Now more than ever, it is crucial for telehealth to be a critical component of our nation’s strategy to combat COVID-19 while keeping our health care professionals and facilities safe.
The vital and immediate need for telehealth is to help reduce individuals’ exposure to COVID-19. By keeping people that do not need emergency medical attention out of hospitals and health clinics, telehealth can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ensure limited healthcare resources are being put towards the most critical and urgent needs.
In some areas of the country, healthcare systems are running out of room to diagnose and treat patients in-person. Several states are investigating how they can convert public buildings into triage centers as space becomes limited.
When those who are already immune-compromised visit an already crowded hospital, the likelihood of spreading the virus rises. In particular, people over the age of 70 and those who live with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, are at an increased risk. Minimizing their need for on-site visits could help reduce the likelihood of them contracting the virus and, potentially, save their lives.
Telehealth platforms can be used for screening and triage.
Telehealth can increase access to care and offer insights on the severity of the symptoms, helping providers make necessary referrals to allow a patient to self-monitor at home under quarantine, seek emergency care, etc.
Through chatbots, secure messaging, and video visits, providers can quickly screen and triage patients who may be infected or are presenting symptoms of COVID-19. If a patient is suspected to have the virus and requires in-person medical attention, the hospital can then prepare an isolated place in the emergency room ahead of his, her or their visit. Providers can consult with infectious disease experts remotely in order to reduce unnecessary exposure to other patients or healthcare workers, and alert public health officials as needed.
Medicare Expansion for Telehealth
In order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Medicare is expanding its coverage of telehealth services to allow beneficiaries to seek care from their home.
Through an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act Medicare coverage will now include three types of virtual services:
- Medicare telehealth visits
- Virtual check-ins
Expanding Medicare ensures that the most at-risk patients are receiving the care they need while not putting others at risk.
Utilizing Patient-Generated Health Data in Remote Monitoring
Additional benefits for both patients and providers can come from the use of patient-generated health data (PGHD) during these virtual visits. If a provider is able to remotely monitor a patient’s temperature or symptoms, they can use this information to determine if a patient can safely stay home or if they should seek in-person medical care.
To help address the COVID-19 outbreak, Validic launched a real-time monitoring solution designed to observe, analyze, and triage individuals remotely for the emergence of COVID-19 symptoms. To learn more, visit https://www.covidmonitoring.com/.
Types of Patient-Generated Health Data that are Useful in Monitoring and Diagnosing
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, shortness of breath, tiredness, and dry cough. The following metrics can help providers offer better insights:
- body temperature
- oxygen saturation
- difficulty breathing
This data, in conjunction with the information gleaned from a conversation with a patient, gives providers a better understanding of the issue and allows them to more confidently approach the next steps.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, it is important for patients to be intentional about when and how they seek care. Patients who exhibit symptoms should first be screened and consulted by their providers. Expanding telehealth and remote patient monitoring support allows patients to minimize their risk of contracting the virus or furthering its spread – while also receiving the care they need.
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