During the COVID-19 global pandemic, healthcare providers of all types have been required to adapt their practices quickly to the new reality facing our world. Some have been forced to temporarily close, while others are finding ways to work during the era of social distancing.
Recently, the team here at Paubox reached out to our customers to find out how they are reacting to the evolving coronavirus landscape.
Additional patient screening
Everyone is concerned about keeping medical practitioners safe during the current global health crisis. As such, some of the customers we spoke to have updated their patient pre-screening processes to reflect new coronavirus protocols.
Lately Radix Health has been sending alerts to patients prior to medical appointments, asking them to reschedule if they have any COVID-19 symptoms. This way, Radix makes sure people who might be infected will not show up to their appointments and put others at risk.
Akshay Birla, Radix’s vice president of sales and marketing, explained, “We’ve been able to help load balance for providers… Patients aren’t showing up when they’re not supposed to. At the same time, as slots open up, other patients who were on a waiting list can get it.”
ZiphyCare connects patients to healthcare providers for diagnosis and treatment at home. When a patient requests an appointment, a specially trained onsite care coordinator arrives with a set of medical instruments and conferences in a doctor virtually for a remote exam.
ZiphyCare has started screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms before sending someone to their home. These updates protect people from exposure to the virus and help triage patients before they go to the emergency room, which reduces pressure on our medical system.
Expansion of telemedicine
Social distancing has become a common refrain these days, and more and more states are instituting shelter-in-place mandates.
As reported in Kaiser Health News, millions of Americans are seeking care by connecting with a doctor electronically, many for the first time. This allows people to practice social distancing while reducing the spread of coronavirus and protecting health workers.
Spurred by the goal to keep patients away from crowded medical facilities, government and private insurers have increased payment for telemedicine visits so they are on par with in-person visits. Before the outbreak, insurers paid less than half that amount.
In addition, Medicare recently began allowing all enrollees to use telemedicine—an option that previously was available only for short checkups to people living in remote areas.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has also recently expanded insurance coverage to include telehealth sessions for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Most of Lincoln Reimbursement Solutions’s clients work in these fields.
“We assumed, given the fluidity of the situation that [telehealth] would be covered at some point, but you never know,” said Lincoln’s president, Danielle Pantalone. “Most of our partners agreed that even if it’s not covered, that they have to do this for their patients, again for that continuity of care.”
Making the telehealth transition
The transition to telehealth has been easier for some than for others. Many healthcare providers have been required to become familiar with new software at the drop of a dime.
Psychologist Scott Salathe had never performed virtual therapy sessions before. “For me,” Scott admitted, “it was starting from scratch. Just two weeks ago, I had no telehealth platform.”
“I think [COVID-19] is a real wake up call, especially for the mental health community that has been really, really slow to take initiative and change the way they do business,” said TJ Walsh, another therapist we spoke with.
He went on, “There are people who would berate therapists who worked online with patients out the nose, but all of a sudden last week happened… All of a sudden, it’s not a bad idea anymore.”
The goal for making telemedicine more accessible is to maintain social distancing and also to keep people with less significant conditions away from doctor’s offices if at all possible to avoid exposure to coronavirus, which kills more people every day.
Thankfully there are a number of telemedicine tools available which makes it possible for some “non-essential” medical practices to stay open and continue serving patients during the coronavirus pandemic.