Seniors and Telemedicine – COVID’s Impact On Care Delivery
COVID19 capitulated telemedicine into the must-have solution for virtual care that only a global calamity can drive. Telemedicine, already a successful, though marginally utilized innovation in care delivery, was bumping along a slow but steady path when COVID19 put a halt to much of in-person consultations, especially those of a less urgent variety. Telemedicine was there to fill the need for care in a safe manner.
Most experts agree that telemedicine as a viable, reimbursable option for care, is here to stay. As seniors have been thrust into the world of online family meetings, online grocery delivery, and online appointments for things like taxes, financial planning and social clubs or hobbies, it has been a logical jump to using virtual care visits to address ongoing disease management concerns, mental health, and common ailments. In addition to supporting safe visits during the CORONA virus outbreak, telemedicine offers some unique benefits to seniors.
Mobility Challenges are no longer an issue. Individuals with restricted mobility gain ease of access with consultations on any web enabled device. Telemedicine puts the House Call back in rotation. Doctor On Demand (https://www.doctorondemand.com/ ) ; Amwell (https://amwell.com ) ; Teladoc (www.teladoc.com ); and MDLIVE (www.mdlive.com ) are popular solutions. In addition to being offered by many insurance providers or through health systems, Telemedicine apps also offer virtual on-demand visits direct to patients at a flat rate. Some offer $10 monthly subscriptions and others up to $75 pert visit out of pocket. Visits covered by insurance can be as low as $0.
Access to Care is now global – Live in a rural area where your hospital has been shut down? Or COVID concerns are keeping you at home? Virtual care is supplying much needed care to homebound and less accessible communities. Tap into networks (and Specialists) across the county or around the globe. Need a second opinion? No problem. And insurance providers are on board with reimbursements. Covered Telehealth services were limited before COVID19, CMS expanded covered telehealth services to include 135 different services. Emergency department visits, primary care visits, initial inpatient and nursing facility visits, and discharge day management services are now covered. CMS also added flexibilities that eased telehealth care delivery. It is not guaranteed that these covered reimbursements will remain covered once the pandemic subsides, but it is the goal of a pending executive order that they stay in place. 1
Daily or weekly appointments are easier than ever to keep. Disease management programs with required appointments of a high frequency are easier to manage through telemedicine visits. Conditions such a diabetes, COPD, and cardiovascular health are managed with check-in around specific symptoms, adherence to care plans and medications, and discussions with care providers around improvement or change in conditions. These high touch point care plans can be managed through virtual visits and save seniors the time and coordination required to meet appointments regularly. Combined with a disease specific app designed to help patients adhere to their management plans, Disease management is greatly supported by telehealth solutions. And don’t be afraid that the technology could be a challenge for you or your senior as most platforms have been fully vetted for ease of use and intuitive interfaces.
Mental Health is a breeze, with increased privacy and greater accessibility. We know seniors suffer from depression and anxiety caused by co-morbidity disease management, isolation, dementia, and other causes that come more frequently with old age. It is easier now more than ever to make mental health a top priority. There are even targeted telemedicine platforms that specialize in behavioral health. Yep – there’s an app for that. Headspace, Lemonaid, Talkspace and BetterHelp are just a handful of examples.
If you haven’t given telemedicine a try, it’s worth a go, and there’s a lot of options to choose from. It’s safe to say that once you try it you won’t be able to imagine a world without it. 1 mHealth Intelligence, xtelligent Healthcare Media, CMS Proposes Expanding Telehealth Reimbursement After COVID-19, Emily Sokol, MPH