COVID-19 is Forcing Healthcare’s Digital Transformation: Specialty Telemedicine Comes to Long Term Care
Preventing COVID-19 from entering long term care facilities and infecting the geriatric population remains of utmost importance at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) long term care facility recommendations call for strict testing of health care personnel and limiting visitors from entering facilities, if not eliminating them altogether.
One answer to these recommendations has materialized in an increase in telemedicine services across various clinical specialties. Telemedicine platforms like the one offered by Vohra Wound Physicians, as well as telehealth developments in dermatology and orthopedics, have enabled specialist physicians to consult with patients virtually, thereby limiting or eliminating the need for a physical presence within Long Term Care facilities.
Telemedicine at Home
Wound care treatment via telemedicine
Effective wound care services are paramount in keeping long term care facility residents healthy. Timely diagnosis, treatment and monitoring are key to avoiding infection, limb loss, and even death in elderly patients.
The challenge in wound care telemedicine once was the inability for physicians to visualize wounds and direct treatment, such as the application of medically-necessary dressings. In 2013, Vohra Wound Care Physicians deployed an advanced telemedicine platform to meet this need for rural facilities. Vohra’s platform is now meeting today’s unique challenges, presented by the COVID-19 pandemic for patients regardless of location.
A Vohra Wound Care Physician and an in-house wound care nurse use the telemedicine platform to connect virtually and round on patients together. In a recent interview, Vohra Wound Care Physician Dr. Alejandra Moscoso of Frisco, Texas described the process:
“The nurse shows me the wound and describes the progress since my last visit. I’ll ask the nurse to tilt the camera up or down, left or right. I’m charting as I make my treatment recommendations. We then move on to the next patient. Typically, telemedicine rounds are quick and efficient.”
Vohra physicians use the same Electronic Medical Record (EMR) through the telemedicine platform as is used at bedside for in-person visits. As for patients, they benefit from regular, physician-directed treatment, as well as timely delivery of their physician-prescribed dressings, which arrive within 24-48 hours of their visit, thanks to Vohra’s Dressings Program.
In addition to providing wound care via telemedicine to patients residing in Skilled Nursing Facilities, Vohra recently launched the Vohra@Home telemedicine platform for patients in need of physician wound expertise in the home. Caregivers and patients interested in at-home wound care via telemedicine can learn more by clicking here.
Virtual orthopedic treatment
Orthopedics involves a high degree of manual diagnostic examination, which has meant that long term care facility residents were transferred to the hospital or orthopedic clinic for the most minor orthopedic injuries. This is expensive for facilities and patients alike, but since the pandemic outbreak, a new problem has surfaced: transferring patients to a hospital or clinic increases their chance of becoming infected and exposing the facility to the virus. So, while orthopedic telemedicine services are not as widely used as family medicine or internal medicine services, they are in demand and highly-practical during the pandemic.
When evaluating orthopedic telemedicine, physicians and patients have doubts around the efficacy of a consultation wherein a physical examination is not possible. However, in specific regard to care of Long Term Care facility patients, a recent study published in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons concluded that TeleMSK, an orthopedic telemedicine service, “allowed for accessible, timely orthopedic consultations without compromising the quality of patient care. Patients, families, and telemedicine liaisons rated their experience and the use of TeleMSK as ‘excellent’. A barrier to health care is an important issue in the long-term care population. TeleMSK is an excellent medium to close this gap.”
Dermatology via telemedicine
Dermatology is another clinical specialty greatly affected by the pandemic outbreak. Even though the overwhelming majority of dermatology conditions are not considered fatal, they can decrease long term care facility patients’ quality of life when left untreated.
In a recent article published by MedPage Today, Adam Friedman, MD was quoted as saying, “we (dermatologists) have a way of doing things, and we’re used to it – now all of a sudden, things are thrown to the wind.”
Friedman went on to say that, “to continue our ability to care for our patients and keep the lights on we need to change the approach—and that’s going to virtual visits.”
Similar to virtual wound care services, the challenges that virtual dermatology treatment faces are visualizing skin diseases and prescribing dressings to treat them. And again, advanced telemedicine platforms have been able to meet these challenges head-on. The American Academy of Dermatology offers a teledermatology toolkit to help dermatologists get started.
Telemedicine’s role in a post-COVID-19 world
As COVID-19 forces healthcare’s digital transformation and a new normal emerges, virtual telemedicine is on pace to become a staying component of healthcare in long term care facilities. Fortunately, the CARES Act is helping more Americans pay for telehealthcare.
Physicians interested in treating patients in long term care via telemedicine as a component of their practice can benefit from joining an established practice with a reliable, effective telemedicine platform in place. Physicians who would like to learn more about the wound care specialty, including treating at-home patients via telemedicine are encouraged to contact Vohra Wound Care Physicians today.