Amidst this year’s COVID-19 related ‘safer-at-home recommendations’, people may be wary of visiting their local doctor’s offices. Fortunately, the widespread implementation of telehealth and telemedicine options provide a virtual, and safe, way for individuals to connect with their health care provider.
While this option is growing in popularity, it can be challenging for some to adjust to receiving care services in this entirely new way especially older adults. Therefore, it is important to prepare and know how the process works along with services available via this wonderful way of connecting.
During COVID-19, telemedicine is providing easier access to non-emergency health care services which can be of great benefit so people don’t miss routine check-ins, take care of health concerns, or provide an opportunity to ask important questions about their health. The increasingly widespread implementation of telehealth is also due, in large part, to the belief that it will reduce costs and improve access to care, especially for underserved populations and residents of rural areas. The use of telehealth has expanded exponentially since the late 1990’s and current projections indicate that its use will occupy a $30 billion dollar corner of the healthcare market by 20201, an increase of $20.4 billion since 2013. Among rural Medicare recipients alone, the number of telemedicine visits increased from just over 7,000 in 2004 to nearly 108,000 in 20132.
The main ways for healthcare personnel and patients to connect using technology are — either synchronous so a live, real-time phone or video conference or asynchronous where information is sent via a digital portal patients log in to. For some patients, there also is remote monitoring. There are various approaches for this depending on one’s health needs but one example is if a patient has a heart condition and wears or has inserted technology that transmits information to their healthcare team for monitoring. While telemedicine is making it easier to connect with healthcare personnel, if you are experiencing a serious health emergency, you should call 911 and visit your local Emergency Room.
To find telehealth resources, check with your care provider group, health benefit plan, or employer. Nearly nine out of 10 employers offer telehealth visits to their employees,4 as do many Medicare and Medicaid health plans (in some cases by telephone), and 76% of hospitals connect patients and care providers using video or other technology. In some cases, people can access telehealth visits without cost-sharing. Since the coronavirus outbreak emerged, some health plans are now encouraging patients to use a telephone or live to videoconference (if available) to connect people with local network medical providers, waiving all cost-sharing for COVID-19 related visits.
Talk to your healthcare provider as well as review their website to learn what logins and apps are needed for a visit with your healthcare team. This can require creating an account and downloading provider apps as well as logging into the health services portal in advance of your visit. For example, at Optum they use AmWell telehealth and it works as follows:
- Make sure that you have a video/audio capable smartphone or an internet-connected video/audio connected computer
- Call Optum Primary Care in Sandy to ask for a telehealth appt
- Provide the office with your mobile phone number or e-mail address to receive an invitation at the time of the appt
- Open the text or e-mail at the appt time
- Click on the blue button to accept the invitation
- Allow audio and video on your device
- Type in your name
- 8. You can begin your visit!
Optum is also are working on ways for those without internet or reliable internet to use their GrandPad option which is delivered to the patient prior to the appointment and returned.
During your Telehealth visit your medical provider will need to know your medical history so make sure to share about any pre-existing conditions, how long you’ve had them, and any medications and supplements you are taking so your doctor can properly evaluate your condition. Depending on the reason for your visit, you may want to have a thermometer, blood pressure monitor, glucometer, scale, or any other devices needed for your telehealth appointment.
OptumCare Network of Utah is part of the health services and innovation company Optum. They are a group of doctors, advanced care providers, specialists, and hospitals that work together to provide Medicare-eligible patients with personalized and collaborative medical care through healthcare offerings like Optum Primary Care in Sandy.
Call: 1-866-637-5268 for more information or TTY 711
Link: OptumCare Telemedicine.
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