Telehealth was originally for rural patients – to spare them hours of round-trip driving to keep a 15-minute doctor appointment. The COVID pandemic changed all that, expanding telehealth use to all Medicare members, to help seniors, among other vulnerable groups, see their doctors without risk of infection.
Now, according to no less an authority than the President of the United States, “The pandemic is over.”
So even though you can keep using telehealth through most of next year, should you? And if you do, how much should you worry about these concerns that health care providers have raised:
That telehealth will restrict access to care for vulnerable patients who can’t access digital services.
That reimbursing providers for telehealth care at the same rate as in-person office visits, while permitting doctors to see more patients per day, will encourage overuse.
That doctors could miss something important if they don’t examine their patients in the flesh.
A new study, conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center, compared data from 3,000 providers from July to December of 2020 with pre-pandemic data from July to December of 2019, following up with data from January to June, 2021. The data they analyzed included patient demographics, outcomes, provider use, and visits completed.
And the results, published last month in NEJM Catalyst, are reassuring.
“Telemedicine is an effective and efficient way of receiving many kinds of health care,” said lead author Kathleen Fear, Ph.D. “Especially for those with transportation challenges, it is a service that really fills a gap – and vitally, it does not compromise the quality of care that patients receive.
“Our most vulnerable patients…were among those engaging the most with, and benefitting the most from, telemedicine services,” she added. “We did not see worse outcomes or increased costs, or patients needing an increased amount of in-person follow-up. Nor did we find evidence of overuse.”
In short, telehealth maintains quality of health care while improving quality of life. And improving quality of life is what Senior Insights is all about.
That’s why our very first step in custom-designing a holistic coordinated senior care management plan is to learn all about the individual we’ll be caring for. Our thorough three-part needs assessment goes beyond each client’s physical needs, beyond their emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial needs, to learn about their own individual likes and dislikes, values, priorities, preferences, schedules and interests, as well.
Please contact us to learn more about how this quality of care prolongs and enhances quality of life.