The pandemic has changed the way healthcare is being delivered. It’s hard not to imagine that virtual visits will disappear with masks. Instead, the pandemic has ushered in increased use of technology that had been waiting in the wings. And yet, while it has relieved some of the stress for people at high risk for severe disease, there are pros and cons to the development and continuation of virtual visits.
How Did It Start?
The history of telemedicine actually started in the 1950s when hospitals began sharing information over telephone lines. While that might not be what we think of when talking about virtual visits and telemedicine, it was the beginning of something new. Companies and hospitals have been using telemedicine for years, which offered the opportunity for healthcare to quickly pivot to virtual visits.
The industry has exploded in the last six months. Physician offices are using video chat to evaluate and treat children and adults in order to reduce exposure to infectious disease. Doctors are using software to engage patients as they monitor chronic diseases and discuss post-hospitalization care. This has already had an impact on home health care as even wound care physicians are evaluating and recommending treatment online.
It is difficult not to acknowledge the opportunities to expand practice and offer safe care using virtual visits. However, it’s also important to remember that while it can reduce the risk for infectious disease, it is only a complimentary service to in-person care. In fact, while telemedicine may reduce the number of trips your client takes to see a physician, it will likely not reduce the number of hours they need you in the home to provide physical and emotional care.
Telemedicine Benefits Home Health Care
Telemedicine and real-time communication can help you send data to physicians and the RNs monitoring your client’s care. This can even help prevent unnecessary hospital visits and promote better healthcare. Streamlining interactions using virtual visits can help your client understand their care and offer you a real chance to improve patient outcomes.
Telemedicine may also have an impact on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. Several long-term trends are emerging as a result of the focus on treating coronavirus, including how quickly and unexpectedly healthcare wholly embraced telemedicine. One of the consolidations that may happen in the industry is the loss of in-house home health divisions within hospitals.
The pandemic has placed a severe financial burden on many hospitals as elective surgeries have been suspended, causing the loss of billions of dollars. In order to cut costs, hospitals may look to their home health division. While that affects the hospital, it does not affect the number of patients who continue to require care at home, especially as skilled nursing facilities are tightening their admission criteria to avoid the spread of infectious disease. In addition to which Medicare and Medicaid continue to be active in their community-based programs that promote independence and community living for as long as possible.
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