Tag: COVID-19

Can Telemedicine Options Be Affordable?

By Alexi Alizadeh, founder, Adviise.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine visits have been able to provide an increasing number of patients with virtual access to quality care without requiring in-person appointments.

However, many patients are still reluctant to accept telemedicine as an option, due to fears concerning out of pocket costs. Let us go over how telemedicine companies charge patients and the different ways that it can be the more affordable option.

How Telemedicine Companies Charge You

Paying Cash Per Visit

Several telemedicine companies ask patients to pay cash for each visit, which allows uninsured patients quick and easy access to healthcare professionals. A 2017 study shows that the average cost of a telemedicine visit is $79, compared to $149 for the average doctor’s office visit.

Paying Through Insurance

Many telemedicine companies work ‘one on one’ with doctors, who bill your telemedicine visit to your health insurance, providing an even more affordable option for many patients. As telemedicine becomes increasingly more popular, health insurance plans are starting to offer coverage for telemedicine visits on a more widespread basis. Your insurance may even cover medication prescribed to you by a telemedicine provider.

How Telemedicine Saves You Money

Eliminates Transportation Costs

An important way that telemedicine is more affordable than in-person visits is that virtual appointments eliminate the cost of transportation. With telemedicine, you can enjoy access to quality care without paying for public transportation, ride-sharing, gas or parking costs. This can be especially beneficial for families living in rural areas and forced to travel long distances to meet with their provider in person.

Eliminates Childcare Costs

Another factor making telemedicine more affordable is the elimination of childcare costs associated with a parent’s ‘in office visit’. Parents can attend a 15-20 minute virtual doctor’s appointment in the comfort of their own home, without the worry and expense of hiring a sitter for their children, traveling the 2-3 hours to and from their appointment, sitting in the waiting room, and time meeting with the doctor. 

More Affordable Than In-Person Visits

Even paying out of pocket for telemedicine appointments, they are still more affordable than in-person visits. The cost of a telemedicine session is not only less out of pocket but results in lower co-pays if your coverage is through insurance. Cost sharing will vary based on your insurance plan, but by and large insurers compensate providers for telemedicine but at lower rates, which translates into lower patient co-pays too.

Numerous follow-up appointments can rack up costly co-pays and transportation costs for such a short visit. With a quick telemedicine appointment, you can continue receiving quality care at an affordable price, right at home or work.

Telemedicine platforms offer the more affordable healthcare option for both the insured and uninsured, while also eliminating the costs associated with physical visits. Be sure to check out platforms like Adviise to find out how your insurance can help cover telemedicine visits. It is the modern doctor’s house call.

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The Key Role HIEs Can Play In Flattening The COVID-19 Curve

By Dr. Chris Hobson, chief medical officer, Orion Health.

Dr. Chris Hobson

Health information exchanges (HIEs) represent a key piece of health information technology and are ideal tools to assist providers and managers in flattening the COVID-19 case count and fatality curves. HIEs were designed from the start to enable “right care to the right patient at the right place.”

Getting real-time, complete clinical information to where it’s needed, when it’s needed assists clinicians in the delivery of individual patient care. By virtue of the high-quality data held on every patient across a population, HIEs are also rapidly becoming essential tools in population health management. Real-time, high-quality data is essential for clinical and public health decision making.

The emergence of COVID-19 illustrates how high-quality individualized data can be leveraged to help a population level effort.

COVID-19 offers the challenge and opportunity to apply HIE capabilities in a flexible way to the management of a novel infectious disease where public health measures of social distancing, contact tracing, testing and isolation are so far the only real options for management.

A range of HIE functionalities and capabilities add value here. One is the ability to generate configurable notifications to providers based on new information arriving in the HIE. The first notification type tells providers when their patients have tested positive. This can be achieved easily based on the arrival of a positive test for COVID-19 into the HIE. Providers can subscribe to alerts for specific patients, or all of their patients.

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How to Eliminate the Biggest Threat to Healthcare Privacy and Security: Print and Capture

By Mark Gross, senior principal product manager, Kofax

Mark Gross

When it comes to data security, healthcare organizations are stuck between a rock and a hard place. To provide proper patient care, their staff needs access to the right information, and quickly. At the same time, the law requires them to protect the sensitive data included in electronic medical records (EMR).

A wide array of devices are used to collect and transmit patient data – including computers, mobile devices, IV pumps and X-ray machines. Today, all of these are connected to the internet, the hospital network and other medical technologies, even though many of them have few, or no, security protocols in place.

The situation’s made even more complex by the public nature of hospital environments. Many connected devices containing sensitive data are left unattended, leaving the entire network exposed. The result’s an increase in cyber and data security threats.

Right now, nearly all healthcare organizations are facing an added challenge brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Many healthcare workers aren’t working in their normal environments, they’re helping in other departments, hospitals and even pop-up field hospitals. With all the displaced healthcare workers, their normal print and capture workflows are left behind with their devices—and the security of the patient data contained in documents printed or scanned elsewhere may be at risk.

Healthcare organizations need a comprehensive security strategy to protect against a breach. The best of these is a systematic approach that tests all connected devices for vulnerabilities. Once identified, security threats should be prioritized so the most severe can be addressed quickly. Regular software updates and patches are just as important, as is replacing outdated equipment with new devices that have security built in.

Because they don’t stand out as threats, multifunction devices, printers and imaging devices are often overlooked during security reviews. In reality, however, both of these handle a lot more data than people realize.

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Telehealth Services Soar In Popularity, Adoption During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Mike Braham, CEO, Trapollo

Mike Braham

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases and social distancing measures remain, telehealth is making an integral contribution to healthcare. You could even say it has become a lifesaver.

A great way to reduce coronavirus spread and promote social distancing, telehealth enables stable patients to stay home while communicating with healthcare providers and receiving virtual medical care. It includes everything from making online appointments to conducting primary care visits through video chat – and is being adopted with greater frequency than ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “leveraging telemedicine whenever possible is the best way to protect patients and staff from COVID-19.”

Clearly, telehealth is an important tool that helps protect healthcare professionals and patients alike during these times. Yet even before the recent surge, telehealth visits were changing healthcare relationships for the better.

A January 2019 study published in The American Journal of Managed Care found that telehealth visits provide numerous benefits, including convenience for both the patients and healthcare providers.

The study concluded that virtual visits rated high among most patients, with most saying they would recommend telehealth appointments to family and friends. Patients also said it saved them the time it would take to visit to and from an appointment. Most patients and physicians said communication wasn’t lost through virtual visits.

For healthcare professionals, video visits are more efficient than in-office appointments, allowing them to see more patients each day. Telehealth also gives practices the option to extend hours without staffing an office. And recently, it has allowed healthcare professionals quarantined because of COVID-19 to treat patients remotely.

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Why I’m Optimistic About The Development of A COVID-19 Vaccine

By Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell

Ken Perez

While proper hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, social distancing, testing, and therapeutics are all valid and useful measures in the battle against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, a safe, effective vaccine is the only path to normal. It is the ultimate game-changer. As one reader recently wrote to The Buffalo News, “Without a COVID-19 vaccine, there is no Hollywood ending.”

It certainly won’t be easy. In general, over 90% of vaccine candidates fail, and vaccines usually take several years, not months, to develop. Despite 33 attempts at a vaccine for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which spread worldwide in a few months from China in 2002, no SARS vaccine exists today.

Similarly, for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which started in Jordan in April 2012 and spread to a total of 27 countries, all 13 vaccine candidates to date have failed.

As of this writing, the novel coronavirus has infected 5.6 million persons and caused some 350 thousand deaths across over 200 countries. It is highly transmissible—spread by even asymptomatic individuals—and it is “wily,” as it has mutated over a dozen times. In short, it constitutes an epochal challenge for all of humankind.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic about the chances for successful development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Unprecedented Times, Unprecedented Threats: What Healthcare Organizations Can Do to Stay Secure

By Justin Fier, director of cyber intelligence and analytics, Darktrace

Justin Fier

As the healthcare sector struggles against the COVID-19 crisis, working tirelessly to protect staff and patients while struggling with worsening economic realities, cybercriminals around the world are seeing a golden opportunity to attack.

Overwhelming demand, exhausted staff, IT teams pulled in multiple directions, and a critical reliance on technology to treat patients mean that adversaries have never had more opportunity or incentive to attack healthcare organizations.

By locking healthcare providers out of critical systems at this critical time, attackers can force them to pay a ransom to recover access or face adding to the already grim death toll.

The unprecedented amount of global warnings, including the recent INTERPOL alert and an announcement from the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), highlight that cybersecurity for the healthcare sector is not just about protecting data, but about saving lives.

Recently, an advisory was jointly issued by CISA and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). This joint alert stemmed from the increase in state-sponsored attacks against organizations connected to COVID-19 research and response. These include pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, government agencies, research institutes, and more.

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Treating the Silver Wave Remotely

By Florence Jean, group head of global health business line, Europ Assistance

Florence Jean

The Covid-19 Outbreak has completely upended our daily lives with social distancing measures and stay at home orders forcing most of the global population inside. One group who has been identified as being particularly at risk of infection throughout the crisis is the elderly.

Simultaneously because of the lock down procedures people are becoming more comfortable with using telemedicine solutions; during this outbreak period alone, we saw a 70% increase in the use of our phone and video-based teleconsultation services.

With at risk senior population required to stay inside, Telemedicine may prove to be the solution that can both keep our elderly population safe from this deadly virus and ensure they are still receiving the quality medical attention they need remotely.

With the world’s population growing older at historic levels, the “Silver Wave”, is upon us. This refers to the recent surge in  the number of people over the age of 65, an age demographic which is anticipated to encompass more than 30 percent of the Europe’s population and 23 percent of the United States’ population by 2060.

This trend is also developing at concerning pace in Asia, where by 2030 it is expected that the region will house over 60 percent of the worldwide population of people age 65 and older. While this may not sound significant on it’s face, the economic implications alone raise several concerns, including a reduced labor force and strained healthcare systems.

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Direct Digital Faxing Accelerates Communications for Government and Healthcare Organizations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Paul Banco, CEO and co-founder, etherFAX  

Paul Banco

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed the fragility of traditional telephony infrastructure. Government and healthcare organizations utilizing limited PSTN-based fax numbers and legacy systems simply cannot handle the increased number of documents being transmitted each day. Busy signals, failed transmissions, and unsecure networks are delaying workflows and preventing critical documents including medical records, test results, and unemployment benefits from being processed fast and effectively.

Recently, a state unemployment department’s online system was overwhelmed when more than 72,000 people applied for unemployment insurance in one week. The department’s fax lines were constantly busy, making it difficult for thousands of people to submit unemployment claims.

To streamline workflows and eliminate busy signals, the department transitioned its outdated fax systems to a hybrid-cloud fax network with built-in redundancy. As a result, the department was able to keep pace with the high volume of faxes, eliminate busy signals and ensure the flow of business-critical correspondence.

Given the myriad of cases and tests related to the coronavirus, hospitals were also overloaded with the high-volume of protected health information (PHI) being transmitted. Moreover, hackers exploited weaknesses in medical devices, creating more chaos to an already frenetic situation.

According to Forescout, 53% of common medical devices still operate on traditional, legacy platforms, leaving hospitals wide open to cyberattacks due to insufficient access controls.

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The Nursing Experience Divide and Technology: What Hospitals Need to Know

By Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, chief nurse, Wolters Kluwer, Health Learning, Research and Practice.

Anne Dabrow Woods

These are the days we never thought we’d see – unimagined times, pushing our nurses and healthcare workers to the brink with the demands of COVID-19. They’ve stepped up with unbelievable courage and resiliency. They’ve done so without many of the resources they’ve traditionally had, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment. But one thing that’s undoubtedly made a difference is technology.

Patients have been able to interact with their primary care provider and nurses via telehealth ensuring that patients are able to continue with the medications and treatment plans for chronic conditions and new issues.

In the acute care space, it has enabled patients to visit with their family through digital technology, and providers and nurses have been able to update the families on patients’ progress.

After patients are discharged with COVID-19, the patient is in daily contact with a nurse to make sure their condition isn’t worsening, and they understand how to care for themselves. This works to ensure patients have follow-up care and the family is supported. And those are just a few ways.

It’s through that lens of technology that we look at our recent independent healthcare study, Next-Generation Nurses: Empowered & Engaged.

While the survey was taken prior to the pandemic, the results give insight into the role of technology as it applies to both next-generation nurses (those with less than 10 years of practice) and more experienced ones. The survey conducted by Wolters Kluwer aimed to explore the mindset of today’s nurses and healthcare workers, so hospitals can respond accordingly.

Digital natives versus techno-phobes

When looking at next-generation nurses, we should keep in mind that many of them grew up in a time with widespread use of the internet, social media, and mobile communication. Many nurses with longer tenure began their careers when the internet was in its infancy and computers weren’t an integral part of a hospital’s operations.

Next-generation nurses are, for the most part, digital natives. That comfort level does tend to influence their opinions: when care is better, next-generation nurses think it’s because of technology. 84% believe clinical-decision support systems at the point of care are making it easier to make the most informed, evidenced-based care decisions.

In addition, 84% feel specialized systems that provide treatment recommendations and integrate with electronic health records (EHRs) have a positive impact on how care is delivered.

Their understanding of technology may be a factor in them spending less time in EHRs than their more seasoned counterparts; 69% report spending too much time in EHRs, compared to 81% of more experienced nurses.

Next-generation nurses are fans of artificial intelligence (AI). 63% say they are optimistic that the use of AI will help providers get the information they need to make better care decisions.

Experienced nurses weren’t as convinced, with only half agreeing that AI will help in making better care decisions. (This insight should alert hospital leaders of the need to educate staff on how AI can improve clinical decision making so that implementation of AI will be viewed as a positive and not as a negative.)

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CARES Act for Healthcare Providers: Finding Financial Relief with Revenue Cycle Management and Telemedicine Services

By Susan Kohler, chief compliance officer, Greenway Health

Susan Kohler

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law in March, has provided a lifeline for many businesses — including healthcare organizations. Amid the grim reality of medical equipment shortages and limited hospital beds, the CARES Act provides the healthcare industry much-needed relief.

Considering a significant number of practices are struggling to keep their doors open, and hospitals have experienced significant revenue loss from elective procedures being cancelled or postponed, the act has been pivotal in providing critical aid.

However, at over 800 pages, understanding the full impact of the act can be challenging. Below, I’m sharing how the CARES Act can benefit healthcare providers, as well as additional steps medical practices can take today to ensure the financial security of their organizations.

What You Need to Know About the PPP

By now, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been in place for a few weeks, and many healthcare practices with fewer than 500 employees have likely already submitted their applications. Whether you’ve already applied for the PPP or are weighing your options, here is some need-to-know information to consider.

At its core, the PPP gives businesses an incentive to keep their staff employed. Funds dispersed from this program can be used to cover up to eight weeks of payroll costs and other eligible expenses, such as rent, utilities and mortgage interest. This loan can provide practices with the necessary funds they need to keep their staff employed and continue serving their communities.

While the initial funding for the PPP from the CARES Act quickly ran out, another law passed in April 2020 provided another welcome injection of funding in the program.

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