November 12, 2020
Why Telemedicine is Vital Now and Post COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, real-time video sessions between patients and practitioners are increasingly becoming the norm. Here’s why telemedicine is vital both now and in a post-COVID world.
As the pandemic continues, real-time video sessions between patients and practitioners are increasingly becoming the norm among those with an internet connection and any kind of connected device.
In fact, one report found that pre-pandemic, around 13,000 beneficiaries in fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare received telemedicine in a given week. By the end of April, this number had increased to nearly 1.7 million—and it keeps rising.
Telemedicine has proven a lifeline for patients during the health crisis, and the good news is, it’s likely the virtual transformation and its associated benefits will continue post-virus.
“Every department in our district has now been looking at how they can provide outpatient services more effectively, using telemedicine not just for patients in rural and remote areas, but also for those who live locally,” says Dr. Teresa Anderson, chief executive of the Sydney Local Health District.
Healthcare providers are now evaluating the way they currently care for patients. Many are turning their attention to care delivery models that use remote care technologies as a long-term strategy both during the health crisis and as we emerge from it.
Let’s take a closer look at what, exactly, telemedicine is—and why it’s vital both now and in a post COVID world.
What Are Telemedicine and Telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of tech to provide a range of healthcare services. These services range from counseling sessions and group exercise classes to one-on-one consultations and daily health tips. Different providers offer different things—as do the users themselves: from workplaces to individuals, the scope is wide.
Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth. It’s focused entirely on clinical services and education, which it does remotely through the use of technology.
Telemedicine has proven especially useful in caring for patients with chronic conditions. With social distancing rules in place, remote healthcare has made it much easier for chronic care patients to continue receiving regular support, even if they can’t make it into the doctor’s office.
What are CCM and RPM?
Chronic Care Management (CCM) is the practice of caring for patients with ongoing health conditions. It’s typically difficult to manage, requiring multiple practice visits or hospital stays and careful, ongoing management.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is a subset of telemedicine. It’s the real-time monitoring of a patient’s vital statistics (heart rate, glucose levels, sleep patterns, etc.) via various devices. These include wearables like anklets, sensors, and fall detection bracelets—to static devices in the user’s environment.
RPM helps doctors monitor a patient’s health, as well as helping patients keep tabs on their own care by giving them access to the data they need. This results in healthier patients with fewer health complications.
Some of the conditions that often require CCM and RPM include the following
- Chronic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- High blood pressure
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Sleep Apnea
What’s Preventing Patients from Using Telemedicine?
Better quality of life for patients, a more efficient way of working for practitioners, less risk of contracting COVID-19—the benefits are many. However, not everyone has been quick to seize this opportunity. Here are some of the barriers to overcome:
There may be an unwillingness among certain populations to accept telehealth and tech-delivered healthcare: if a patient is averse to technology, it’s difficult to get them to engage. The key here is education. Teach patients how to use the tools and they’ll be more willing to use them.
The Digital Divide
Telehealth is limited in remote areas with no internet or low speeds. These populations have been hit particularly hard by the health crisis—something that’s spurred multiple public initiatives to make remote healthcare more accessible.
In March 2020, the FCC launched a $200 million grant program aimed at supporting medically disadvantaged populations across the US throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The program focused on promoting the use of telehealth and RPM devices among underserved populations.
Security and Data Concerns
It’s right to be concerned about privacy: there have been several high-profile data breaches in recent years—and out of all the information we submit online, personal health data is particularly sensitive. Patent uptake will rise when it’s made clear their information—and their right to access that information—is being taken seriously.
Fortunately, the recent CMS final rule on interoperability and patient access makes it easier for patients to access information when they want it. Meanwhile, the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) for data exchange system is making data transfer safer and accelerating digital health innovation.
The Future of Telemedicine in a Post COVID-19 World
The potential of telemedicine is huge. Growing Medicare reimbursements following on from the pandemic have been a big help for hospitals and have jump-started a boom in telehealth and telemedicine.
This is the first step. Other challenges remain: the telehealth and telemedicine experience should be seamless between patients and practitioners. Rather than simply updating current electronic health record (EHR) systems, hospitals need to invest in innovative tools that are designed to improve convenience and transparency between patients and caregivers.
How Can ChronWell Help?
ChronWell offers remote digital healthcare services, Chronic Care Management, and Remote Patient Monitoring that makes remote healthcare easier, more transparent, and more accessible.
The program includes a physician-approved care plan delivered by a team of experts. It also includes 24/7 access to a clinician, with monthly remote catch-ups that encompass referral management, medication management, and care plan adherence for increased patient satisfaction.
If you’d like to find out more about remote healthcare solutions for chronic conditions, speak to one of our experts today.
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