Iris Plans Uses Telemedicine to Innovate Delivery of End-of-life Care

Xconomy Texas — 

Austin—Iris Plans is using telemedicine for an often overlooked part of health care: advanced care planning.

Iris recently announced a partnership with the University of Utah Health Plans, and is now providing technology-enabled advanced care planning for about 50,000 members. Iris has created an online office where doctors, nurses, or social workers can advise patients and their families about forming a plan for end-of-life care.

“Towards the end of life, many patients get care that they wouldn’t want if they really understood what it entails,” says Steve Wardle, Iris Plans’ CEO and co-founder. “This [Iris’ solution] puts patients in the driver’s seat and empowers them to be more active in their decision-making.”

“Telehealth has an advantage over a health clinic: Families who are spread across the country can join in the call,” Wardle says. “It’s important to have the next of kin who will be walking through the illness with you.”

Advanced care planning, or palliative care, has been growing over the last decade. But the number of healthcare professionals with that expertise in traditional healthcare settings is not keeping up with the need, Wardle says.

That’s where Iris Plans and its network of contract and employee healthcare providers come in, he says. Using telemedicine, these professionals can walk through a patient’s wishes alongside their families. Do they want to pursue treatment at all costs? Do they want to maintain quality of life in order to travel the world and visit family and friends? The answers to these questions can help inform treatment as a disease progresses.

“A path of least resistance in the current system is to do everything,” Wardle says. “But we know that doctors wouldn’t choose this for their own treatment. They would choose a much less aggressive path.”

Key for the success of a company like Iris Plans is a decision by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services last month to reimburse for advanced care planning services. Wardle would not say what … Next Page »

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