February 15, 2016 | Beating the Elements with Telemedicine

As we progress further into winter, it can only be assumed that the temperatures will continue to drop, snow will build up on the ground, and the prospect of traveling outside will become increasingly less appealing.

However, for elderly patients, especially individuals with serious, multiple chronic conditions, the weather takes an especially hard toll. Most of these patients rely on continued contact with their primary-care physician for medication advice and care guidance, and the prospect of traversing the elements for an in-person check-up can be a daunting thought.

Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the issue is this: The patient might simply decide that the effort and journey are not worth the benefit of discussing a slight change in their symptoms. However, as experienced clinicians know, the smallest of symptomatic variations in patients with multiple chronic conditions are often indicative of a larger problem, and ignoring them could lead to poor outcomes and further complications.

Telehealth, and by extension remote monitoring, essentially takes the variables out of this situation. Whereas an in-person check-up could require a thirty-minute drive through inclement conditions, exposure to freezing temperatures, and an assortment of other unfortunate circumstances, a simple telehealth call could accomplish this all remotely and within a timely fashion.

Telehealth consultations, via phone or videoconferencing, allow a doctor to have an accurate picture of how a patient is progressing, while also hearing valuable feedback and fostering relationships similar to those accomplished in-person. While remote communications will never replace the necessity of a surgery, a telehealth call could spot potential problems that would alert a medical professional that emergency intervention is required. Further, as technology becomes more advanced, remote monitoring devices- such as arm cuffs to detect blood pressure- could automatically alert medical professionals that emergency services are necessary.

Until then, it’s important to utilize the technology we have at hand to ensure that these patients receive the care necessary to manage their conditions. For example, Medicare’s Chronic Care Management Program (CCM), ensures the patient receives a monthly telehealth call where trained medical professionals walk them through care routines, medication guidelines, and ultimately input all this relevant information into the EHR where it is then reviewed by the PCP and acted upon if necessary.

For those who reside in the Northeast, wind chills are set to reach -10 degrees this week, and it will be just one of the countless times each year where the weather becomes incredibly dangerous. Considering their options, the choice for physicians is clear: Don’t make your chronic care patients suffer through another winter of precarious trips and face-to-face consultations. Instead, sign them up for CCM today to ensure improved, thorough care from the safety and comfort of their own homes.