The Significant Difference Between Telehealth and Virtual Care

By Sandeep Pulim, MD, chief medical officer, Bluesteam Health.

Sandeep Pulim, MD

Telehealth, telemedicine, and virtual care are often used interchangeably to describe remote healthcare visits. But virtual care means something much more than just telehealth or telemedicine. In fact, virtual care is in a category all its own. It is the logical, necessary next step in providing access to healthcare for all.

Telemedicine is Evolving

Remote monitoring and telehealth are nothing new. For decades, doctors have been able to monitor patients remotely or provide medical consults over the phone. Anxious parents have called in to 24-7 nurse hotlines to get advice about childhood illnesses and accidents. More recently, with the advancement of smart phones and web cams, new business models were created to connect patients with doctors over the internet.

However, most people still preferred to visit their doctors in person, and most doctors and healthcare centers weren’t considering a major shift to video any time soon.

Then COVID hit. It accelerated peoples’ desire for virtual healthcare visits and helped them feel more comfortable using video conferencing technology. Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet and Skype became the go-to solutions for clinics large and small that didn’t yet have telehealth in place.

Video conferencing did good things for healthcare:

• Prevented even higher rates of delayed care
• Enabled providers to triage patients from a distance
• Gave quarantined providers a way to treat patients remotely
• Kept more clinics open and providers working
• Improved access to care for more patients

And while these video conference technologies solved an immediate problem, they quickly showed their limitations. These bandage solutions solved one issue while encountering (and even creating) many more problems.

Rapid expansion of video conferencing for healthcare exposed its weaknesses from HIPAA compliance issues, non-secure connections, the inability to bring a third party onto the call, wasted time as patients and/or doctors wait for the other party to join, limited number of users, concurrent calls, and call minutes and even the limited length of calls. The pandemic accelerated everything, even the “bad habits” of telemedicine.

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The Future of Telehealth After The Pandemic

Woman Having A Video Call

By Adrian Johansen, freelance writer; @AdrianJohanse18.

COVID-19 has brought a great deal of change to how we live our lives. The need to maintain safe-distance protocols has seen many industries shift to remote operations wherever possible. In healthcare spaces, this has been a significant challenge. We have been forced to adapt to achieve the delicate balance between ensuring patients get the care they need, and reducing the risk of exposure.

This is where telehealth has really come into its own. While the numbers are still up in the air, one recent study found that insurance claims for telehealth services increased 2,938% between November 2019 and November 2020. Patients and professionals alike have in some ways been forced past their personal and technological roadblocks, discovering the many benefits that utilizing care services remotely can offer. Indeed, as we start to see some light at the end of the dark tunnel that has engulfed our society over the last year or so, telehealth has become a more permanent feature of our healthcare landscape.

This raises some interesting questions and some important issues about the near future of telehealth. We’re going to take a look at what we are likely to see as we emerge from the pandemic. What tools and practices could make a difference? What problems do we still need to solve?

Improving Safety

Remote appointments are already starting to make our lives safer. Particularly for those in rural communities who may not have immediate access to doctors, telehealth means that medical professionals can visually assess conditions and give advice. However, as we move toward the future there needs to be an emphasis on how medical professionals can treat a wider range of conditions, preventing patients from taking the unnecessary risk of exacerbating their conditions by traveling to doctors’ offices.

Part of this involves producing an infrastructure with various providers that supports collaboration. Facilities must build relationships that allow them to assess a patient remotely, then hand off to a specialist, traveling nursing staff, or pharmacist who can visit patients to undertake further care. Alongside these relationships, it’s important to build, and frequently assess, robust protocols that ensure that these collaborations are undertaken efficiently and safely, without any points at which patient welfare slips through the net.

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6 Symptoms of Aging You Shouldn’t Ignore

Many changes come with aging that are not health concerns, such as gray hairs, menopause, and wrinkles. Unfortunately, some symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. While you might be quick to dismiss some issues as ordinary things that happen in old age, here are six symptoms you definitely shouldn’t ignore:

  1. Deteriorating Vision

Deteriorating vision is regular in old age, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find the root cause. Oftentimes, you will simply be prescribed a glasses prescription. Other times, however, there may be another underlying condition. Cataracts are common in those over forty and require more treatment than a simple prescription. Fortunately, cataract surgery can restore your vision for life. By opting for this treatment, you give yourself the chance to rid yourself of cataracts and see clearly throughout your senior years.

  1. Memory Loss

Memory loss is another common symptom in old age, and sometimes the best treatment is simple brain training. Memory loss can also be an early sign of dementia, which is very serious and needs treatment as soon as possible. If your memory loss is impacting your day-to-day life, and you find yourself becoming confused, then see your doctor as soon as possible.

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What Should You Always Have In Your Medicine Cabinet?

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Growing up, when we grazed our knees, got stung by a bee, or ran a temperature, our mother pulled remedies from the trusty medicine drawer. Whether you have a cabinet, drawer, or tote, you should always have essential medical supplies on hand.

We may do our best not to get sick or injured, but sometimes it seems unavoidable. We are going to explain the basics of what to stock in your medicine cabinet. If you have children heading off to university, this is the ideal time to double up on everything for them. You can also use this opportunity to create mini-medicine kits for your cars, RV, or handbags.

Where do you keep your medical supplies?

Believe it or not, the bathroom is not the ideal place for your medicine cabinet. Heat and humidity don’t work well with a variety of medicines, and can make them less effective. Try to find a convenient, dry and cool location that is out of reach of any children. Remember, kids are fantastic climbers when they set their mind to something.

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Protect Your Devices At Home With These 5 Privacy-Focused Tools

The outbreak of the coronavirus has led enterprises to shift towards work from home. Nowadays, more and more people are working from home. The ease of working and other benefits have led to a sudden spike in the number of people working from home. But the cybersecurity challenges have also been observed as a major issue. The internet is full of companies and advertisers looking to collect your data.

Corporate organizations and individuals working from home must be prepared for managing these new challenges at work. Using appropriate privacy tools and applications is important to keep your personal information private and secure. Here in this article, we have comprised the list of  five privacy tools to protect your devices at home.

1.   Network Encryption Tool

Working from home requires a robust connection to constantly transfer and share information over the internet. That is why internet users prefer the Wi-Fi network for better network connectivity. The public WiFi is unencrypted. When you browse from home over the public network, cybercriminals can spy on your online activities.

Therefore, it is critical to have a VPN while browsing over an unencrypted network from home. A VPN is a secure remote access tool that can provide you with an encrypted network. Based on Express VPN’s guide on what is a VPN, a VPN secures your internet activity by changing the IP address of the user. It creates an online private tunnel and prevents unwanted spying on your data and information. After using a VPN tool, it is impossible to have unauthorized or unwanted access to your computer network.

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Impact of New Physician Fee Ruling On Health IT

Devin Partida

By Devin Partida, technology writer and the editor-in-chief, ReHack.com.

On Dec. 1, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final ruling on policy and payment changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) for 2021. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, the final adjustments from CMS went into effect.

Primarily, the changes focus on expanding the services that telehealth covers and making them more permanent. In addition, CMS lowered the conversion factor for 2021. However, through expanding remote services and changing limitations on payments, it’s now critical to see how Health IT will need to adjust.

IT departments have a unique set of responsibilities throughout the pandemic. As more services become available through telehealth, the organization must focus on securing those interactions and all the patient and business data that comes with them.

The Changes From CMS

The changes from the CMS ruling ultimately affect how health IT operates. New dynamics entail increased health IT services.

Topping the list of changes, the ruling cites a decrease in conversion to $32.41, down from $36.09. After reducing the conversion rate, CMS then estimates Medicare spending will increase by $10.2 billion in 2021. This change makes room for the industry to add more services in the telehealth sector, which has been invaluable for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accordingly, the ruling expanded what qualifies as a telehealth service that Medicare will cover. Clinical social workers, psychologists, physical therapists, speed-language pathologists, and occupational therapists are all among the newest additions. They can now bill patients for telehealth services.

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Five Technological Tips For A Healthier Life

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The jury is in and unfortunately, the rumors are true: spending too much time on your screens is bad for your health. However, this does not mean that you need to throw away your phone and laptop to live a better life. Quite the contrary, you could even use them to help you have a happier and relatively stress-free one. 

The internet is chock full of apps that make your glass screens health-friendly. You just have to know exactly what you’re looking for before you start searching for them. These here are five such types of apps, and why you might need them.

Useful Organization Apps

Most smartphones come with a built-in calendar, notepad, and alarm clock app. Usually crude and basic, these apps usually get the job done whenever you need them. But if you need more functionality, then you might want to download a few other apps.

As such, every phone should have at least a to-do list app and a money management app. In addition to the common function of to-do lists, these apps can usually double as a recurring and editable grocery list, as well. Meanwhile, money management apps track where your spending goes. They can help you track your budget, showing you where you might be overspending and aiding you in making budget plans.

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Latest Treatments In Osteoporosis: Innovations That Are Bringing Maximum Impact

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According to research by Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, one in three women and one in five men will experience osteoporotic symptoms over the age of 50 years old. There are currently 200 million people living with osteoporosis, a condition described as an increase in bone fragility or “gradual thinning of the bones” that is normally seen as you age, but is accelerated with those with this bone disease. Although there is currently no available treatment for osteoporosis, new developments in research have revealed breakthroughs in therapeutic methods to approach osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

A new type of bone cell discovered

The research team at Garvan Institute of Medical Research has also discovered a new type of bone cell that may be targeted for the treatment of bone diseases. The newly discovered cells, osteo morphs, were observed to be formed in the process of bone resorption, where specialized cells known as osteoclasts break down old bone and repair it again. Under an intravital imaging technology, researchers observed that osteoclasts break down into smaller cells (osteo morphs) and join together again in the process of bone resorption. A disturbance in this balance can lead to multiple bone diseases such as osteoporosis, which can be prevented with the use of osteoanabolic treatments. In fact, anabolic therapy has been found to slow osteoporosis, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“Completely New Process”

“The process was completely new to us,” said Dr. McDonald, author and leader of the research team at Garvan. They hypothesized that the reason the osteoclasts divide further into osteo morphs and join together again is in order to increase the lifespan of the bone tissue. These cells are also found in the blood and bone marrow, which suggests that they are widely distributed to all parts of the skeleton. It is also likely a reservoir for cells that specialize in repair to be released when needed.

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Running Away from Unhealthy Habits: 6 At-Home Cardio Workouts To Improve Your Health

Now that working from home has become the new normal, consistent exercise is more important than ever. Extended isolation may have even caused you to develop some unhealthy habits worth breaking. Spending an excessive amount of time sitting and not exercising is a known contributor to many chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

Setting aside time to exercise and get your blood pumping isn’t just a kickstart for physical health. In a period where mental health has likely taken a hit due to isolation, exercise also has tangible benefits on mental health by improving mood and decreasing the prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms.

If you’re looking for a healthy change, incorporating at-home cardio workouts may be just what you need to get your heart pumping and muscles working. Don’t worry if this is new territory and you’re unsure where to begin. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Stationary Biking

Biking offers advantages that many other at-home workouts can’t beat. You’re able to get into a rhythmic zone and have a consistently elevated heart rate for an extended period. Comparable to a runner’s high but less stressful on your knees and joints, stationary biking is the gold-standard of at-home cardio. Most machines also have a lower profile than traditional treadmills, saving you some extra space around the house. If you’re looking for a workout that’s more full-body, try opting for an elliptical bike. Rather than targeting primarily lower-body muscles, an elliptical bike involves core and upper-body muscles as well.

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How To Optimize Your Healthcare Practice with Advanced Technology Solutions

By Terrence D. Sims, president of strategic growth and marketing, Raintree Systems.

terrence Sims

As COVID-19 continues to influence patient behaviors and causes providers to reevaluate how they operate their businesses, healthcare practices all around the world started looking for solutions that emphasize clinical efficiencies, elevate patient revenue cycle management, as well as feature enhanced reporting and analytics tools.

More so, along with facing challenges of the patient intake process during a pandemic, providers have also been put to the test with learning how to meet the sudden demand for virtual care by adapting to digital healthcare technologies that utilize high levels of automation, facilitate more patient engagement efforts and focus on financial sustainability.

Security and Compliance

In the world of healthcare, efficiency doesn’t just matter at the surface-level but rather in every individual aspect of treatment whether it be scheduling, reporting or financing. To ensure your EHR can keep up with regular system updates, it should host an educational database that allows providers to quickly train staff as well as give patients easy access to explanatory articles and videos. Having these resources conveniently available will help foster positive patient outcomes and encourage seamless software maintenance.

Additionally, while compliance laws allow for the protection of patients’ health information (PHI) and the overall safety of practice operations, it is also important to understand that cybersecurity is an extremely high priority. Especially now with the shift to a remote workforce, employees at home are much more vulnerable to hackers’ attempts to cease connectivity and override confidential data, making the use of virtual private networks (VPN) and verified firewall software critical to the safeguarding of vital business information.

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