one remote lessons, on-demand guides and group lessons.
“After working with thousands of older adults nationwide, we have seen that in a short time, with the right training, even someone who has never used a smart phone can become digitally literate,” said Liz Hamburg, CEO and founder of Candoo Tech.
A recent Impact survey by Candoo Tech services reported that almost 70% of older adults who used their services felt more confident in their ability to use technology and 60% have accessed telemedicine or researched medical information.
Liz believes this CMS rule means her team’s remote and nationwide support services could be available through more health plans.
For a closer look at this CMS rule, check out our brief Q&A with Liz below:
Can you tell us a bit about the CMS digital health literacy ruling for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans?
Liz: In its final rule, CMS established four regulatory requirements.
The first was that MA services be provided in a culturally competent manner. The second was that each provider’s cultural and linguistic capabilities be included in MA provider directories.
The third, which is important to Candoo Tech, requires MA organizations to develop procedures to empower enrollees with low digital health literacy with digital health education.
As part of the ruling, CMS included the requirement to identify which members have low digital literacy.
And while the requirement focuses on access to telehealth, CMS also clarifies that digital health literacy includes: "Accessing your electronic health records; communicating electronically with your health care team; the ability to discern reliable online health information; and using health and wellness apps.
To get the momentum rolling, the fourth and final regulation requires providers to incorporate one or more QI activities that reduce disparities in outcomes.
Why is this a positive move for increasing digital health literacy nationwide?
Liz: CMS has recognized that there are large gaps in digital literacy, which is one of the causes of health inequity in underserved communities.
For the elderly using MA providers, this is especially true. According to AARP surveys in 2021, more than half of older adults (age 50 and older) indicated they need more digital education, while more than a third indicated they lacked confidence when using technology.
In the same survey, more than 10M seniors said they did not know how to use a computer. By providing MA members with digital health education, this is a great step to close the health inequity gap.
How will this ruling impact Candoo Tech and its users?
Liz: For our team, this ruling expands the possibility of serving a much larger base of older adults through their MA providers.
With our expansive remote nationwide offerings, our team is perfectly positioned to help older adults access telehealth services. For instance, we can provide them with the right tools to access member portals, make appointments online, order prescription drugs or chat with the health plan or providers.
Everyone deserves access to telehealth technology that’s safe, secure and simple to navigate – and this ruling will help us continue to make this belief a reality.
For more on Candoo Tech, head here.
About 1501 Health
1501 Health is a unique partnership between Healthworx and LifeBridge Health, representing expertise in both health insurance and financing (payers) and healthcare delivery and services (providers). The investment and incubation program empowers entrepreneurs to get their innovative solutions to market and expand their impact in healthcare quality, access and affordability. To learn more about 1501Health, visit www.1501Health.com.
Healthworx operates at the intersection of healthcare and innovation by creating, co-creating and investing in companies that are improving healthcare quality, accessibility, affordability and equity. As the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst, Healthworx envisions a healthier future for all people by changing the way health works. To learn more about Healthworx, visit https://www.healthworx.com.
About LifeBridge Health
LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. LifeBridge Health includes Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Grace Medical Center and related affiliates. For more information, visit www.lifebridgehealth.org.