25 Mar Embrace telehealth, it’s here to stay
Telehealth, finally, has come of age. It took longer than I anticipated, but now telehealth’s vital contribution to keeping people well can’t be overstated.
The requirement for telehealth technologies in our healthcare system is obvious and urgent. It delivers three needed benefits for treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Immediate patient access to a care provider
- Physical barrier between patient and provider to slow virus transmission
- Huge time savings for physician offices so more people can be seen
The CDC recommends that healthcare facilities explore alternatives to face-to-face triage to reduce unnecessary healthcare visits and prevent transmission of respiratory viruses. This includes instructing patients to use other available options through their patient portal and proactively contacting patients about what to do should they become ill with symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
Telehealth’s past and future
A few years ago, I conducted some research to help the Allscripts team with some anecdotal and empirical evidence about telehealth users. I really had to search to find active users, but once I did find them, users praised the technology overwhelmingly.
Even then, care providers saw great value in using virtual visits for follow-up patient encounters to ease clinician burden, streamline workflows and deliver greater patient access. A common use case for many of these earlier adopters was to assign nurse practitioners and physician assistants to helm telehealth programs for their organizations.
Not only do we need to see these COVID-19 patients now in a way that prevents exposure, but other patients need to be seen without exposure too. Instead of having those well patients cancel follow-up visits, why not schedule a video visit and keep the patient at home and well?
Going forward, telehealth will be so commonplace that we’ll wonder what we did without it. That’s the pathway for many technologies: Initial perhaps slow adoption, then significant foothold, and finally ubiquity.
Telehealth’s benefits are many, but I think one of its highest and best benefits is its ability to meet patients where they are. Whether sitting in their living room or in a nursing home, you have the opportunity to meet with them over a mobile device and really see each other face-to-face. I think it’s critically important to meet the patient where they are, right now and beyond the current crisis.
Legislation helps pave the way for telehealth and seniors
On March 17, Medicare announced it will expand telemedicine coverage nationwide, enabling seniors to receive care from home. Previously, reimbursement for telehealth visits was limited to the critical access market, mainly rural communities where access to care providers is sparse.
Now, millions of seniors can get the care they need while following the CDC guidelines around the current pandemic that they stay at home. The coronavirus risks are much higher for older patients.
For example, a diabetes follow-up can still occur, only it will happen over a mobile phone and the provider can now bill for it. Under the old rules, these visits had to occur at a medical office or specialized facility.
FollowMyHealth offers streamlined telehealth implementation
Allscripts created a specialized plan for clients to swiftly implement telehealth at their organizations through its EHR-agnostic patient engagement platform, FollowMyHealth. This expedited implementation includes a step-by-step client decision workbook, 10 remote project hours for training and set up, and specialized COVID-19 form and alert verbiage for patient outreach, enabling clients to be up and running in a matter of days.
The FollowMyHealth solution is in line with recommendations made by the CDC to proactively reach out to patients prior to appointments and explore alternatives to face-to-face triage and visits. By converting appointments to telehealth, the solution can help limit no-shows and cancellations while delivering care to those who need it.
Please take a look at the resources available to you from your trusted partners. We’re here to help, and we’ll get through this together.
One of our clients, Grand Lake Health System in St. Marys, OH, is already experiencing success:
“Allscripts was very responsive to our needs to quickly roll out telehealth at our organization in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a quick install and has been easily rolled out to our ambulatory providers as well as several of our acute outpatient service areas. This has been a welcomed transition for many of our patients who are diligently practicing social distancing,” said Lori Miller, Chief of Information Services.
Christine Stetler, RN
Christine Stetler, RN, is principal solutions architect with FollowMyHealth. As a mother of three, Christine is passionate about bringing innovation in healthcare technology to consumers to help them live their best lives. With 20-plus years in a field that she loves, Christine has helped care for patients both directly and through technology.