Telemedicine has become the go-to tool of choice during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep individuals, healthcare providers and staff safe. The good news for long-term care professionals is that providing virtual care during these chaotic days does not have to be complicated.
In early March of 2020, Medicare began to temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country, removing the stipulation that telemedicine can only be provided in rural areas with specific audio-visual equipment.
In fact, all that’s required is a phone, smartphone or laptop with a shared link to enable video, or other electronic devices and choosing a telehealth platform option. These apps are now allowed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services for video chats without risk of penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA.
Telemedicine is particularly essential for the early initiation of therapy that can modify a clinical disease process before it progresses to a life-threatening condition. It allows patients to remain at their current location, which can improve outcomes for long-term care facilities by avoiding hospitalizations. It also benefits the hospital system by avoiding penalties for potentially preventable readmissions.
When implementing telemedicine, it’s important for the facility’s staff to understand how and when to leverage the technology and what steps to take. By using a clinical solution that leverages clinical decision support and analysis of data obtained via remote patient monitoring, clinical staff get assistance in identifying patients in need of further assessment and/or treatment. Many telemedicine programs offer training and support for staff and clinical program management because adoption and understanding of this technology are essential and not always intuitive. Whether a facility has previously implemented a telemedicine solution or not, the current pandemic should certainly be a wake-up call to its benefits going forward.
Finding a telemedicine partner
Many telemedicine providers have worked proactively to stay ahead of the progression of COVID-19 globally and across the United States. MediOrbis, for example, launched a comprehensive telemedicine program geared towards the novel coronavirus pandemic, including both 24/7 information and on-call telemedicine for those who would benefit from a physician consultation. This telemedicine solution serves to provide crucial information to patients with questions, connects patients at risk of infection, and helps to prevent unnecessary risk of infection and the spread of this virus.
It’s important that telemedicine providers train their clinical teams and support staff on how to manage patients seeking information and/or physician care from their network and have prepared their internal physician network on how to best handle and direct calls surrounding COVID-19.
Long-term care facility staff who may be concerned about a patient’s cold and flu symptoms can use this service and access advice without having to arrange to transport the patient to a healthcare facility, where they risk exposure to the virus or spreading it to others.
The best-in-class telemedicine solutions combine AI-powered software with a physician network to deliver expert telemedicine services in virtually any field of medicine, clinical care or diagnostics. They are designed to fill gaps in care when healthcare facilities face a crisis, such as handling COVID-19. By utilizing a decentralized physician network, these telemedicine partners have the potential to serve as a clinical hub for coordinating and quarantining a disease globally using remote communications and cloud-based software reporting.
Look for a solution that offers expanded care platforms to address gaps in care in conjunction with other technology, ranging from wireless devices and wearables to mHealth-enabled electronic healthcare record (EHR) platforms. Of particular importance to long-term care facilities, they should also offer chronic disease management and a network of medical experts with broad and diverse experience.
During this pandemic — and for the future — telemedicine delivers clinical services available where and when they are needed, enabling long-term care staff and patients to get physician advice without risking a visit to high population areas and hospital environments.
Jonathan Wiesen, M.D., is founder and chief medical officer of MediOrbis.