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In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, statistics are demonstrating that telemedicine services offer the potential to improve access to quality care while reducing strain on patients, family caregivers, nurses and physicians. A 2019 study from the American Telemedicine Association demonstrated that the quality of health care services delivered via telemedicine are as good as those given in traditional in-person consultations. For health care systems, home telehealth options can help address the challenge of rising costs while also preventing the spread of disease from person to person. With the added strain of having to make adjustments to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine is being implemented more widely as policymakers, including as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), have increased access by waiving restrictions. Providers are focusing on improving telehealth strategies to meet the needs of patients and home health partners.

Between 2013 and 2017, 82% of all nursing facilities across the U.S. suffered from some level of infection control deficiency, according to a 2020 report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, with nearly half of those cited for “persistent problems” in controlling infection at the facility for multiple consecutive years. The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the need for telemedicine and the positive impact it has on eliminating an avenue of exposure to patients of all ages and seniors, in particular. Virtual consultations offer flexibility to health care providers, allowing them to see patients who are safely at home, protecting both staff and patients from exposure. Never have the stakes been so high and never has it been more imperative to find ways to deliver care to those who need it, when they need it, all while protecting clinicians and their communities.

Telehealth provides the ability to practice social distancing by treating both noninfectious and infectious patients virtually in their homes. Not only does the use of telemedicine prevent ill people from infecting other patients at clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices, it also helps keep medical professionals safe while preserving the extremely in-demand personal protective equipment (PPE) that shields practitioners from the direct transfer of bacteria and viruses that spread diseases. Telehealth is showing seniors alternative ways to safely access physician care and giving them enhanced access to specialty care.

Telehealth is showing today’s seniors how they can live out their golden years healthy and equipped with the proper medical tools. At Vohra Wound Physicians, we are working with scientists at the University of Miami to expand specialized telehealth services for wound care patients. The need in the market led to the development of a telehealth wound care service for patients who are managing their wounds at home. Since mid-March, Vohra’s telemedicine encounters for patients in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities have increased by more than 8,000%, demonstrating the strong demand for real-time video consultations. Through Vohra@Home, patients can now readily access physician consultations to diagnose and provide treatment recommendations for all types of wounds, including, but not limited to, commonly occurring pressure ulcers, diabetic foot wounds and venous ulcers.

It is expected that as demand for telemedicine continues to increase, companies will continue to implement innovative ways to serve patients and prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially to vulnerable senior populations. The coronavirus pandemic has all but forced people to use telehealth when before, only 9% had ever tried online care, according a J.D. Power satisfaction survey. According to a new survey from Sykes, 72% of people say they would use telemedicine to be screened for coronavirus, and two-thirds of respondents say COVID-19 has increased their willingness to try telehealth in the future. However, people over 55 expressed concern about the validity of telemedicine and whether it can work for more than minor ailments. Ultimately, further education will be required for people to understand the benefits and value of telehealth moving forward.

Clinicians can screen patients, answer questions and make recommendations without any exposure to a hospital or a clinic. Geographical location, lack of transportation and mobility issues are no longer a barrier to a visit with a physician or home health clinician, thanks to telemedicine. Immediate access to specialists improves care and helps ensure better outcomes and prevents hospitalizations. It also provides peace of mind and safety for both patients and their loved ones knowing that help is just a video call away.

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