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Closing the patient care loop with the Next Generation ACO telehealth Medicare waiver Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 December 2017 17:00
Medicare is making it easier to keep tabs on patients with chronic conditions and those just discharged from the hospital utilizing the Next Generation ACO telehealth Medicare waiver. With its blessing, patient appointments are going virtual in urban areas.

Mobile devices with enhanced capabilities can in real time measure vitals and send alerts to primary care physicians. While that sounds very 21st century, the system poses more challenges than plugging in a voice-activated system like Alexa, Siri or Google Home. The equipment is often installed following a hospital discharge. For our physicians, we send a registered nurse for a post-discharge evaluation and a paramedic to set up and test the telehealth equipment.

Once connected, the primary care physician conducts a virtual office visit that goes beyond a simple check-up. The doctor completes a head-to-toe assessment with the onsite input from the registered nurse and his or her assistant.

From there, a staff member at the doctor’s office reviews patient data daily for improvement. If regular reports do not show progress, the primary care physician re-establishes online contact with the patient to discuss any changes in condition and alter treatment. In this system, the onscreen interaction becomes a way to adjust a plan of care on the fly.

Let’s say that that a patient’s ankles are swelling. The individual can point the tablet’s camera at the joints. The doctor can observe that and other conditions such as breathing patterns. With better information from visual inspection, the physician can make more informed choices on the patient’s level of care.

To encourage usage of the next generation telehealth Medicare waiver, Medicare has expanded its position to allow the patient to initiate contact with the primary care physician regarding a symptom or to ask a question. That opens the door for further assessment. It also relieves the patient of having to make multiple office appointments with specialists who can consult on the telehealth visit such as dermatologists. We’ve discovered that transportation is a huge issue for the patient population in our accountable care organization. Many don't drive and transportation providers are not always reliable.

With distance no longer an obstacle to care, patients can better manage themselves. As family members and other caretakers need to be involved, they join a virtual telehealth session. That closes the loop with the doctor and those who provide support while improving patient outcomes.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 17:04

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