Telehealth services were recently expanded for Medicare beneficiaries. Telehealth is the use of telecommunication devices to provide health care delivery. For many health care facilities, this expansion will allow the continuation of care for routine doctor’s office visitors, while reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
For Sherri Chatman, assistant professor in Samford University’s Ida Moffett School of Nursing, telehealth is not new. Early in her career, Chatman utilized telemedicine as an on-call/triage nurse for a local pediatrician.
Chatman says the expansion of telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 will provide clinics with the opportunity to reduce the risk of exposure for those who have a higher risk of complication surrounding COVID-19. “It enables providers and patients to remain in a safe environment, during a time in which contamination is spreading rapidly.”
How does it work? Chatman says that various devices allow patient data to be electronically transported to a provider. Remote patient monitoring can provide patient data for things such as EKG, blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring.
Telehealth gives providers the ability to obtain a patient’s chief complaint, history of their present illness and any other concerns or needs that they are experiencing in a completely virtual environment. If needed, providers can also prescribe medications as needed to treat new or existing conditions. At the completion of the “visit,” the provider discusses the plan of care with the patient to ensure that they understand and are in agreement with the plan.
For practitioners who will be using telemedicine for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chatman’s advice is to treat the patient encounter just as you would during a face-to-face visit. “Take time to greet the patient, ask how he/she is doing, obtain information related to the present ‘medical visit,’ review past medical and additional history, and discuss the determined plan of care with the patient, including the next scheduled encounter,” she says.
If you are unsure if your provider is offering telehealth, Chatman says the best thing to do is call. “Share your questions and symptoms, and if they offer telehealth, they will be able to direct you if a physical or virtual visit is best for you.”
To view the most recent information about Samford University related to COVID-19, go to our COVID-19 webpage for ongoing updates.