Telehealth Surges during Coronavirus outbreak

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January 20, 2020

Telehealth Surges during Coronavirus outbreak

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What is Telehealth?

by Lou Ann Donovan

telehealth mpn cancer patientsTelehealth, also known as Telemedicine or Virtual Care, are broad terms covering all the ways healthcare providers remotely interact with their patients.  Since the coronavirus outbreak, telehealth has become a highly effective method to evaluate and treat mild symptoms while minimizing a patient’s exposure to a potentially infectious disease.  For cancer patients, it provides an appropriate way for many consultations and follow-up visits.

Medical care by phone or video conference has been around for decades, but the coronavirus outbreak has led millions of Americans to seek care by connecting with a doctor electronically, many for the first time.  Typical types of medical services provided using telemedicine are primary care, specialty care (including hematology & oncology) and mental health services.

Years ago, when telehealth first launched, the word “tele” was defined as the use of a telephone as a way for healthcare providers to communicate with their patients.  Through the years, telehealth has evolved using digital information and communication technology with mobile devices, smartphone apps and computers as a way to visually communicate with their patients.

Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Telehealth for MPN Patients

Benefits for MPN patients who use virtual care may offer relief from medical care related expenses in multiple ways but there may be some challenges for patients as well.  Along with the many benefits, comes growth of an untapped area for patients living in rural and urban areas to access medical care virtually when they need it.  There is also a variety of services available to use with with virtual care which allows your healthcare providers to treat, follow-up and manage the chronic conditions of MPN cancer patients

Benefits of using telehealth:

  • Receive treatment sooner
  • Less chance of catching a new illness
  • Increases access to care
  • Reduces medical care costs
  • No transportation time or costs

Challenges with telehealth:

  • Possible misdiagnosis
  • Limited connection with the doctor
  • Worried about insurance coverage
  • Privacy concerns

As you can see, telehealth benefits definitely outweigh the challenges, especially for MPN patients.  Overall, it’s about getting medical care when you need it, while improving your health care experience.

Will my Health Insurance cover Telehealth?

Since the coronavirus outbreak, both health insurers and hospitals have been making a strong push for patients with milder symptoms to use telehealth to reduce the strain on emergency rooms and doctor’s offices.  However, significant barriers in the past, the lack of reimbursement for the telehealth services and lack of awareness among patients has stalled the use of telehealth for most people.

Promising news reported by the Kaiser Health News says the use of telemedicine is now allowed during the pandemic for all Medicare enrollees.  In their recent article “Telemedicine Surges, Fueled By Coronavirus Fears And Shift In Payment Rules.”  This article further states that doctors could practice across state lines during the pandemic to treat Medicare patients virtually, even if not licensed in the patient’s state.

To get started using telehealth, first review your healthcare policy for telehealth coverage and contact your insurance company with any questions concerning reimbursement.  Also, seek guidance and assistance from your healthcare providers with questions about your telehealth coverage.

The Future of Telehealth

The coronavirus pandemic is leading us into the future with a heightened awareness to use telehealth services now more than ever.  The American Telemedicine Association reported more than 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely just two years ago.  Now reports state that March telehealth visits surged by 50% and are on pace to top 1 billion by year’s end according to analysts at Forrester Research.

Further, in a recent article on Inc.com, “Telehealth Startups Rake in Money During the Pandemic,” Arielle Trzcinski, a health care industry analyst, shared her thoughts on the shift towards opting for virtual care as a preferred choice:

“Health care will remain forever changed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Arielle Trzcinski, senior analyst at Forrester who studies the health care industry.  “The pandemic has removed significant barriers in past adoption—awareness, cost, and ability for patients to see providers on a reoccurring basis.  We’ll continue to see a dramatic shift towards a virtual-first delivery model.”

Telehealth is the future and it is here to stay!  Virtual care is becoming more efficient than in-office visits for many types of medical conditions and especially for patients in rural areas who lack access to outpatient clinics.  The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly transitioned people with MPN’s to seek telehealth as a safer option and preferred choice for their medical care.

Sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb


Featuring:

Lou Ann Donovan MPN Patient Advocate

Lou Ann Donovan, MPN Patient and Advocate


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