eHealth Technologies earns accolades in national health care advertising program

Rochester’s eHealth Technologies, a provider of medical record and image retrieval, has received several awards from the 38th Annual Healthcare Advertising Awards program.

The firm earned the following awards:
• Gold – Employee Communications Program category – in partnership with Red Purse Marketing
• Bronze – Web Site Refresh category – in partnership with Accountable Digital
• Bronze – COVID Marketing category – in partnership with Accountable Digital
• Merit – Digital Video (2 minutes or less) category – in partnership with Captivate Media
• Merit – Online Display Ads category – in partnership with Accountable Digital

“We are honored to be once again recognized by the Healthcare Marketing Report’s Healthcare Advertising Awards,” said eHealth President and CEO Jeff Markin in a statement. “Communicating internally with our staff and externally with our customers and prospects was a high priority for our growing company over the past year. The pandemic pushed us to be innovative and find new ways to engage and connect with different constituents.”

During the last year, eHealth Technologies adapted its employee communications program from a predominantly in-person model with a majority of staff working onsite in Rochester, to a fully remote model, while also expanding to a new office location in Duffield, Va., officials said.

At the same time, eHealth provided continuity of its medical record retrieval, organization and image exchange services to support hospitals, specialty centers and Health Information Exchanges during the time period when the healthcare industry was particularly stressed across the U.S.

“Our purpose is always to provide seamless access to medical records so that providers can focus on providing lifesaving care to their patients. To be recognized for communicating in ways that support our mission is very meaningful to us,” Markin said.

The Healthcare Advertising Awards, sponsored by Healthcare Marketing Report, is the oldest and largest healthcare advertising awards competition. The national awards competition is judged by a panel that reviews all entries based on creativity, quality, message effectiveness, consumer appeal, graphic design and overall impact.

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Pandion partners with AI technology firm on health care assistant

Pandion Optimization Alliance, one of the oldest group purchasing organizations with a focus on health care, has partnered with Suki, the leader in voice AI technology for health care to offer the AI-powered, voice-enabled digital clinical assistant to Pandion’s more than 6,000 members.

Pandion is one of the first GPOs to add digital health and health IT offerings to its catalog and is targeting highly-vetted, leading health tech companies with proven outcomes to establish partnerships. Suki AI Assistant will be the first tool available under the new digital health umbrella.

“While digital health and health IT have been poised to revolutionize health care for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that trend and highlighted the value that technology can have for improving patient care and creating organizational efficiencies,” said Pandion President and CEO Travis Heider. “At Pandion, our goal has always been to provide our members with the best available tools and resources, and adding tools like Suki will allow them to continue to be ahead of the curve. Suki helps providers and health systems save valuable time and capture key revenue, and we are thrilled to add this innovative solution to our offerings.”

The Suki AI Assistant uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning to help physicians create clinically accurate medical notes and quickly complete administrative tasks such as retrieving patient information from the electronic medical record system simply by speaking. Across its user base, which includes physicians working in dozens of specialties, the digital assistant has lowered physicians’ average time per note from more than 13 minutes to less than four minutes, officials noted.

“Suki’s best-in-class voice technology offers an innovative solution to the challenge of physician burnout and we are proud of the success our digital clinical assistant has had in saving physicians time and allowing them to refocus on what’s most important – patient care,” said Suki Founder and CEO Punit Soni. “We are honored to be chosen as Pandion’s first health tech offering and are excited to share our proven solution with its members.

Pandion provides personalized purchasing strategies that focus on achieving savings on high-quality products and best-in-class pricing. The new partnership comes on the heels of Pandion announcing a seed round investment in digital health marketplace Marche.

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Cognivue to join other heavy hitters in Alzheimer’s study

Rochester’s Cognivue Inc. has been selected by the Global Alzheimer’s Platform (GAP) to participate in its pioneering Bio-Hermes clinical trial study. Also participating in the study are Eli Lilly & Co., AbbVie, Merck, the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and other respected biopharma, technology and nonprofit entities.

Bio Hermes is the first platform study to investigate and compare blood-based biomarkers, digital markers and legacy assessments in 1,000 people over the age of 60 screened for preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), prodromal AD, or mild dementia AD. The use of biomarkers could lead to earlier and more frequent detection of amyloid build-up, prompting those affected to seek early intervention, including participation in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s prevention or treatment.

“We are excited about the collaboration with the Global Alzheimer’s Project and the opportunity to be part of the groundbreaking Bio-Hermes clinical study. This is the first wide-scale application of Cognivue technology along with state-of-the-art frontline diagnostic tools such as blood-based biomarkers and brain image scanning. This could be a milestone development to create a gold standard for the future of Alzheimer’s Disease assessment and diagnostics,” said Cognivue President and CEO Tom O’Neill. “Our ability to objectively, quantitatively, and reliably identify cognitive status further assist with the accurate diagnosis for potential cognitive impairment, which can then be treated or managed.”

Cognviue’s technologies are designed to give health care providers a useful tool for cognitive evaluation and diagnosis. The digital system is engineered to eliminate bias and variability throughout the test that establishes cognitive baselines and provides a concurrent monitoring vehicle for the evaluation and treatment of cognitive issues over time.

“The Bio-Hermes clinical trial will evaluate the most promising digital and blood biomarker tests, and we’re pleased to have Cognivue as one of our digital assessments for cognitive function,” said John Dwyer, president of the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation. “This self-administered test could allow medical practices in any community to detect cognitive decline and prompt steps to diagnose Alzheimer’s. In turn, that means patients will be able to make timely decisions about treatment or participation in research.”

Cognivue is a neuroscience company focused on cognitive health with the world’s first FDA-cleared computerized test of cognitive function. The Cognivue device and technology are based on years of research that uses adaptive psychophysics to focus on cortical information processing by testing key cognitive domains.

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MVP to offer new level-funded health plan

MVP Health Care has entered a new partnership with Health Plans Inc. (HPI) to offer level-funded plans to businesses in New York.

Beginning this summer, employers with more than 100 subscribers will have access to MVP Health Care’s level-funded plan, which will offer employers an alternative to traditional fully insured or self-funded plan options. Administered by MVP Select Care Inc., the new option will offer a fully insured plan with flexibility and cost savings potential traditionally offered by a self-funded plan, officials said.

“Health insurance is often the second largest operating cost for businesses after employee wages,” said MVP Health Care’s President and CEO Christopher Del Vecchio. “This new solution will provide businesses and employees with alternative, affordable health care options, which have become more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

MVP Health Care’s level-funded plan offers businesses greater cost control and potential savings, officials said. Companies pay one fixed monthly premium for all costs and at year-end, if claims are less than what was originally projected, the employer will receive all of the surplus. If claims are more than projected, the employer does not have to pay anything additional to cover the additional costs.

“We’re excited to partner with MVP Health Care to expand access to a level-funded plan for New York business owners,” said Health Plans Inc. President and CEO Deborah Hodges. “Partnering with MVP Health Care came naturally, as we are both continuously working to find innovative approaches to improve the health and well-being of our communities and members.”

The level-funded plan provides businesses with the customization and detailed reporting of self-funded plans and the financial safety and predictable cash flow of fully insured plans, officials said. Benefits include options to help employees support a healthy lifestyle such as free telemedicine services and dedicated onsite well-being support for employees.

MVP Health Care is a nationally recognized, not-for-profit health insurer with members in New York and Vermont.

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Excellus BCBS to offer community health grants

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is offering Community Health Award grants totaling $150,000 to help fund health and wellness programs in upstate New York. The application period closes Friday, March 5.

All nonprofit organizations in Excellus BCBS’ Rochester region can apply for an award of up to $5,000 each. The award can be used for programs that have clear goals to improve the health or health care of a specific population. Any program that aims to improve the health status of the community, closes the gap in health disparities, reduces the incidence of specific diseases, promotes health education and assists our communities in dealing with COVID will be considered.

Award winners will be announced later this spring.

“The company’s Community Health Awards demonstrate a corporate commitment to support local organizations that share our mission as a nonprofit health plan,” said Jim Reed, president and CEO-elect for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “These awards complement our existing grants and sponsorships with agencies that work to improve community health, in upstate New York.”

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield divides its 31-county Upstate New York operating area into four regions: the Rochester region, encompassing Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties; the Central New York region, which includes Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Oswego and Tompkins counties; the Southern Tier region, including Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Tioga, Schuyler and Steuben counties; and the Utica region, comprising Clinton, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego and St. Lawrence counties.

The application can be found at

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Excellus provides funding to domestic violence organizations

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield will provide $50,000 in funding to domestic violence prevention organizations across Upstate New York as part of its response to COVID-19. In Rochester, funding will be provided to RESOLVE of Greater Rochester and Willow Domestic Violence Center.

The health plan has committed to spending more than $162 million to help its members and communities fight the pandemic, officials noted.

“With the numbers of people that continue to get sick, the growing unemployment rate and an increase in anxiety and financial stress, this pandemic has created the perfect storm for an exacerbated domestic violence crisis,” said Sudha Bakshi M.D., Excellus BCBS medical director. “Helping to put an end to domestic violence and removing barriers for those in need is our main objective with this funding.”

Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Excellus BCBS officials noted that one in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have experienced violence from a partner in their lifetime. Victims of domestic violence face more social isolation in general, which is exacerbated by the pandemic.

Officials said that with the multitude of entities closed to the public during COVID-19 it is important for those in high-risk situations to know that courts, many domestic violence organizations, phone hotlines and shelters are available to help.

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Excellus BCBS to offer reduced-cost diabetic medication programs

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield plans to introduce three new programs to reduce the cost of diabetic medications for members in 2021.

The health plan noted that one in 10 adults has diabetes and the cost of medications such as insulin continues to increase. More than $1 billion a year is spent on drugs to treat diabetes in Upstate New York, Excellus officials said.

“We recognize the connection the increasing prices of these medications can have on our members’ ability to take their medications as needed,” said Mona Chitre, chief pharmacy officer and vice president integrated clinical strategy for Excellus. “The availability of these new programs will help our members continue to have access to high-quality medications at a lower cost.”

Beginning Jan. 1, Excellus will offer savings on insulin and other diabetic medications for members enrolled in select commercial and Medicare health plans:

• NYS $100 Insulin Max — A program that limits the out-of-pocket expense for prescription insulin medications to no more than $100 for a 30-day supply of covered insulin.
• Patient Assurance Program — Members will pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of eligible Tier 2 diabetic drugs.
• Part D Senior Savings Model — Excellus will lower the cost of select insulin products to a maximum copay of $30 through the deductible, initial and coverage gap phases on select Medicare Advantage Direct Pay plans.

“Out-of-pocket costs can fluctuate one month to the next because of the different phases in the Part D prescription drug benefit. This program provides Medicare members with a set copay for their insulin from the beginning of the plan year through the coverage gap,” Chitre said of the Part D Senior Savings Model program. “Ensuring a consistent copay for members can lead to better adherence, and taking medication as directed can result in better health outcomes.”

The Part D program is expected to save Medicare beneficiaries roughly $446 in annual out-of-pocket costs for select insulins.

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Excellus BCBS CEO to retire; successor named

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Lifetime Healthcare Cos. Inc. President and CEO Christopher Booth plans to retire on May 1, 2021. He will be succeeded by James Reed. the announcement is part of a planned succession for executive leadership of the $6 billion nonprofit health plan.

Christopher Booth
Christopher Booth

“In addition to his knowledge and talent, Chris’ commitment to building a strong corporate culture and having an engaged workforce has led to measurable improvements in business performance,” said Chairwoman Marianne Gaige. “The system of Lifetime Way values and the seven-block strategy focusing on operational excellence and stakeholder satisfaction are a testament to Chris’ vision and will serve this organization well for years to come.”

Booth has led Excellus BCBS since January 2013.

“When I took this job, I said it was an honor to lead such a talented workforce of people who provide care and coverage for their neighbors,” Booth said. “I’m incredibly proud of all of our employees, our senior leadership team and the remarkable corporate culture we have built together. That culture is built on collaboration, cooperation and communication. It is what’s helped us navigate successfully through a multi-year transformation of our claims systems, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the launch of innovative partnerships with local health care providers.”

Jim Reed
Jim Reed

Reed joined the organization in January 1996 and most recently served as executive vice president of marketing and sales, and as regional president in the Central New York market. He was responsible for line of business oversight and all marketing and sales functions for the commercial group markets, retail markets, Univera Healthcare and Lifetime Benefit Solutions. He also had oversight of the Health Care and Network Management division.

“Jim brings more than two decades of successful leadership within the organization to his new role and has been instrumental in helping shape the future of the company in today’s fast-changing and dynamic health insurance industry,” Gaige said. “Success starts with having the right people in the right roles. Jim is strategic in his approach, has a strong sense of mission and brings a wide array of experience to the job.”

Over the course of his career, Reed has been involved in the community through various nonprofit organizations. Reed serves on the board of directors for Centerstate CEO, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and HealtheConnections.

“Our focus remains on our organization’s primary mission of providing access to affordable, high-quality health care to as many people as possible,” Reed said. “As a locally based health plan, we have strong partnerships with those who provide care and those who pay for it and we want to build on that going forward.”

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Rural health agencies awarded $7.6 million to increase workforce

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, has allocated more than $7.6 million to recipients in New York state to increase their health workforce in rural and underserved communities.

Nationally, HHS awarded more than $107 million to communities in 45 states and U.S. territories to improve the quality, distribution and diversity of health professionals serving in communities across the country.

“Supporting a strong health workforce is essential to improving health in rural and underserved communities,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a recent statement. “We’ve seen stark disparities in health and health care access contribute to the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Trump Administration’s work to address health disparities, these grants provide support for training of healthcare workers in rural and underserved communities.”

Awardees will be able to develop and retain clinicians in high-need areas to meet the vital health needs of the most disadvantaged communities, officials said.

“Access to a robust and high-quality health care workforce is essential for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases in underserved areas,” said HRSA Administrator Tom Engels. “These awards help meet the demand for health care from individuals who urgently need it.”

The awards support programs such as the Nurse Faculty Loan Program; postdoctoral training in general, pediatric and public health dentistry; scholarships for disadvantaged students; and more.

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