Innovations to make care simple and affordable

In a time of great complexity and uncertainty in health care, we strive to make all that we do simple and affordable. Clear and certain. We’ve worked to realize our vision of health care as it could be, affordability as it must be, through relationships built on trust. The following examples highlight just some of what we’ve achieved with respect to simple and affordable care and coverage.

Every year, more than one in three patients who visit a primary care doctor are referred to a specialist for medical care. However, getting that second appointment can take days or weeks, and it adds expense.

HealthPartners became one of the first care systems in Minnesota – and the nation – to provide electronic consultations for specialty care in 2019. Using the electronic medical record, a primary care provider sends an e-consult to a specialist, who responds with a recommendation within two business days.

The e-consult often avoids the need for a face-to-face visit with the specialist, saving time and money, up to $300. 


HealthPartners specialty care electronic consultations

Going home after a stay in the hospital is a critical time for patients, especially in the first 48 hours. That’s often when problems that can require a trip back to the hospital occur.

To identify problems earlier and make it easier for patients get help, Park Nicollet sends a text message to patients within 24 hours of leaving Methodist hospital. If a patient needs help, nurses follow up with a phone call.

The program started in 2016, and sends text messages to about 600 to 700 patients every month. The texts include a phone number to a nurse who is available 24/7. This makes it easy for about 100 patients every month to get the additional help they need. 

With new process Medicare Advantage* members avoid surprise medical bills

HealthPartners launched an effort to help patients enrolled in our Medicare Advantage plan, which has a focused provider network, avoid surprise bills from out-of-network providers. Using technology, member services care navigators identify and review orders for clinics outside of the HealthPartners and Park Nicollet care groups, and contact the patients to proactively offer in-network options. In 2019, care navigators made it simple for 1,695 seniors to get the most affordable care they could through their Medicare plan.

*HealthPartners is a health plan with a Medicare contract.

In July 2019, Virtuwell® reached a big milestone: delivering half a million treatment plans to customers across the country. Through Virtuwell, certified nurse practitioners are available 24/7 to treat more than 60 common conditions. They provide a diagnosis and treatment plan at an affordable cost: $49 or less, depending on insurance.

  • $57 million in health care costs saved since 2010
  • 38,000 5-star online reviews to date
  • 98% of patients who would recommend virtuwell to a family member or friend

“I love the quick response from virtuwell! Nothing is worse than being sick and waiting hours in urgent care to see a provider for minor illnesses. I love that I can get treatment right from my phone or computer in such a short time without leaving my bed.”

Deedra, virtuwell patient.

To help you get the right care at the lowest cost, HealthPartners created SmartCare, a new way to do primary care and insurance coverage that is ideal for people who live in the Twin Cities Metro. You can video chat, talk by phone or go to a clinic. Plus, you know what your cost will be before you get care. In 2019, we announced the opening of a new clinic in Burnsville, and the SmartCare plan was launched on the individual exchange. 

When you have a common illness such as a sinus infection or a skin rash, where and how you get care can make a big difference in the cost of your care. For example, a phone visit with a nurse can be $50 or less, while an in-person visit can cost more than $400. In addition to Burnsville, SmartCare clinics are in Maplewood, St. Paul and St. Louis Park.

The HealthPartners family of health plans is underwritten and/or administered by HealthPartners, Inc., Group Health, Inc., HealthPartners Insurance Company or HealthPartners Administrators, Inc. Fully insured Wisconsin plans are underwritten by HealthPartners Insurance Company.

Phone visits help prevent behavioral health crises

Behavioral health case managers started calling around 20 health plan members each week – and their outreach may be the difference between life and death. Using complex, patented algorithms, the Suicide Risk Calculator analyzes health records for indications of depression, self-harm, substance use disorder and other drug use. It then identifies members who are at-risk of having a behavioral health emergency. To prevent an emergency from happening, case managers reach out to members to help them get the medications and care they need.

Telemedicine improving access to care in rural areas

HealthPartners is using tele-video technology to make it easy for patients to connect to the care they need.

The first call for help in a mental health crisis is often to the police, which often delays care and strains law enforcement. Through tele-video program at Hudson Hospital clinician diagnoses and provides treatment who arrive at 6 other rural hospitals. Resulted in better care and fewer hospital admits. About 65 percent of telehealth patients are assessed and able to return to their homes with a care plan instead of being admitted.

Staffing challenges at rural hospitals means delays for patients who arrive in the emergency room at night. Using a digital stethoscope facilitated by a registered nurse in the remote hospital, physician conducts a head-to-toe assessment to determine patient’s care needs over video.  Overnight admissions are now possible in five of our western Wisconsin hospitals. Photo: Jon White, MD and Susie Wendlandt, RN care for a patient at Westfields Hospital.

People in rural areas who suffer serious burns often have to be airlifted to a burn center. Burn surgeons at Regions Hospital provide remote care to patients at 70 hospitals and 75 clinics in Minnesota, North Dakota, Northern Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In 2019, burn telemedicine completed 501 encounters, more than triple the number in 2018. Average savings for each teleburn visit is 7.5 hours average travel time and $300 hotel and gas. Photo: Bruce Bennett, MD, Regions Hospital burn surgeon (left), demonstrates video technology that allows remote treatment.