On Friday I spoke with a friend who lives in a Richmond retirement community now on total lockdown. Several residents of her building have died from COVID-19. She’s coping well, but she is very careful. I’m very concerned for her. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic is taking lives not just here, but all over the country. State and local leaders have issued stay-at-home orders to try to thwart the spread of the disease. COVID-19 can cause serious complications in the elderly and in those, like my friend, with underlying health conditions.

A Midwestern friend recently sent me an article from Missouri’s News Tribune  titled “Telemedicine helps elderly patients stay home during pandemic,” which explains that, for some services, health care providers have found telehealth can assist many patients, including some of the most vulnerable, who can stay in the comfort of their own homes. (It is ironic that she sent me this article. I’ve got my first “telemedicine” appointment myself this week!)

Many healthcare providers are launching telemedicine or video visits. Those patients who want to participate in video visits with their physicians, should contact their physicians’ offices for more information about the availability.  In my own case, I had a routine check-in scheduled for over a year, and my doctor’s office called to say the doctor wanted to do the appoint by “Zoom”.

This is a trend. The federal government announced an expanded use and relaxed rules for Medicare telemedicine in response to the coronavirus pandemic, effective March 6, 2020. Rural and site limitations have been removed, and telehealth services can now be provided, regardless of where the Medicare patient is located geographically and by type of site. This allows a patient to be at home and communicate with their doctor.

Medicare also expanded the list of eligible services provided via telehealth. Medicare patients can now get a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a doctor’s office, and these telehealth services are not limited to health issues related to patients with COVID-19.

It’s a win-win. Healthcare professionals are able to take care of patients and keep staff on-site. Staff are getting more hours.

At some facilities, the need for patients to see their doctors, while not exposing them to the COVID-19 virus, is a motivating factor for the expansion of telehealth offerings.

The use of online resources allows patients to meet with their providers remotely from their homes.  It includes care for many common illnesses and injuries, preventive care, mental health conditions and a range of other medical needs.

Poeple seeking to avoid medical office right now should contact their doctor’s office to see if telehealth is an option for them.

Reference: News Tribune (April 12, 2020) “Telemedicine helps elderly patients stay home during pandemic”