Social distancing plays a critical role in limiting the outbreak of COVID-19. Use technology to meet patient needs and reduce health risks for both patients and providers.
Increased Patient Demand
If your organization offers telemedicine services, you’re probably aware of the surge in virtual patient volume attributed to the spread of the coronavirus within the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House are advising Americans to stay home. The need for care and patient-provider communication has increased — both for people who are experiencing symptoms of the virus, and those who need routine care for other health concerns.
Expansion of Telemedicine Coverage
To slow the spread of COVID-19, especially among elderly patients who are at-risk for complications if they catch the virus, Medicare has expanded coverage of telehealth services. Now, beneficiaries can access virtual visits at no additional cost, and providers receive reimbursement at the same rate as in-person visits.
Health insurance providers Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare are waiving cost-share for members who access virtual health visits to assess coronavirus symptoms; some are waiving cost-share for routine health services, as well. In addition, they are updating health plans to cover COVID-19-related diagnostic and treatment services.
Telehealth platforms, such as Avera eCare, are testing how telemedicine can allow providers to see patients at high-risk for the virus over video, limiting the number of people potentially exposed.
How Health Systems Are Responding
Hospitals are realigning resources to care for patients with COVID-19 and implementing safety and infection prevention measures that limit the number of patients and visitors allowed on-site. Telemedicine technology can help fill gaps.
Examples of Improving Access
Organizations are optimizing and expanding their telemedicine services to protect the health of providers and to make care as convenient, affordable, and safe as possible for patients. For example:
- Essentia Health is providing free e-visits to screen for COVID-19 and offering e-visits and online video visits to replace routine clinic appointments
- Gundersen Health System is promoting 24/7 virtual visits through their virtual visits app
- Olmsted Medical Center is offering patients with acute health concerns or upcoming appointments e-visits and online video visits instead of in-person care and promoting virtual tours of their birth centers instead of in-person tours
- Rush Copley Medical Center is promoting on-demand video visits for people with COVID-19 symptoms
Online COVID-19 Risk Assessments
Online self-evaluation tools can save your staff time while patients answer questions about their symptoms. Geonetric launched a self-assessment that’s free to clients to help patients decide whether they need to get tested for COVID-19.
Best Practices During the Pandemic
Make sure your telemedicine offerings are in the best shape possible for ongoing, increased use. Follow Geonetric’s tips for promoting telemedicine the right way and our guide to writing about telemedicine services.
Talk to your healthcare staff, telehealth technology service provider, leadership, and other stakeholders about:
- Primary care and urgent care services that can move fully or partly online to an e-visit or video visit format
- Offering e-visits, video visits, and other digital options to answer COVID-19-related questions, perform screening and triage, and monitor and manage symptoms
- Using telemedicine to access guidance from infectious disease doctors, pulmonologists, and other specialists, bringing their expertise to your patients at the point-of-care
Promote Your Care Options
Part of your telemedicine strategy needs to include access to care messaging, so patients can understand when and how to appropriately use your telemedicine services, make a phone call, or physically visit a physical location or emergency room.
Use your website and other digital platforms to help patients understand changes to your services; for example, update your behavioral and mental health service line content if you now offer counseling through virtual visits.
Get Expert Help
Add Geonetric’s knowledgeable content strategists, writers, designers, and digital marketers to your team. We can help you effectively promote and leverage your telemedicine services during this public health crisis. Explore other free COVID-19 online resources.