Telehealth transition takes training for patients, policy changes and a pandemic

Faribault Daily News reports on the rapid transition to telehealth. It starts with talking about how the Mayo Clinic has helped patients transition to telehealth, the amazing speed with which the healthcare facilities transitioned and the policy changes required to make it happen. One interesting observation they make is that the pieces have to transition to telehealth have been there for a while but policy and necessity have made the difference. They start with a little bit on helping patients transition to telehealth…

For patients who struggle with technology, Mayo has set up a hotline to help them through the process. While Mayo continues to see a number of patients in person, such visits are only considered if medically necessary. Patients who have not yet done so are being asked to create a Patient Online Services account to help streamline the process. Over Mayo’s secure Patient Online Services system, patients can access their health care records and manage appointments with just a few clicks.

Erickson, a family medicine provider, said that by enabling the care provider to see their patient and vice versa, Zoom and other video call services have a big advantage over telephone calls.

“There’s a lot you pick up by seeing a head and neck shot of a person,” she said. “I can see where it hurts, I can tell by looking at them if they look OK.”

A little bit on the expedited transition to telehealth…

Mayo isn’t the only area health care institution suddenly providing much of its care via telemedicine. Allina Health, which operates District One Hospital in Faribault, is now conducting almost 60% of its scheduled visits via telemedicine.

That’s an astonishing figure considering that just a month ago, less than 1% of all Allina Care visits were conducted online. In a statement, Allina urged patients not to neglect their ongoing care needs even during this time of crisis. Due to the decrease of in-patient traffic, Allina has been able to keep up with its patients health care needs while designating some of its existing clinics exclusively for patients suffering respiratory symptoms from coronavirus or other illnesses.

A little bit about how policy changes smoothed the road…

The sudden rise of the online-based model is one of several changes local health care institutions have made recently. It’s the most substantial change many patients and front-line care providers have seen at this point. While the technology to provide a significant amount of health care virtually has been available for years, the need has never come along until now.

In the past, Medicare and other health insurance often didn’t reimburse care providers for virtual appointments. On March 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it would reimburse physicians for telehealth visits the same as for in-person visits.

Effective March 1, the change covers checkups and medical care provided for any reason, not just coronavirus care. Medicare also expanded access by scrapping a rule that required all telehealth visits to take place on devices meeting federal online privacy and security standards.

At the state level, significant changes have been made to make telemedicine more accessible. Given the state’s mental health care worker shortage, Gov. Tim Walz even signed an executive order to allow out of state mental health workers to provide telemedicine.

The $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress last month includes the most significant telemedicine investment in recent memory. Days after the passage of the act, the Federal Communications Commission launched a new $200 million Coronavirus Telehealth Program.

This entry was posted in Healthcare, MN and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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