December 3, 2020
How COVID-19 is Transforming Chronic Care Management
The COVID-19 crisis has shaken the healthcare industry like nothing else in modern history: hospitals have been overrun, GE and Ford have been recruited to build emergency ventilators, and protective equipment supplies have depleted. In short, the pandemic has amplified existing health challenges and put a massive strain on healthcare providers around the world.
Meanwhile, those suffering from chronic illnesses have had to make a very serious decision: visit a clinic and risk getting sick, or stay at home and risk their symptoms getting worse.
To ease the burden, many practitioners have been providing novel avenues of care to help chronically ill patients stay healthy during this unprecedented time, with digital healthcare leading the way.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), telehealth, and telemedicine are making waves in the industry. They’ll likely continue to grow in popularity as we emerge from the pandemic. Why? Because they bring huge benefits to patients and practitioners alike.
How COVID-19 Has Introduced New Challenges for Healthcare Providers Managing Chronic Disease
The strain on practitioners managing chronic illnesses is twofold: there are the issues that every healthcare provider is dealing with during this stressful time, as well as the added burden of managing the unique challenges that come with chronic illness patients. Current challenges include:
- A big decline in in-office visits, resulting in the loss of patient attribution to that organization.
- Practitioners forced into administrative roles to cope with staff shortages.
- Practitioners taking early retirement.
- Many primary care providers relying on fee-for-service income have struggled to remain afloat, with some being forced to reduce staff or close entirely.
Alongside these issues, there are challenges associated with caring for those living with chronic illnesses. Typically, these patients require regular, ongoing contact. Without it, the patients’ conditions often deteriorate, and in some cases, require emergency care.
On top of this, chronic illness sufferers are more likely to suffer a more severe course of COVID, which means that if they do visit a clinic or hospital in-person, they’re putting their health at risk. This not only hurts the patient—it’s also an additional burden on the healthcare industry at a time when it’s already under enormous pressure.
Those with underlying health conditions are at a far greater risk of death from COVID-19 (Image Source).
As a result, chronic illness sufferers are either taking a big risk or simply not visiting practitioners when they should, resulting in loss of income for the clinic and a lower quality of life for the patient.
How Healthcare Providers Are Adapting to Better Serve Their Patients
On March 17, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded reimbursement opportunities for telehealth services for a limited time to help providers care for patients remotely. Many providers adopted these services to better serve their patients. Telemedicine, telehealth, and RPM have proven a literal lifesaver for millions: instead of having to risk a trip to the clinic or hospital, patients can check in with their practitioners from the comfort of their own homes.
Digital health services limit potential exposure, thereby reducing the strain on healthcare systems and the use of personal protective equipment that’s now in short supply. Remote care is also more practical for patients, especially those living with chronic illness. Some of the benefits include:
- Less exposure to the virus, due to fewer or no in-person visits.
- Greater accessibility for those with mobility restrictions or those living in rural areas.
- Increased contact between patient and practitioner means a greater level of care as well as a stronger relationship.
- Increased contact allows clinics to fully take advantage of Medicaid reimbursements.
- Practitioners can see more patients thanks to fewer travel requirements.
Why Digital Healthcare Is Becoming Increasingly Popular
Last year, virtual care was slowly on the rise. ‘Slowly’ is the key word here: many patients and practitioners were not convinced about the merits of digital technology as a means of providing care. Then, COVID-19 came along and changed all that.
COVID-19 has made remote healthcare a necessity. Far from it being a temporary burden, patients and practitioners are finding it enormously useful. Healthcare systems around the world have long required reform—and remote care has brought just that.
Meanwhile, wearables are making waves as well: “The use of wearables has the potential to increase the health information gathered by a patient to improve the breadth of care one can perform at home,” says Dr Aditi Joshi, medical director of JeffConnect Telehealth at Jefferson Hospital in Philidelphia.
While the crisis has and continues to cause unprecedented disruption, there is cause for hope. Positive learnings will contribute to transformations the healthcare industry has long needed, with telehealth leading the way.
How ChronWell Can Help
ChronWell offers digital health services designed to help chronic care patients through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Our solutions include telemedicine, Chronic Care Management, and Remote Patient Monitoring services.
ChronWell provides physician-approved care delivered by a team of experts. This means chronically ill patients can speak to a clinician 24/7 and have monthly remote catch-ups encompassing referral management, medication management, and care plan adherence—all from the comfort of their own home.
If you’d like to find out more about setting up a CCM plan, speak to one of our experts today.
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