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The good news and bad news about virtual physical therapy

virtual ptIn 2005, when the first national telehealth network launched, telemedicine was intended to give primarily rural patients access to faraway doctors and specialists. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that. With high-speed and high-definition Internet, people sheltering at home or with “elective” healthcare needs can consult their doctors virtually instead of in person.

As I wrote here and here, telehealth is great for seniors who want to see their primary care doctors or specialists without risking infection.

Surprisingly, telehealth can also work well for physical therapy – provided you’re willing to make several tradeoffs.

The good news is that physical therapists can diagnose and treat many conditions virtually – not just relatively minor conditions, but also post-surgery or after a broken bone or torn ligament.

Telemedicine isn’t just good for primary care.

telemedicineLast month, as Virginia was starting to reopen, I wrote about the advantages of using telemedicine for primary care. It turns out that, thanks to modern high-definition video, it’s just as good for many kinds of specialist visits, too – particularly periodic visits for managing chronic conditions.

Obviously, telemedicine eliminates exposure to possible Coronavirus infection. But it also saves you the time and bother of driving to a specialist’s office and the delay of sitting around in a waiting room. It also lets specialists see more patients per day. That’s good for both of you, because you won’t need to schedule appointments as far in advance.

While telemedicine doesn’t work for every condition and every specialty, you’ll be surprised how many it does work well for:

What To Take With All Your Prescription Meds

prescriptionsThe older we get, the more prescription medicines we seem to need – sometimes too many.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 68 percent of adults 65 and older take three or more prescription drugs, and 42 percent take five or more. And from 2006 to 2014, the rate of emergency department visits by older adults for adverse drug effects has doubled.

Sometimes, the increase in prescriptions can result from newer or better medications, particularly antidepressive and cardioprotective ones. But all too often, it’s from lack of medicasl coordination. “I think the issue is that a lot of times people see more than one specialist,” says Dr. Lee Lindquist, a geriatrician and associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinber School of Medicine, “and they may be given more than one medicine [by each].”

As Virginia reopens, keep Coronavirus from coming in the door.

reopening optThese are times of trade-offs.

On the one hand, we want to be with our family members and get help in preparing meals, being mobile around the house, bathing, dressing, and other activities of daily living.

On the other, having avoided Coronavirus by sheltering at home, we don’t want to get infected by people who’ve been out and about – whether home health aides or family caregivers – bringing Coronavirus in with them.

That’s why last week, on May 19, the CDC updated their guidelines for home health workers. They make good sense for family caregivers as well:

What doctors have learned (and you need to know) about mechanical ventilators

vetilator optIn early March, when the COVID-19 outbreak reached pandemic status, anguished cries wen up about critical shortages of mechanical ventilators at hospitals.

In the two months from early March to early May, two things have changed: First hospitals quickly received a surplus of ventilators. Second, as doctors got more experience treating Coronavirus patients, they discovered they didn’t need the ventilators as much as they thought they would.

“Initially we thought we’d see patients get rapidly worse, and we would rather place them on a ventilator in a more controlled fashion than in a crisis when they’re crashing,” said Dr. Marc Rovner, a pulmonologist at Indiana University Health’s Methodist Hospital.

But now, doctors are using mechanical ventilators as a last-ditch tool for making the difference between life and death.