A guide to Telehealth in times of pandemic.

What is it and how can it help you stay safe and healthy?

In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, The Trump Administration recently announced the expansion of Telehealth services that will allow patients and providers to communicate virtually (online).

Medicare chief Seema Verma unveiled a “historic action” to promote virtual medical care or telehealth by temporarily lifting a variety of federal restrictions that limited the service to rural areas.

Verma claimed Telehealth will help handle routine care for older patients without risking a visit to a medical office and “waiting in a room full of other vulnerable people.”

The measure will help to avoid unnecessary office or hospital visits, reducing their risk for contracting COVID-19.

Through this article we will explore what exactly is Telehealth and how can it help you remain safe and healthy during these times.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is a broad term used to define the use of electronic and telecommunications technologies such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care.

Some examples of telehealth include health education services, remote monitoring of vital signs, ECG or blood pressure, and remote doctor-patient consultations.

Telehealth technology also enables the remote diagnoses and evaluation of patients to monitor changes in the medical condition, so that medications or the therapy can be altered accordingly and prescribed remotely.

Is telehealth safe?

Yes. a survey made in 2018 with healthcare providers found that telehealth can improve patient experience, an important factor in quality care.

90% of physicians acknowledge the benefits of virtual care, especially regarding patient experience, access to care, and patient satisfaction.

How will Telehealth look like for me?

With Telehealth, you will be using audio and video tools for hospital services you would normally seek in person.

You will communicate in real-time with your health care provider through a video conference to discuss any concerns and symptoms. With this information, they’ll be able to make an informed recommendation on whether you should go into the office or, otherwise, prescribe a recommended treatment.

These are some of the examples of Telehealth tools and services you might use:

Patient portal

A patient portal is a website used to communicate private medical information in a secure way. It provides a secure platform to do some of the following:

  • Communicate with your doctor or a nurse.
  • Request prescription refills.
  • Review test results and summaries of previous visits.
  • Schedule appointments or request appointment reminders.
Virtual appointments

Virtual appointments will allow you to see and talk to your doctor or nurse online. Through these appointments you’ll be able to receive ongoing care from your regular doctor when an in-person visit isn’t required or possible.

The doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe medications, suggest home care strategies, or recommend additional medical care.

Remote monitoring

Remote monitoring enables your doctor or health care team to monitor your signs and symptoms without the need of being in the same room.

This is possible with the use of websites and apps where you can upload information, such as blood glucose readings, blood pressure, lung function, etc. Your doctor or nurse can then use this information to have a broader understanding of your case and make a better decision.

Online Referrals

Telehealth will also enable doctors to take better care of their patients by allowing primary care doctors to get input from specialists when they have questions about your diagnosis or treatment.

The primary care doctor can send exam notes, history, test results, X-rays, or other images to the specialist for their review and expert opinion. After that, the specialist may conduct a virtual appointment with you or request a face-to-face meeting.

These virtual consultations help prevent unnecessary in-person consultations, reducing wait times, and unnecessary risks.

Personal health apps

Health apps are tools for your mobile phone designed to help you upload and organize your medical information in one secure place. These digital tools may help you:

  • Store personal health information.
  • Record vital signs over time
  • Upload symptoms, medications, and progress.
  • Keep track of your food intake.
  • Schedule reminders for taking medicine.
  • Record physical activity, such as your daily step count.
  • Watch an educational video on a certain topic suggested by your health provider.
  • See your test results.
  • Schedule appointments
  • Request prescription refills or email your doctor.
  • Order testing supplies and medications online.
  • Get email, text, or phone reminders to upload any changes in your medical condition.

What are the benefits of Telehealth

  1. Gives Doctors a wider understanding of a patient reality.

Thanks to virtual visits, doctors can check in with sicker patients more often and learn more about their living environments and the conditions that can help or worsen their medical condition.

All of these factors are important and hard to assess in an in-person office visit.

  1. Allows for more comprehensive and specialized care

Nowadays a lot of valuable time and information is lost between visits from primary care doctors to specialists.

With in-person visits, it’s really difficult to get a primary care provider and a specialist in the exam room at the same time, but virtual visits make it possible.

  1. Make health care more accessible

Thanks to Telehealth people who live in rural or isolated communities can now have access to a complete range of services and specialists without the need for extensive travel. This way, it can provide millions of people access to safe, effective, and appropriate care when and where they need it.

It also makes services more readily available and convenient for people with limited mobility, time, or transportation options.

  1. Improves Quality

Research shows that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telehealth is as good as that given in traditional in-person consultations.

Furthermore, in some specialties, particularly in mental health and ICU care, telehealth delivers a superior product, with greater outcomes and consumer satisfaction.

Bottom Line

During the pandemic, Telehealth has become a key technology to help maintain patients safe at home while receiving the necessary care. This is especially important in cases of acute and chronic-condition-care visits.

Telehealth is proving to be a valuable and efficient resource to treat patients, implement remote monitoring, and help disabled and rural patients receive care from the safety of their own homes.

As coronavirus continues to spread across the country, Telehealth will help patients who are exhibiting symptoms to receive the proper screening and treatment without unnecessary risk or exposure.

At the same time, expanding telehealth coverage will allow patients to minimize their risk of contracting the virus or furthering its spread while also receiving the care and peace of mind they need.

 

Dual Eligible Medicare Advantage Plans Explained

Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans are Medicare Advantage Plans that can offer additional comprehensive coverage that goes above and beyond Original Medicare. These plans are available for individuals who have both Medicare and Medicaid. 

Many of these plans offer extra benefits, available at no additional cost to those who qualify. Benefits such as care coordination, dental coverage, hearing coverage, vision, transportation to the doctor, over the counter allowances, gym memberships such as Silver Sneakers, and more. The plans add extra healthcare coverage, and other benefits to help increase healthy lifestyles for individuals on Medicare and Medicaid, and lower the chances of sickness and disease. 

Plan benefits vary by state and zip code, but most plans offer benefits such as dental coverage, hearing coverage, vision coverage, prescription drug coverage, over the counter benefits, transportation to and from doctor appointments, gym memberships, telehealth services, care coordination, and much more. These plans can increase your health and wellness without paying anything additional towards your health insurance. 

Who Qualifies For Dual Eligible Plans? 

Individuals of any age who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid are eligible for these special dual eligible plans (also called DSNP Medicare Advantage Plans). Many individuals who are on disability and have been receiving social security disability benefits for two years or more, find themselves eligible for Medicare. If these individuals are also enrolled in Medicaid, or a low income subsidy, they would be eligible for a dual eligible Medicare Advantage plan and would be able to claim their comprehensive benefits for no additional cost.

Choosing The Right Medicare Avantage Plan

Choosing the best Medicare Advantage plan for your personal needs may seem overwhelming, but we’re here to help. 

You should ask yourself these questions to see how different coverage options might work for you, and what is important to you when choosing a plan. 

Your health: 

  • How often do you go to the doctor?
  • What health problems do you have?
  • What medications do you take regularly?

Your budget: 

  • What are you able to pay each month in premiums?
  • How comfortable are you covering copays for services?
  • How willing are you to accept the risk of high out-of-pocket costs?

Your wish list: 

  • What extra benefits would you enjoy? (Fitness programs, transportation, etc.) 
  • How important is it for you to have access to health care while traveling?
  • Which doctors, hospitals and pharmacies do you like to go to?

Now, the best way to decide which plan is best for you, is to take this information and speak to a licensed agent. They will use the information you’ve gathered to find a plan that will fit all of your needs and is available in your area. They will most likely present you with a few different options, and together you can choose the best plan for you. 

Original Medicare Explained

If you’re new to Medicare it can be confusing to understand what benefits Original Medicare provides, and where you should look for additional coverage if you determine you need more. We have broken down the basics to help you better understand the different Parts of Medicare, and what benefits they provide. 

Original Medicare:

  • Part A covers inpatient hospital and skilled care
  • Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient care 

Optional Additional Coverage: 

  • Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) combine Part A and Part B coverage. They often include other benefits that you don’t get with Original Medicare like dental, vision, hearing and prescription drugs. 
  • Part D (Medicare prescription drug plans) help pay for medications. You can get a standalone Part D plan, or get a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage. 

Choosing Your Doctor

choosing doctor

In addition to being responsible for offering medical care and advice, you should ask yourself what you want in a medical professional. There isn’t an all encompassing answer for this question, but it is a question you should answer critically so that you make the right decision in the doctor selection process. Do you prefer a doctor of the same gender as you?  Maybe you prefer a doctor that specializes in a certain type of practice. What other qualities would make you the most comfortable in a patient-doctor relationship?

When selecting a doctor for your medical care, you should verify his or her credentials. With the increasing amount of laws in the United States regarding physicians, malpractice is all but a thing of the past. Having said that, when dealing with doctors, you always want to check that they have the level of education they claim to have. While it’s hard for doctors to commit malpractice or have illegitimate practices, it is an excellent practice to always verify their credentials before proceeding. In order to check up on your doctor’s credentials, you can do so by looking up their name on your state board’s official website. For an excellent resource, see the list of medical licensing boards on Internet Health Pilot.

The doctor selection process is one that should be taken very seriously. When making a choice in personal or family physician, take all of the factors, good and bad, into account so that you are making the best choice for you and/or your family members. Always keep in mind that despite the choices in doctors of which you’ve been presented, there are always many more doctors out there that are trustworthy and willing to help you with your medical situation. In order to find a great doctor that you will trust with your various medical needs, you should merely look around and compare the various choices that you have readily available.

When going through the selection process, interview your proposed doctor and ask them all a series of important questions with regard to their practice, education, legal action and the length of time they spend with patients during each visit. Many doctors see plenty of patients throughout their days and while their time may be limited, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good choice for you and your family.

Lastly, when making the choice for a doctor, the best thing you can do is trust your gut instincts about them as a person. Ask yourself whether or not you feel comfortable enough to ask the doctor questions and see how comfortable they are offering their answers. In the end, selecting a physician is a personal choice, but it is one that should be taken very seriously. Trust is something that you usually build with someone else over the course of time, but you may have less time to make a snap decision on a doctor that is compatible with your likes, dislikes and bedside manner. Consider all of your options carefully and arm yourself with as much information as possible so that you select a great doctor for your medical care.