Browse Month

January 2019

UnitedHealthcare Expands Navigate4Me to Bring Personalized, Holistic Care to More People

UnitedHealthcare is significantly expanding its Navigate4Me program to bring the benefits of personalized, holistic care to more people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans.

Navigate4Me offers concierge services from health navigators who support and guide people through the complexities of a fragmented health care system. UnitedHealthcare launched the program in fall 2017 for people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans who are facing complex health issues such as diabetes, congestive heart failure or multiple chronic conditions. People who have experienced a sudden health event, such as joint replacement surgery or a new cancer diagnosis, are often also eligible for the program.

Navigate4Me will be newly available to four groups of people: those who are under 65 and qualify for Medicare due to a disability; those who receive post-acute care following a hospitalization and meet other eligibility criteria; those who are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; and those who are at risk for social isolation.

UnitedHealthcare grew its team of navigators from a dozen at launch to more than 800 today, supporting approximately 215,000 people. The company plans to double enrollment in 2019 by expanding the population eligible for the program to more than 1 million.

By providing the support of dedicated health navigators, UnitedHealthcare aims to personalize the health experience for these individuals and improve their health and quality of life.

Image: Stock Photo

Virtual Care: Three Things That May Surprise You

Oftentimes scheduling and attending a doctor’s office visit can be challenging. It may involve juggling work and childcare schedules, lengthy travel time and time spent sitting in a crowded waiting room.

It’s no wonder virtual care (also known as remote care, telehealth, telemedicine or online visits) is growing in popularity. Instead of an in-person visit, virtual care uses technology, including tablets, smartphones and personal computers, to connect you with care providers. Some of the obvious advantages are convenience, quick access to care and time savings. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) pointed out that a virtual visit saves 106 minutes on average, compared to an in-person appointment.

Further, virtual visits often can cost as low as $40 or $50 per visit, much less than an urgent care or emergency room visit, and many insurance companies are now covering them.

Virtual care makes sense for a variety of conditions, from treating colds and the flu to rashes, migraines and allergies. A virtual visit can be especially handy during times when it’s otherwise difficult to seek care, such as during a major storm. Even the federal government is beginning to recognize the value of virtual care. In 2017, Congress expanded insurance and Medicare payments for a variety of telehealth programs, enabling more people to access this type of care.

Beyond the convenience and time savings, here are three other features of virtual visits that may surprise you:

  • It can be just as personal – if not more so – than an in-person visit. While you may be concerned about getting advice through a video screen rather than in person, doctors who provide virtual care are well-trained to make these appointments an “all-about-you” experience. They can attend to your concerns without distraction, and examine and treat you for a variety of conditions ranging from sinus problems to pink eye. You receive direct, one-on-one attention and avoid having to sit with other sick people prior to your appointment. 
  • You can show doctors your medications. How often have you arrived at your doctor’s office, only to realize you forgot to bring a list of your current medications and dosages? When you meet with a doctor virtually, you can simply show them, in real time, your vitamins, supplements, medications and any equipment you are using, such as wheelchairs or nebulizers. 
  • Virtual care is popping up in more places. Your local doctor may already offer this service, or may sometime soon, for routine care or to manage a chronic condition, such as diabetes or congestive heart failure. And given the shortage of mental health services in many locations – nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in regions with a shortage of behavioral health providers – virtual care can be a quicker way to receive treatment for a range of conditions, including stress, addiction, depression, loss and grief.

As technology continues to permeate all aspects of our lives, you’ll likely experience a virtual health visit, if you haven’t already. Check with your health plan to see if virtual visits are covered and whether you can register for them in advance. It will make your life easier and help you quickly get you the care you need – all within the comfort of your home.

Image: Stock Photo

Tips to Help Prevent and Treat Hearing Loss

More than 90 percent of Americans know that exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing loss; however, just 50 percent correctly recognized that both one-time exposure to a loud sound and cumulative exposure to moderately loud sounds can harm hearing health, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.

Hearing loss affects more than 48 million people nationwide, and it could become even more widespread in the coming years: more than 1.1 billion young adults worldwide are at risk of developing hearing loss, according to a study by the World Health Organization.

These statistics are a reminder for people to check their hearing health – and that of their loved ones – to help prevent the condition or, if necessary, obtain treatment. Hearing health is crucial to overall health, as research shows hearing loss is associated with social isolation, dementia, depression and increased risk of falls.

To help encourage better hearing health in 2019, consider these tips:

  • Limit exposure to loud noises: People should limit their exposure to loud sounds, such as music, lawn mowers or motorcycles, to no more than 20 minutes at a time. If attending a football game or music concert, consider wearing ear protection (i.e. ear plugs). This is especially true for young people, as children’s ears are more susceptible to harm caused by exposure to loud sounds. While hearing loss is more common among older Americans, younger people can also be affected: about 20 percent of people over age 12 experience some level of hearing loss. 
  • Opt for noise-cancelling headphones: One factor spurring the increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss is the growing popularity of earbuds. People should consider over-the-ear headphones – especially models with noise-cancelling properties – as those are generally considered a better option than earbuds. When using earbuds, follow the “60/60 rule,” which means listening for no more than 60 minutes at a time and at no more than 60 percent of the player’s maximum volume. If someone else can hear your music while you’re using earbuds, it’s an indication of excessive volume. 
  • Talk to a health professional and schedule a hearing test: Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments. Some primary care physicians are starting to offer hearing testing, making it more convenient to follow recommended guidelines, which includes being screened at least every decade through age 50 and then at three-year intervals thereafter. 
  • Explore ways to save on hearing aids: Hearing aids can be expensive, but more affordable options are available. Direct-to-consumer hearing aids can enable people to save 60 percent or more compared to devices sold through traditional channels. And a growing number of health plans are offering coverage for hearing aids, including through some Medicare Advantage and employer-sponsored benefit plans. 
  • Use effective communication strategies: Hearing aids are more helpful when people use effective communication strategies, such as watching lip movements and facial expressions, and selecting settings that are “hearing friendly.” For example, people with hearing loss should opt for restaurants that are relatively quiet and go at times that aren’t as busy. Another strategy is to select a table along a wall or in a corner, which will reduce background noise.
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