Tag Archives: telehealth

Smart Tech Helps Older People, Too

New technologies offer insurers the opportunity to build more engaged relationships with their customers. Fitness-linked insurance programs, for example, are attractive to active people who have access to technology and a desire to use it. While wearables and apps are most closely associated with promoting physical fitness, technology is increasingly being put to use in lifestyle monitoring of the elderly and others in need of care.

Technology that is simple to understand and use works best. Some older people find the latest gadgets baffling. Even after a device has been set up and explained, they often have little confidence and remain skeptical of the benefits. Health problems make some devices hard to operate, while the cost and lack of access to technology is another barrier. Despite the challenges, the percentage of people using technology in later life is rising fast.

U.K. figures show that 75% of people 65-74 years old now have access to the internet and that more than one-third own a smartphone. Among the individuals over 75, one-quarter use tablets, and 41% have a social media account. Three-quarters of smartphone-owning older Americans use the internet several times a day or more. These numbers are all pretty close to those seen in much younger age groups.

It’s no surprise the baby-boomer generation is digitally engaged, but new technologies can also provide interventions for much older adults, and many of them are eager adopters. Aging populations create opportunities for products and services. The U.K. government has committed to invest in innovation to meet the needs that result from this demographic change.

See also: Insurance 2025: Smart Contracts  

Telecare and telehealth are technological interventions to deliver services at a distance from the provider. Smart homes, assistive robots, technology-based wellness and therapeutics can all promote an independent lifestyle for older people, not only providing for their physical and cognitive fitness but also entertainment, leisure and wellbeing.

There are reasons other than cost-saving for technological solutions to help older people remain independent, including assistance with everyday tasks compensating for lost physical or cognitive function. In Japan, where 25% of the population are senior, the predicted shortfall of caregivers by 2025 is likely to be met by nursing-care robots currently being developed with government backing. Caregivers also enjoy positive outcomes by experiencing less worry. For example, tracking how a person with dementia interacts with a virtual assistant device – the questions they ask it and how often, the tone and cadence of the voice – could help spot cognitive changes, as could analysis of onscreen scrolling and mouse movement.

Phones and tablets provide isolated people information and links to social networks for friendship, help and support. Technology sends reminders about medication. Sensors monitor sleep, kitchen activity and walking speed, and raise the alarm if a person has a fall. Behavioral data from self-learning intelligent software allows caregivers to analyze patterns of behavior, spot negative trends and intervene quickly.

Before insurers embark on building more digital engagement programs, it is important to know how they can appeal to the wide range of customers. It is important to maximize the potential for understanding how older adults perceive technology, and providing help with setup and support. In the Netherlands, several insurers now reimburse users employing home sensors, and others are experimenting with reimbursements on wearables. More will surely follow because technology might prevent hospitalization or worse.

See also: Solving Insurtech’s People Challenge  

Concerns remain over potential security and privacy risks that these technologies pose. Monitoring must be structured in an ethical way that is compliant with data laws, and there must be a person-centered approach ensuring tangible benefit for the person concerned. The pressure on health services is increasing as the numbers of elderly people continue to rise, and developed technologies that address these concerns can help reduce the overall costs of prevention and monitoring.

How Telehealth Changes Senior Care

Many baby boomers would be willing to give virtual healthcare a try, but they want to be sure that an e-visit or other type of remote care is just as good as the care they would get in person. They also want to be confident that their health information stays private.

For seniors who live in rural areas with few doctors, telemedicine would improve their access to healthcare and be more convenient. For many people with chronic illnesses or mobility issues, making it to the doctor’s office can be an ordeal. With telehealth, they can have the doctor visit virtually.

What Is Telehealth

Telehealth is a collection of methods for enhancing healthcare, public health and health education delivery and support by using telecommunication technology. Today, telehealth covers four domains of applications. Each state and insurance company varies in its use and reimbursement of these applications. They are commonly known as:

  • Live Video Conferencing (Synchronous): This is a live, two-way interaction between a person and a provider by using audiovisual telecommunications technology. The Center for Connected Health Policy made a micro-documentary video, “Telehealth Saves Lives,” that shows how video telehealth can be a lifesaving technology.
  • Store-and-Forward (Asynchronous): This will allow recorded health history to be transmitted through an electronic communication system to a practitioner, usually a specialist, who uses the data to evaluate the case or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction. This technology will allow access to specialty care, even when there are limited board-certified specialists in the community.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): With RPM, patients will be able to transmit their personal health and medical data from one location to a provider in a different location via electronic communication technologies for use in care and related support. “Telehealth and Quality of Care” is another video from The Center for Connected Health Policy that demonstrates how remote patient monitoring can help individuals stay healthy in their home.
  • Mobile Health (mHealth): This is the healthcare and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices like, tablets computers, cell phones and iPads. Applications can range from text messages that encourage healthy choices to large-scale alerts about disease outbreaks.

Telehealth encompasses a variety of technologies and tactics that deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is a collection of means to enhance care and health education, not a specific service.

What Will Telehealth Do for Seniors?

The older we get, the more health issues that arise. Therefore, seniors are more likely to experience chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Both illnesses require routine monitoring from healthcare providers.

With telehealth technology, doctors can now keep an eye on things such as blood pressure and sugar levels. Routine doctor’s visits can be costly and difficult for seniors to attend, especially if the elderly person has mobility problems or limited access to transportation.

The use of telehealth can improve communication between providers and patients, allowing physicians to monitor an older patient’s overall health. This level of monitoring can allow providers to discern when patients may be becoming sick or at risk of experiencing a medical emergency.

While seniors are at a higher risk for developing chronic conditions that require care provided by specialists, specialists are not always located in every community, and travel is often warranted. This can be difficult for seniors.

Telehealth removes the barriers of location and mobility, connecting more seniors with necessary care provided by specialists. Telehealth also makes it easier for family members who live far away to stay connected to their elders’ care program. This will relieve some of the stress associated with caring for seniors.

See also: Navigating Telehealth for HR and Employers  

When telemedicine is used, caregivers have greater access to providers. These providers can give them information that helps provide more effective care. Without a need for routine in-person visits to providers, caregivers can dedicate more time to care at home or in their own personal and professional lives.

Not only is telehealth more practical for routine monitoring and time efficiency, it is a more cost-effective option for both patients and providers.

  • Telehealth has the potential to make physicians more money, because telehealth allows for less time-consuming individual consultations, meaning the doctor has time to see more patients each day.
  • Telehealth means big savings for patients, because consultations delivered virtually usually cost less, and money is saved when travel is eliminated.

When nursing homes adopt telehealth technologies, up to $327 million can be saved each year through a reduction in the need for emergency room visits. Telehealth is a life saver and a money saver.

Medicare and Telehealth

Medicare tightly restricts what it will pay for, so seniors have a harder time getting telehealth covered. Some private insurance companies are increasingly covering certain services like virtual visits.

Luckily for Medicare recipients, Congress passed a law last winter that expands Medicare coverage for options such as video visits to diagnose stroke symptoms or check on home dialysis patients.

Medicare Part B would cover the cost of telemedicine services, but the patient needs to fulfill certain conditions.

Medicare Advantage programs are used by a third of beneficiaries and can start offering additional telehealth options. This is a step in the right direction, but it certainly doesn’t cover everything.

Costs are already a major issue for people who need continuing assistance, and telehealth is still new. For telehealth to save the most money, it will need to replace in-person care, not add to it.

More than half of adults of all ages would be comfortable with a video doctors visit via FaceTime or Skype to discuss medications, treatment for continuing care of a chronic illness or even for an urgent health concern.

High-risk patients who use daily telehealth monitoring are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. This isn’t about just having Skype in the home; it’s about having a team of healthcare professionals who are supporting the care of a patient.

See also: Whiff of Market-Based Healthcare Change?  

The Security of Telehealth

The privacy and security of protected health information (PHI) is very important to insurance companies, doctors and patients. With new technology, usually, comes new challenges. With every problem comes a solution, and by making smart choices patient data can be protected.

Telehealth services are legally required to abide by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates. HIPAA is concerned with the protection of patient medical records, always improving privacy and reducing fraud.

To be sure the health data is safe, your telehealth system should comply with the HIPAA guidelines. To comply, you will need:

  • Business Associate Agreement (BAA): This is a written contract between a covered entity and a business associate that establishes the permitted uses and disclosures.
  • Transport Encryption: This must-have encryption for data security converts the sensitive information into a meaningless stream of seemingly random data.
  • Storage Encryption for the Videos Stored in a Device: This will encode backed-up and archived data on storage media.
  • Properly Stored Data: You have many options here like a flash drive or a cloud storage; in any case, make sure you choose a HIPAA-compliant product or service.

Telehealth can be a secure way to receive medical care and reduce further stress for seniors and caregivers. Telemedicine care is the future of healthcare. Telehealth will save money, time and patients’ lives.

Navigating Telehealth for HR and Employers

Telemedicine can deliver faster, more accessible and more affordable medical care for patients across the world. However, when integrating a telehealth program into your business, there are some details that you should not overlook.

Let’s start with state regulations. Because they vary across the country, it’s important that employers be aware of the specific compliance regulations issued by their state.

See also: Navigating Telehealth for HR and Employers  

Telehealth and Workers’ Compensation

Another important factor to take into account is workers’ compensation. While telehealth and workers’ compensation have existed for years singularly, thanks to the rapid evolution of technology they have recently come together under the same vertical. To ensure that you’re getting the specific advantages that the business needs, employers should educate themselves on the available options for integrating telehealth into workers’ compensation.

One option is to make it available to treat acute conditions. It could be particularly useful for employees with minor injuries or those who would rather seek self-care over in-person treatment.

Making telehealth available in cases where a clinic might not be immediately available is another option. In these cases, an employee might be at a remote location and may not have prompt access to healthcare.  Telemedicine solves this dilemma by bringing the doctor to the patient. And should the injured employee require further care, telemedicine providers will refer the employee to specialists or ancillary services within their network for continuity of care.

Telehealth is the ideal platform to deliver healthcare to the injured employee if they meet the screening process. While all serious cases, emergency or otherwise, should be addressed in person by a physician or at an emergency room, there are far more minor cases that can be safely treated via telemedicine.

The Big Telehealth Picture

Many telehealth programs offer several direct benefits to the injured employee and the employer alike, including 24/7/365 availability, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, greater employee satisfaction and reduced unnecessary visits to urgent care facilities, which allows for further cost savings.

See also: Consumer-Friendly Healthcare Model  

Whichever telehealth program an employer chooses, it’s a good idea to make sure the program has a strong communications plan to stay educated on benefits, onboarding and more. This often comes in the form of onsite education seminars, where employers and employees have direct access to the extended boutique health and wellness services.

And, of course, just like all healthcare benefits programs, it’s equally important to research the benefits, platform features and plan options available in any potential telemedicine services you subscribe to, as no two telehealth programs are exactly the same.

Navigating Telehealth for HR and Employers

It’s no secret that telemedicine delivers faster, more accessible and more affordable medical care for patients across the world. However, when integrating a new telehealth program into your business, there are some details that employers should not overlook.

Let’s start with state regulations. Because they vary across the country, it’s important that employers be aware of the specific compliance regulations issued by their state. If an employer is in compliance with these state regs, the chosen telehealth provider will then help navigate the onboarding process and provide concierge support throughout the duration of the program.

Telehealth and Workers’ Compensation

Another important factor to take into account is workers’ compensation. While telehealth and workers’ compensation have existed for years singularly, thanks to the rapid evolution of technology they have recently come together under the same vertical. To ensure that they’re getting the specific advantages that their business needs, employers should educate themselves on the available options for integrating telehealth into workers’ compensation.

See also: Consumer-Friendly Healthcare Model  

One option for integrating telehealth into workers’ compensation is to make it available to treat acute conditions. It could be particularly useful for employees with minor injuries or those who would rather seek self-care over in-person treatment.

Making telehealth available in cases where a clinic might not be immediately available is another option. In these cases, an employee might be at a remote location and may not have prompt access to healthcare. Telemedicine solves this dilemma by bringing the doctor to the patient. And should injured employees require further care, telemedicine providers will refer them to specialists or ancillary services within their network for continuity of care.

Telehealth is the ideal platform to deliver healthcare to injured employees if they meet the screening process. While all serious cases, emergency or otherwise, should be addressed in person by a physician or at an emergency room, there are far more minor cases that can be safely treated via telemedicine.

The Big Telehealth Picture

Many telehealth programs offer several direct benefits to the injured employee and the employer alike, including 24/7/365 availability, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, greater employee satisfaction and reduced unnecessary visits to urgent care facilities, which incidentally allows for further cost saving.

Whichever telehealth program employers choose, it’s a good idea for them to make sure they have a strong communications plan to stay educated on benefits, onboarding and more. This often comes in the form of onsite education seminars where employers and employees have direct access to the extended boutique health and wellness services.

See also: Case for Reimbursing for Telemedicine  

And, of course, as with all healthcare benefits programs, it’s equally important to research the benefits, platform features and plan options available in any potential telemedicine services you subscribe to, as no two telehealth programs are exactly the same.

Case for Reimbursing for Telemedicine

There is a tremendous amount of change taking place in healthcare right now as the Affordable Care Act is in the early stages of implementation. Patient home, accountable care organization (ACO) and other clinical integration models are top-of-mind, and, with them come new potential risks to be considered. The same is true for “telemedicine.”

Also known as “telehealth,” telemedicine is a way of delivering healthcare to patients when the physician is not in the same room as the patient. Doctors can use two-way video systems and reach many more patients in remote locations. Many patients do well with telemedicine and find it more comfortable than coming into the physician’s office or an urgent care center.

Telemedicine has been expanding its reach for healthcare systems across the U.S., adding services as technological advances allow. The associated savings – mostly in time for both patients and physicians – create additional incentive. Routinely, emergency departments use remote access to consult with specialists around the clock, and home-care services provide follow-up via phone and video for patients with chronic diseases.

But even though delivering care through telemedicine channels saves money, it is not reimbursed by Medicare. Medicare only reimburses providers and healthcare facilities if the physician is bedside. And Medicare reimbursement sets the trend for the private insurance market. Limited reimbursement is a major barrier to the expansion of telehealth.

Only time will tell if the seemingly inherent risks involved with little or no direct patient contact will outweigh the convenience and cost savings. As the healthcare landscape changes, so will the potential liability of healthcare professionals. And that means that insurance companies – both direct healthcare insurers and professional liability insurance carriers – will have to adapt based on the risks associated with a new, less personal way of delivering care.

An article about the Mayo Clinic, where telemedicine technology is used to deliver care in an intensive care unit, makes the case for reimbursement. As the article explains, unfortunately, technology is way ahead of figuring out how to get reimbursed for these services.