The MAVEN Project is a nonprofit organization serving Federally Qualified Health Centers and free and charitable clinics, connecting expert specialty physician volunteers with clinic providers.
Using telehealth technology, volunteers are working hand-in-hand with those on the front lines. They can consult on cases, serve as mentors, provide continuing education and collaborate with clinical staff.
In most cases, consults with MAVEN Project volunteers eliminate the need for an outside referral, resulting in savings in the millions and allowing patients to keep care in their existing medical home. And instead of waiting weeks or months for a specialty appointment, providers can get answers for their patients in hours.
The MAVEN Project has grown to serve 360 clinic sites today, from 118 in 2020.
In the U.S., safety net clinics serve one in 11 individuals. That’s roughly 30 million Americans who receive medical care at more than 14,000 clinic sites across the country. Two in three of these patients are racial or ethnic minorities and nearly all are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
“Even with this safety net, these patients face severe barriers to comprehensive care – cost, language differences, wait times for specialist appointments, lack of transportation, childcare costs and more,” said Dave Segal, the MAVEN Project’s CEO. “Even if these patients can get an appointment, they often must wait months to see the specialist.
“What’s more, the providers in healthcare clinics work in daunting circumstances,” he continued. “They’re dealing with growing patient volume, specialist shortages and complex health challenges in their patients. These healthcare professionals do amazing work with the resources they have, but they need more timely access to specialist expertise, which is not offered in most clinic settings and is frequently inaccessible to patients.”
By connecting specialty physicians to frontline clinic providers, telehealth technology would allow clinic providers to treat patients in their medical home in a matter of hours rather than months. Creating a direct connection meant that providers could seek electronic consultations (econsults) on specific patient cases, further their medical education through customized sessions, and receive one-on-one mentoring to reduce burnout and further their career.
“The use of telehealth technology would eliminate so many barriers to care,” Segal explained. “Econsults can provide critical answers within hours, so patients don’t have to wait months for an outside referral, wondering how they’ll get to the specialist’s office and how they’ll pay for it. Providers gain confidence having the support of a seasoned specialty provider and it can all happen where the patient is already receiving care.”
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MEETING THE CHALLENGE
The MAVEN Project developed a unique application of telehealth technology that brings specialty expertise directly to healthcare providers in frontline clinics.
“We brought world-class doctors a click away, using telehealth to bridge the gap between providers and exceptional physician volunteers,” Segal noted. “We enable comprehensive care within hours, eliminating months of waiting, supplemental referrals and costly emergency room visits.
“To do this, the MAVEN Project enlisted a corps of expert specialty physician volunteers,” he said. “Most of these doctors are retired or semi-retired. They’re board-certified, licensed, and many are from distinguished educational and health programs including Harvard, Stanford, Tufts, Columbia, Northwestern and many more. Medicine is their passion, and they are eager to share their knowledge and experience.”
Then the project partnered with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and free and charitable clinics (FCCs) to reach providers on the front lines of caring for the most vulnerable patients.
“These providers then leverage our telehealth technology to build relationships with our volunteers,” Segal explained. “The MAVEN Project offers econsults on specific cases, one-on-one mentoring and continuing medical education to alleviate the pressures of being a frontline provider and reduce burnout.”
With close to 200 physician volunteers working in more than 60 specialties, the MAVEN Project is enabling access to two million patients across the country and serving three thousand clinicians.
The impact, Segal said, is unmistakable:
The average wait time for a specialist appointment can be well over three months, while MAVEN Project volunteers usually respond in less than 10 hours. This timely access to specialist care has an enormous impact on patient care quality.
Using telehealth technology, in 76% of cases, MAVEN Project consultations have eliminated the need for an outside referral, saving both patient time and avoiding more than $11 million in unnecessary medical costs.
In 98% of those consultations, clinicians shared that the interaction provided knowledge that will be applicable to future cases.
Last year alone, the MAVEN Project provided 7,800 medical consultations, 600 hours of mentoring and thousands of education sessions.
“A reach that broad and deep wouldn’t be possible without the robust technology platform we employ,” Segal said. “And it’s growing – the MAVEN Project has grown to serve 360 clinic sites today, from 118 in 2020.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“Design the use of your technology to meet the workflow needs of your customers,” Segal advised. “Do not make them conform to your view of their needs. Ask them what their needs are and build around them.
“To do that, you must have the right configurable platform, and you must be able to control the evolution of that platform,” he continued. “Our first iteration of the technology in use was designed for a different healthcare use case. It was not designed for the MAVEN Project’s service offerings.”
Because the service was generously provided pro bono, the project was not able to alter its design features. As a result, at the highest level, the clinic provider clients navigated to seven subsystems to access MAVEN Project services.
“Today, our new platform is built with clinic provider workflows in mind and is an all-in-one solution that brings everything under one login, including econsults, mentoring, education sessions, community building and more,” Segal said.
“We’re making significant additional investments in technology to make it easier for volunteers and providers to build long-term relationships, and to ensure that patients can receive timely access to care,” he continued. “For instance, in the next phase of development, our technology platform will integrate with electronic health records, which will make it even faster and easier for providers to enlist our support.”
The real heroes are frontline safety net clinic providers and the physician volunteers, he added.
“Our community portal enables everyone involved to forge long-term relationships and not simply one-and-done transactions,” he concluded. “We don’t want the platform to take center stage, but rather to enable healthcare providers to collaborate and reduce health inequities.”
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