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ChristianaCare, Highmark partner on preventative care venture

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CareVio’s Endia Jackson, medical assistant, and Dr. Janine Jordan virtually connect with patients to provide care. Such tech-focused innovation will be furthered under a new joint venture by ChristianaCare and health insurer Highmark Health. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIANACARE

WILMINGTON – Delaware’s largest health care system, ChristianaCare, and its largest health insurer, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, announced a new joint venture Wednesday that will leverage technology to help improve community health through preventative care.

A new for-profit limited liability corporation, which does not yet have a name, will be funded through a 10-year, 50-50 funding commitment by both partners and governed by a board composed of leaders from each. Many of the details as to how the venture will operate, what it will cost, who will lead its day-to-day operations, whether new jobs will be created to back it and where it will be located have not yet been identified, according to officials.

The venture is not a merger nor an exclusivity agreement but continues a trend from Pittsburgh-headquartered Highmark in developing formal partnerships to expand its reach rather than utilizing acquisitions. It’s made similar partnerships with Penn State Health and Geisinger Health System in recent years.

The venture does strengthen the resolve of both ChristianaCare and Highmark to invest in preventative, value-based care rather than continue down the road of traditional fee-for-service care.

ChristianaCare CEO Dr. Janice Nevin | PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTIANACARE

“We’ve worked within the confines of the health care system that simply isn’t working because incentives are misaligned, and payers and providers face off across the table, instead of working together toward a common goal of health. We’ve made incremental improvements in quality and cost reduction, but it’s not nearly enough,” said Dr. Janice Nevin, president and CEO of ChristianaCare.

Deborah Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark Inc. and chief growth officer of Highmark Health, said that discussions over a joint investment began following the organizations’ 2019 agreement to move to a value-based payment system for Medicaid recipients. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the partners to complete the latest negotiations via Zoom conferences, Nevin said that the need for such a cost-saving collaboration was greater than ever.

The formal joint venture will allow data sharing between the partners in ways that would not have been possible by a less formal arrangement and will also allow greater insight and oversight of the work being done by the jointly funded activities, Rice-Johnson said.

“Highmark has been engaged in joint ventures before that really tie the two organizations together in a way that is much more robust and we each will hold each other accountable for delivering results,” she noted.

Deborah Rice-Johnson | PHOTO COURTESY OF HIGHMARK HEALTH

Both organizations have previously invested in technology initiatives to improve their outcomes, with ChristianaCare founding CareVio to remotely track chronic health conditions of patients and Highmark contracting with Google Cloud and Alphabet-owned Verily to utilize technology to improve preventative care.

Those resources were heavily leaned on amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as patients, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), forewent routine care visits. Rice-Johnson said that virtual care for Highmark customers increased 3,400% last year, representing more than 3.5 million televisits.

The new venture will essentially build on the of work of ChristianaCare’s Center for Virtual Health and CareVio, expanding usage of wearable technology, secure text messaging, televisits and other data-driven, tech-focused solutions to help people manage their health before they have to arrive in a hospital or doctor’s office waiting room. CareVio has helped more than 100,000 patients manage their chronic health conditions remotely, and was redeployed during the pandemic to monitor thousands of coronavirus-infected patients while they quarantined at home, rather than enter a hospital.

“As a result of coming together, we can move farther and faster, and have a greater impact and bring it to scale sooner,” Nevin explained of the benefits of the joint venture.

Aiding the development of new technological advancements will be the creation of the Solution Design Center, which will combine technological care advancements with cost data to study how to reduce the overall cost of care. If successful solutions are identified, they will be allowed to be deployed to other care providers and health insurers as a revenue-generating opportunity, the partners said.

Whether additional staff would be hired to complete that work or if existing employees from both partners would be utilized has not yet been determined. If successful solutions are identified, however, Nevin said that they will likely drive new job growth.

“I believe this will help create the workforce of the future when it comes to health care, and as we grow so will the workforce,” she said.

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