Since the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19, healthcare organizations have modified their workflows and turned to newer technologies to provide care for COVID and non-COVID patients alike. As operations that had once been postponed or canceled began to resume in the U.S., leaders and staff adjusted care processes further in order to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus as patients started to seek typical medical care.
This is even more important for certain populations who are more vulnerable─such as individuals suffering from chronic conditions. The CDC (click here) underscores that people with conditions such as diabetes, obesity, COPD, and hypertension are at a greater risk of experiencing more severe illness from COVID-19 than other populations.
Keeping this in mind, many hospitals and health systems throughout the country have continued to rely on telehealth and other virtual tools for providing follow-up care and rehabilitation services to patients with chronic diseases. Wherever in-person visits cannot be replaced by virtual visits, organizations are strictly adhering to social distancing norms. To learn more about how organizations are continuing to help patients manage their conditions, the top three tactics as identified by HBI research of U.S. healthcare providers are highlighted below
1. Virtual appointments
Since those with chronic diseases require continuous care, telehealth can be used to connect with patients for check-ins without needing them to present for in-person visits every time. Virtual visits provide physicians with an opportunity to engage and educate patients, continuously monitor their progress, and address any questions they may have on their care plan or condition.
One such organization that is leveraging the power of telehealth for managing chronic diseases is Reid Health (click here). The organization offers follow-up care for patients with chronic diseases or those with an urgent care concern through a virtual visit application called Reid HealthNOW. Patients can connect with their physicians by signing up through the application.
In addition to one-on-one virtual sessions like those at Reid Health, group sessions that involve various specialists, physicians, and other key stakeholders can also be conducted when considered beneficial for patients. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (click here) states that any non-public facing, HIPAA-compliant platform can be used for conducting virtual visits with patients. The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (click here) has also provided technical considerations of various telehealth platforms that can be used by physicians for conducting both one-on-one and group sessions. The platforms analyzed by ADCES include:
- Google Hangouts
- Webex by Cisco
- Zoom for Healthcare
2. Virtual monitoring tools
To keep a track of daily vital signs among patients with chronic illnesses, healthcare organizations can use virtual monitoring tools. These tools help to minimize the need of in-person visits for the regular recording and monitoring of vitals.
For instance, organizations can provide patients with Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure cuffs (click here) that can be synchronized with their EHR systems to help manage patients with hypertension. These records, especially coupled with virtual visits to check in with patients, can help physicians understand the current state and challenges of patients and guide the course of treatment.
3. Adjusted rehabilitation services
Rehabilitation is one of the most important components of chronic disease management. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, many hospitals and health systems have modified the way rehabilitation services are provided to patients.
For instance, UC Davis Health (click here) shifted to group online sessions that are provided via Zoom, with each session consisting of 15 to 20 patients. Sessions include guidance on resistance exercises, demonstrations, workouts, and yoga. However, for patients with serious pulmonary conditions and those who are relatively new to the facility or with a recent diagnosis, the organization still conducts in-person sessions. To maintain social distancing rules, each session includes only four patients, and all patients have their own therapist and equipment.
Have more questions on providing care during COVID-19? Reach out by completing HBI’s contact form below.