Post-Pandemic Trends in Remote Patient Monitoring

Post-Pandemic Trends in Remote Patient Monitoring

VidyoHealth and Global Telehealth Services recently presented a webinar, Harnessing the Power of Remote Patient Monitoring in the Post-Pandemic Era. We’ve had great feedback and put together this summary for those who couldn’t watch the entire webinar. We hope you find it insightful.

 

What is Remote Patient Monitoring?

 

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is the collection of health data generated by a patient or caregiver, typically outside of a traditional clinical setting. That data is digitally stored and transmitted to a physician or clinical staff for review or intervention if needed. Data is captured via a remote device such as blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, glucose monitor or many others. The data is either relayed by the patient or automatically generated and transmitted automatically via the remote device.

 

How has the use of RPM evolved in the pre-COVID and COVID eras?

 

COVID has been a large catalyst for the adoption of telehealth and relocation monitoring, although both were already gaining momentum prior to the pandemic. When COVID hit, it immediately put a spotlight on telehealth as it became the only way to continue to care for patients while keeping everyone safe. What we expect to see in the post-COVID era is the continued use of telehealth and the acceleration of RPM. 

 

Just as many providers and patients experienced a learning curve when implementing telehealth at the beginning of the pandemic, there will certainly be a learning curve when starting an RPM program. However, we expect that those kinks will be worked out quickly once providers, payers and patients begin seeing the benefit.

 

Now that telehealth processes are in place and patients have embraced it, the time seems right for the broad implementation of RPM.

 

What are some of the influences that have driven the growth of RPM?

 

The biggest impetus for the growth of RPM is the skyrocketing incidence of chronic disease. According to the CDC, 51.8% of adults in the U.S. now have at least one chronic condition and 27.2% have two or more.[1] We have seen firsthand how effective RPM is in managing chronic conditions and reducing readmissions. We have had pilots where we have seen a reduction in hospital visit more than 80%.

 

Another considerable influence in driving growth is the creation of new CPT codes that reimburse RPM care as well as chronic care management (CCM). In many cases, that care can be provided by a clinician other than the provider, which allows providers to see more patients, making an RPM program even more attractive.

 

Another influence is the evolution of technology, especially remote devices. In the past, you had thermometers, blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters—simple devices that most patients could use at home unassisted. Then other devices came along that could use Bluetooth, but many only captured a single data point. Today’s wearables, which continue to evolve, can do so much more. Their ability to continuously monitor multiple vitals and transmit that information automatically to the provider allows for faster interventions. These wearables are key to a successful RPM program and to the success of chronic disease management.

 

How will RPM evolve as we move into the post-pandemic era?

 

We expect that the adoption rates of RPM will mirror the adoption rates of telehealth. The hospitals we have spoken with over the past six to nine months have told us that 2021 is the year they are going to begin reviewing RPM solutions and get the selection process started.

 

We also see a shift in profit dynamics and the revenue implications of implementing RPM. Payers are going to begin doing market analysis to determine where dollars are best spent. The implementation of the new CPT codes is an example of how this trend is already under way.

 

What are the top use cases for RPM now and which will lead us into the future?

 

With COVID, one of the first use cases—and one we had not anticipated—was in the hospital itself. We realized that we could keep both patients and staff safer using RPM technology. We could capture vitals and interact with patients from outside the room. It allowed us to continue caring for critically ill patients while keeping our doctors and nurses safe.

 

The most promising area and one we touched on previously is chronic care management. We can create specific use cases for the most complex and critical diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. These conditions are top killers of Americans and top drivers of costs. Heart disease, stroke and diabetes cost the US more than $650 billion (about $2,000 per person in the US) each year.[2] RPM will be key to more effective management of these conditions.

 

Another use case, and one that is gaining a lot of attention, is in the post-discharge recovery at home. 20% of patients experience some type of adverse event in just the first three weeks after discharge, with the majority being preventable.[3] The top three issues found in the study were adverse drug events, hospital-acquired infections, or procedural complications. RPM allows physicians and other care providers to continue evaluating patients at home to ensure they remain in stable condition or to proactively intervene if necessary. In turn, this can reduce readmission penalties, which can save hospitals tens of millions each year.

 

What are the best practices to increase patient adherence for RPM?

 

At some point, there will be a retail model for RPM, but in the near term, adherence is going to be driven by the health system and providers. This will continue to evolve and change. As patients begin to interact more with RPM technology, they will become more informed about their health. This, we believe, will encourage them to become more engaged in their own health. Once they experience improvements in their health, they will want to ensure it continues.

 

We also see RPM adherence growing as patients see it to engage with their provider more proactively in a way that was not possible in the past. Previously, a patient’s vitals were only taken at their annual checkup or during an office visit. With RPM, patients know their providers are always paying attention to their vitals. They know that if a vital is falling out of line, their provider will reach out to see what is going on and intervene to prevent complications or a costly hospital visit. In other words, RPM changes the dynamic of the patient-provider relationship to one that is more of a partnership.

 

What are the top challenges for RPM adoption and what should health systems consider when choosing a solution?

 

One of the biggest challenges is the number of data capture companies in the market. Some are device companies, some are software companies, and others are a combination. It can be difficult to understand all the options and determine the right choice to align with the health system’s financial model and priorities.

 

In many cases, data capturing platforms are created by device manufacturers and are closed systems. In other words, their platforms only work with their devices. Health systems must ask whether they want to be limited in their choice of devices or do they want a device-agnostic option. Either one could be the right answer; it just depends on the health system’s particular priorities. They also need to determine adaptability of the company’s solutions with provider workflows, as well as integration within an EMR.

 

The first thing a health system needs to do is clearly define their priorities and determine what level of flexibility and customization they need. We advise choosing a solution that is customizable all the way down to the patient level and one that is device-agnostic. This gives the health system the most options for scaling and evolving as their RPM program grows. Health systems also need to choose a solution provider that can show a positive return on investment. In these challenging times, health systems cannot afford to invest in technology that does not add value. With the right RPM and telehealth technology, health systems can improve outcomes, reduce costs, and enhance the patient experience.   

 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2020/20_0130.htm

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm

[3] https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/readmissions-and-adverse-events-after-discharge

Why Now Is The Right Time To Implement In-School Telehealth

Why Now Is The Right Time To Implement In-School Telehealth

Even as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to surge, children across the country are headed back to school. Keeping them safe is the first priority. Besides masks, temperature checks, and COVID testing, there are other things schools can do to help protect and care for students in these precarious times.  Telehealth in schools has become the an integral cog in wellness and preventative medicine.

 

Having telehealth capabilities via effective video conferencing at  schools, allows  nurses to connect with clinicians to assess, triage, diagnose, or refer students virtually and remotely. A single clinician can “see” multiple children in a day, rather than having to travel to schools and see just a handful in the same amount of time. This is not just a better use of the clinician’s time, but it also brings timely care to more students, removing the barriers of access and income.

 

Children whose healthcare needs are being met do better in school.[1]

 

Proven success

 

Telehealth has been used in schools for years, especially schools serving more rural or low-income areas, as a way to improve access to care. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is a prime example.[2] According to an article published by MUSC, their telehealth program, which began in 2013, serves more than 70 schools across the state. “Evaluating a child at school via telehealth is a time-efficient process that removes the geographic and transportation barriers many families face when accessing health care for their children.”

 

The same is true for Children’s Health, located in Dallas, Texas, which has been utilizing telehealth since 2014 to bring healthcare to schools in the region. One area of impact has been asthma management; “72% of parents whose children have relied on our school-based telehealth services say the initiative helped their children avoid an emergency department visit.”[3] Once COVID hit, their incidents of urgent telehealth visits increased by 500% (from March 2020 through September 2020) over the same period in 2019.

 

Offering school-based health services helps “reduce health disparities by improving access to health care for disadvantaged children” and lowers Medicaid costs by reducing students’ hospitalizations and emergency room visits.[4]

Mental health care

 

In-school telehealth can also bring much-needed virtual mental health care services to students who might not otherwise receive care. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 20% of children and adolescents experience some type of mental health issue during their school years.[5] A 2019 report by SAMHSA states that “Among the 3.8 million adolescents ages 12–17 who reported a major depressive episode in the past year, nearly 60% did not receive any treatment.”[6]

 

Access during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early on, became even more strained as behavioral health resources were initially shuttered. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), school-based behavioral healthcare delivered via telehealth greatly expanded during the pandemic.[7] “These services are particularly important for students experiencing increasing mental health needs during the pandemic and providing these services through telehealth is a recognized best practice.”

 

Where to begin

 

There are many funding resources—federal and state—available to schools for telehealth and in-school health services, but they vary year to year and from state to state. The best place to start is by contacting your state’s health department, department of education, or rural health association. They can provide guidance on available funding as well as information about billing and reimbursements in regard to Medicare, Medicaid, private pay, and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) guidelines—some of which has changed due to the pandemic.

 

The next step is to assess the needs of your school district and your student population and to identify partnership opportunities through community, state, regional, and federal organizations. For example, the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC) is a collaborative working to help rural and underserved communities implement telehealth programs.[8] With funding from HHS Health Resources and Services Administration, Telehealth Resources Centers (TRCs) focus on advancing telehealth education, technical help, and other assistance based on community need.[9]

 

While the pandemic has highlighted the great health inequity that has existed in our country for a very long time, it has also highlighted the great opportunity telehealth provides in expanding access to care to those who have been underserved for far too long.

 

The time to act is now

 

The virtual telehealth landscape is quickly evolving. On August 18, 2021, HHS announced that the federal government will be investing more than $19 million to “expand telehealth nationwide and improve health in rural, other underserved communities.”[10]  While many schools and health systems have already come together to implement in-school telehealth programs, others haven’t had the opportunity or resources to do so. For them, the time has never been better to begin.

 

 

[1] https://healthyschoolscampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/A-Missing-Link-in-School-Reforms-to-Close-the-Achievement-Gap.pdf

[2] https://web.musc.edu/about/news-center/2021/03/24/school-based-telehealth

[3] https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/clinical-care/school-based-healthcare-moves-virtual-during-covid-19

[4] https://www.nashp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/telehealth-report.pdf

[5] https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/mental-health/school-psychology-and-mental-health/comprehensive-school-based-mental-and-behavioral-health-services-and-school-psychologists

[6] https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/mental-health/school-psychology-and-mental-health/comprehensive-school-based-mental-and-behavioral-health-services-and-school-psychologists

[7] https://www.nashp.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/telehealth-report.pdf

[8] https://telehealthresourcecenter.org

[9] https://www.hrsa.gov/rural-health/telehealth/resource-centers

[10] https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/08/18/biden-harris-administration-invests-over-19-million-expand-telehealth-nationwide-improve-health-rural.html

Beyond Telehealth: How To Choose A Virtual Healthcare Solution Designed For The Future

Beyond Telehealth: How To Choose A Virtual Healthcare Solution Designed For The Future

The term telehealth is really a misnomer since it implies something at a distance. Virtual healthcare is a more appropriate term because it includes tools and technology that bring expert, collaborative care to the patient by removing the barriers of time and location. Virtual healthcare can be—and should be—the conduit that creates a better continuum of care today and into the future.

 

The best thing providers can do now is evaluate their current telehealth solution to determine if it can support the new, broader model of virtual care for the future. The right solution should be able to support each of the following capabilities.

 

A hub & spoke model for rural health

 

One of the greatest benefits of virtual healthcare is its ability to bring the expertise of world-class specialists to patients, providers, and healthcare facilities at any time and in any location. In this type of hub and spoke model, the remote specialists act as the hub while patients and local providers serve as the spokes. Together, they create a better, more comprehensive healthcare experience.

 

Consider the case of Alexa, a young woman living in a rural California community who was suffering from calf pain and fever.[1] Her blood pressure was severely low and she was beginning to experience organ failure. Fortunately, Sonoma Valley Hospital had 24/7 access to an infectious disease specialist Javeed Siddiqui, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer at Telemed2U. Alexa was able to get an immediate virtual assessment from Dr. Siddiqui while she was in the ER. Based on information from his assessment, Dr. Siddiqui convinced the orthopedic surgeon on call and other specialists to take Alexa into the operating room where she was put in an induced coma so her body could heal. Because of their ability to collaborate in real time, the team at Sonoma was able to act quickly, which is critical in cases such as Alexa’s. Throughout her recovery, Alexa, her family, and the physicians at Sonoma remained in contact with Dr. Siddiqui.

 

Virtual healthcare technology brings the expertise of world-class physicians to rural communities.

 

Translation services

 

In addition to distance, language has become another significant barrier to quality outcomes. According to a research, “Language barriers are responsible for reducing the satisfaction of medical providers and patients, as well as the quality of healthcare delivery and patient safety.”[2] While online tools like Google Translate and MediBabble can help, they can also increase costs and lengthen treatment visits.

 

Virtual translation services can help by bringing medically qualified interpreters to the point of care to enable real-time communication between the patient and the provider. The best solutions are those that support both voice and video, and that include hundreds of languages, including sign-language.

 

It is also important to ensure that the virtual translators you use are medically qualified subject-matter experts and that they are ADA, HIPAA, HITECH, IDEA, CMS and Joint Commission compliant.

 

Being able to bring a virtual human translator to the bedside can reduce miscommunication, increase care plan adherence, improve outcomes, and enhance the patient experience.

 

Remote patient diagnostics

 

Simple video technology works fine for non-urgent patient-physician visits. But it doesn’t necessarily support true patient diagnostics or multidisciplinary care in multiple care settings. This is especially critical in emergency and acute settings where care is urgent, continuous and provided by a variety of clinicians and specialists. The best solutions are those that support virtual rounding and collaborative care in any location, including at home, in the hospital, at long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, and even in schools and the workplace.

 

The right virtual health technology should be able to bring together the patient, physicians, specialists, counselors, and the patient’s family—all in real time. The care team can discuss symptoms, perform assessments and diagnoses, and educate the patient and family members about the care plan. This type of real-time interaction enables better communication and understanding, which lead to better care plan adherence and, thus, improved outcomes. It also allows for enhanced team collaboration, ideation and innovation.

 

Post-acute monitoring and chronic disease management

 

According to research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (PHRQ), nearly 20% of patients experience some type of adverse event in just the first three weeks after discharge from a hospital or emergency department, most of which are preventable.[3] The right virtual health technology can reduce the likelihood of complications and readmissions by enabling hospitals, physicians and specialists the ability to remotely monitor these patients at home throughout this critical post-discharge period.

 

Providers with a large population of patients with chronic conditions can use virtual health technology to remotely monitor these patients. This can be especially beneficial for those with complex conditions like chronic heart failure, COPD, and diabetes. The best technology will work seamlessly alongside remote devices like pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, EKG devices, glucose monitors, and sensory insoles. Together, these solutions enable providers to quickly identify problematic issues and quickly intervene. The result is improved chronic disease management, reduced readmissions, and improved outcomes and reimbursement.

 

Virtual healthcare for the future

 

COVID-19 necessitated the quick implementation of telehealth solutions across the country. This has brought about renewed interest in using telehealth—now that it’s already in place—to make long-term improvements in how we deliver healthcare. It is important, however, that providers perform an honest evaluation of the telehealth technology they currently have in place and ask whether it has the capabilities needed to support a broader use of virtual care long into the future.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.vidyohealth.com/resource/california-telehealth-network

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7201401/

[3] https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/readmissions-and-adverse-events-after-discharge

Top 4 Post-Pandemic Telehealth Trends and Opportunities

Top 4 Post-Pandemic Telehealth Trends and Opportunities

According to research by McKinsey & Company, the adoption of telehealth was 38 times higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than it was before.[1] While most provider offices have returned to in-person appointments, many continue to offer telehealth as an option for vulnerable patients or for those who request a virtual appointment.

 

Now that telehealth is in place and patients have embraced it, it’s time to think of ways to use the technology to address long-standing issues in our continuum of care. Following are four areas we think telehealth can have the biggest impact once the pandemic has finally subdued.

 

HOME CARE

Telehealth is invaluable as a way to connect home-care patients with their clinicians from the safety of the patient’s home. Video allows clinicians to identify visual cues that might indicate a need for intervention or for the patient to be seen in an office. It can also reduce the need for trips to the physician’s office for things that can be handled virtually.

 

Clinicians can also use telehealth appointments to better prepare for an in-home visit. This means they can spend less time gathering information once they reach the patient’s home and more time actually treating the patient. Since appointments are more efficient, clinicians may be able to see more patients or spend more time on preparation or other office-related tasks.

 

Using telehealth for home-care patients also gives patients and their families peace of mind knowing that help is always at hand. It can also help enhance patient satisfaction by making clinicians more accessible.

 

BEHAVIORAL HEALTHCARE

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many shortcomings in our healthcare system. One of those is around behavioral healthcare—specifically a lack of access. More than 51 million Americans are reported to be living with mental illness.[2] Yet, fewer than 50% receive treatment. The issue grew exponentially during the pandemic as social distancing mandates were put in place and in-person support groups stopped abruptly. Stress from social isolation, loss of income, and fear of becoming infected increased the impact on the mental health of many and that impact won’t magically go away once the pandemic has gone. The need was great prior to the pandemic, and it’s even greater now.

 

Now that behavioral health providers have implemented telehealth, they can use it ongoing to help ease issues of access. Patients can be assessed, triaged, diagnosed, and treated without having to come into an office. This ensures patients get the right treatment from the right provider sooner. For those without access to transportation for which to get to counseling or treatment, or for those living in areas with few behavioral health resources, telehealth helps fills that gap.

 

REMOTE PATIENT MONITORING

Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for using telehealth to improve our continuum of care is remote patient monitoring. Two of the biggest areas of benefit are post-discharge care and chronic disease management.

 

Post-discharge care

When patients are discharged from a hospital or emergency department, they’re often given instructions to follow up with their primary care provider or a specialist. They may leave with a prescription for medication and educational information on caring for their medical condition at home. Yet a study published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (PHRQ) found that almost 20% of patients experience some type of adverse event in just the first three weeks after discharge, with the majority being preventable.[3] The top three issues found in the study were adverse drug events, hospital-acquired infections, or procedural complications. The same study found that additional “discharge hazards” came from patients being discharged while test results were pending, or that they were released needing an outpatient “diagnostic follow-up.” Telehealth can address all of these issues by giving hospitals, specialists, and primary care physicians the tools they need to remotely monitor these patients in the critical days after discharge.

 

Chronic disease management

Our population has become increasingly sicker. According to the CDC, 51.8% of adults in the U.S. now have at least one chronic condition and 27.2% have two or more.[4] Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are two of the most prolific diseases, both of which require regular care, monitoring, and medication adherence to avoid adverse events. Research shows that half of patients living with cardiovascular disease do not take their prescribed medications.[5]

 

Other studies have found that patients with diabetic foot ulcers average 14 outpatient visits and 1.5 hospitalizations each year.[6] Remote patient monitoring using telehealth and devices such as blood-pressure cuffs, at-home EKG devices, blood glucose devices, and sensory insoles allow providers to proactively identify issues in order to avoid complications and hospitalizations.

 

Many providers have avoided implementing programs like chronic care management (CCM) and remote patient monitoring (RPM) because they felt the effort to do so was greater than the reward. Now that telehealth processes are already in place much of that heavy lift has been removed. And new CMS reimbursement opportunities can bring considerable financial benefits for RPM as providers can receive $75,000 in additional net revenue per provider per year if at least 50% of eligible patients are enrolled. Another benefit is that care can be provided by clinicians other than the physician, which helps reduce additional time pressure on physicians.[7]

 

LONG TERM CARE

 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term care facilities went on lockdown. Telehealth allowed clinicians the ability to assess, triage, and provide care guidance without an in-person visit to the facility. Leveraging telehealth in this way even after the pandemic can give long-term care facilities the ability to provide more timely access to care without patients having to wait for prescheduled on-site clinician visits. In a time when staffing shortages abound, telehealth can bridge the gap and ensure long-term care facilities can continue providing consistent, high-quality care.

 

THE PATH FORWARD

 

According to a study published by the AHRQ, telehealth can deliver “as good as or better than usual care” outcomes for specific populations.[8] The evidence was centered around “remote, home monitoring for patients with chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.” Also included were patient counseling about their chronic conditions, as well as psychotherapy for behavioral health patients.

 

The bottom line is that telehealth is working, processes are defined, reimbursement is in place, and patients want it. We need to seize this opportunity to make true, long-lasting improvements in the health of our populations.

 

 

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality

[2] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml

[3] https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/readmissions-and-adverse-events-after-discharge

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2020/20_0130.htm

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109716371765

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65152/

[7] https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M14-2677

[8] https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/products/telehealth-expansion/white-paper

Lessons from COVID-19: How virtual health technology can improve senior care

Lessons from COVID-19: How virtual health technology can improve senior care

The first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic hit seniors’ health the hardest. People over 65 years old suffered higher hospitalization rates than younger demographics, and they were significantly more likely to die (see table below). Nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) facilities were hotspots, and raised questions about the support in place for seniors as they faced isolation and, in some cases, neglect.

Chart with data for Risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and Death by age group

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-age.html

 

Now that vaccines are being rolled out it’s time to reflect on what lessons can be learned and how to improve senior care as the population ages. It’s clear that in some cases, the latest user-friendly health technology could play an important role.

Quarantine quandary

In the early days of the pandemic, public health authorities had minimal data with which to make informed decisions. Scientists were not yet sure of how much risk contaminated surfaces posed compared to airborne transmission, nor how much masks or other PPE could reduce potential exposure. Asymptomatic transmission was an especially frightening  prospect — what if someone who feels perfectly well is still able to shed the virus that makes someone else seriously ill?

Out of an abundance of caution, strict quarantines were put in place. Seniors living in various forms of assisted care facilities and on their own were suddenly unable to have the kind of interactions with family, friends and professional caregivers that they typically could rely on.

The effects were tragic. In the U.S., Human Rights Watch called out reports from nursing homes of extreme weight loss, dehydration, untreated bedsores, inadequate hygiene, mental and physical decline, and more: 

“Staffing shortages, a longstanding issue that was a significant problem during the pandemic, and the absence of family visitors, many of whom nursing homes rely on to help staff with essential tasks, may have contributed to possible neglect and decline. Federal and state authorities should investigate the situation and ensure accountability for abuse.”

In Canada, the Ontario Auditor General delivered a special report on the pandemic response in that province’s LTC homes. Among the concerns it raised were the quarantine policies: 

“The measure was intended to control COVID-19 outbreaks by limiting the number of people going into homes. However, this lack of contact took an emotional and physical toll on residents and their families, in many cases resulting in a deterioration in residents’ physical and mental condition.”

One U.S. news report headlined the unintended consequences this way: The hidden Covid-19 health crisis: Elderly people are dying from isolation.

Silver Tsunami

Demographic trends suggest that the challenges of isolation will persist, even after the pandemic. The U.S. Census Bureau notes that by 2030, 1 in 5 people will be retirement age, and all baby boomers will be at least 65. Within five years, for the first time in U.S. history, those who are 65 years and older will outnumber people younger than 18.

As senior citizens’ mobility decreases, isolation will inherently increase. How will Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z look after their elders? What can health organizations do to ensure high levels of care, even in the face of staffing challenges, a desire to maintain independence, and manage viral outbreaks?

Virtual healthcare technologies, which are already increasingly mainstream, need to be considered as part of the solution.

Connecting Seniors

While technology can never replace the immeasurable benefits of direct human care, it can supplement interactions that might otherwise not happen at all.

Here are just a few potential uses of easy-to-use, video-enabled connectivity and virtual health.

Social 

Isolation can lead to depression and other health ailments. Video chatting can help seniors keep in touch with long-distance family members and friends, and stay connected with what’s happening in the community.

Safety

Technology can enable more elders to live at home safely, with non-intrusive monitoring for falls, intruders or wandering off. Webcams, security systems, and location devices, can quickly alert family and health professionals of a problem.

Medication monitoring

Seniors commonly take a variety of prescription medications, with schedules that can be confusing. Remote devices will help remind them to take the right medication at the right time.

Early intervention

Remote monitoring will also help identify potentially dangerous heart, stroke and other health conditions before they require emergency treatment.

Post-acute care 

Similarly, virtual care solutions enable health practitioners to perform remote follow-ups and coordinate care for complex cases that can improve outcomes and reduce readmissions.

Patient access

Regular health check-ins become less of a burden for patients when health data are acquired digitally and appointments can happen without a trip (and wait) to a clinic.  Remote solutions allow health providers to engage elderly patients in their homes to help manage chronic conditions and offer mental health support.

Tech-infused Senior Care

The tragic and deadly infections that tore through LTC and nursing homes exposed troubling vulnerabilities in how we care for seniors. Looming demographic shifts now make it all the more important that health organizations determine ways to efficiently provide better care for our most vulnerable — at home and in various levels of assisted living.

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