Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many older adults complained that they missed the relationship they had with their “hometown doctors.” They complained that going to a medical appointment was more like a checkoff list at the computer, rather than their family physician sitting down and really checking in on how they were doing. It seems ironic that the changes in Medicare billing practices allowing for paid telemedicine benefits during the pandemic has brought the doctor back into the homes of our residents – through a computer screen.
The question is, does the convenience of telemedicine visits improve quality healthcare outcomes? Research data shows positive results when telemedicine, tele-sensors, and clinical follow-up combine as part of a comprehensive care plan. Over the last ten months, we have seen exponential growth in the use of telemedicine without some of the wrap-around services due to access to face-to-face visits. The convenience of telemedicine has made it easier for older adults and physicians to connect on chronic and acute healthcare issues. It encourages a conversation and a review of how the older adult is living in his/her own environment. Because the time and hassle of getting to and from the doctor’s office have been eliminated, both the older adult and the doctor have more time to dedicate to the purpose of the e-visit. However, judgment calls must be made as there are still some concerns that some assessments and health screenings do require in-person services.
Some initial studies have claimed that ongoing telemedicine visits along with tele-sensors have significantly reduced emergency 911 calls and hospitalizations in assisted living, memory care communities, nursing homes, and at home. A study published in the Journal of Telemedicine found that telemedicine visits reduced unnecessary emergency room visits by 6.7%*. The ease of access to clinical assessment teams can help reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency room as patients are less likely to delay treatment or visit the hospital prematurely.
CiminoCare, a middle-market provider, understands that quality care is always the number one priority. With that in mind, we continue to look at the benefits of telemedicine in a variety of different models in order to measure quality care and the data around reducing emergency room visits and eliminating unnecessary medical bills.
*“Cost–benefit analysis of telehealth in pre-hospital care.” By James R Langabeer, II, Tiffany Champagne-Langabeer, Diaa Alqusairi, Junghyun Kim, Adria Jackson, David Persse, Michael Gonzalez. December 5, 2016 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1357633X16680541.