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Patients looking for remote medical assistance will soon have easier access to health care visits over the internet. Mayo Clinic Health System received a $1 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement video telehealth services and remote patient monitoring. The grant will be spread out across 50 Mayo locations in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Funds will be used to improve technology for telehealth video conferencing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Doctors within the health system say this is also a great way to use personal protective equipment (PPE) more efficiently. "We can bring in telehealth videoing so if we want to check back in with a patient we can just video in and see how they're doing, see if they have questions," said Dr. Sue Cullinan. "Rather than putting PPE on again and going back in. So, it saves on PPE as well as giving the patient an opportunity to connect with us and not feel isolated in a room. So, I think that's really important." Cullinan said the new telehealth technology will give people who are home-bound and the elderly easier access to remote health care visits.
As social distancing has become the new norm for billions of people around the world due to COVID-19, the new normal for healthcare has also seen a rise of telehealth services as people are encouraged to use them to limit in-person interactions with medical staff and help prevent the spread of the virus. However, like any online activity, there are security risks involved for patients’ personal data and companies’ private information. Stephen Hyduchak, CEO of Aver, an identity-verification service, addresses how patients and doctors can ensure each parties’ information is protected. “Telehealth was trending upward before the pandemic, and there were already privacy and security concerns,” says Hyduchak, in a release. “But those are heightened now as people want the immediacy of care and are ready to accept the exchange of privacy to receive that."
Count Humana Inc.’s chief medical officer (NYSE: HUM) among those who think the coronavirus is accelerating the U.S. health care system’s shift toward the home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began to ramp up in March, the Louisville, Kentucky-based insurance giant has seen a substantial demand for all sorts of in-home care services, including telehealth-powered primary care visits, home-delivered meals and more. Internally, Humana has been building around the home for years, with Humana At Home and Kindred at Home serving as two prominent examples of those efforts. Kindred at Home is currently ranked as the No. 1 largest home health provider in the country, according to LexisNexis. Humana — along with private equity firms TPG Capital and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe — acquired Kindred at Home in 2018 for $4.1 billion. In light of the coronavirus, Humana’s home care business is now at a “unique” and “transformative” moment, CMO Dr. William Shrank told Home Health Care News during a recent one-on-one interview.
Home health service companies are in the fight against COVID-19 by keeping at-risk patients safe at home. Within two weeks of the pandemic’s onset, Texas hospitals were discharging patients to free up beds in anticipation of an influx of severe cases of COVID-19. Many patients were to receive hospital-like treatment at home, a role filled by home health service companies. “We found ourselves having a laser focus of needing to keep our patients outside of the hospitals as there was a need to make sure there were enough hospital beds for those patients on the front lines,” said Rodney Gray, CEO and founder of Wave Healthcare, a San Antonio-based provider of respiratory care and equipment for children from neonatal to 21 years old. “Keeping 300 kids on ventilators out of the hospital became very important.” Almost two-thirds of Wave Healthcare’s 300 patients have “invasive” treatments like tracheostomy tubes that connect them to ventilation equipment. Such treatments require at least monthly visits and care by one of the company’s 14 respiratory care practitioners statewide. Protecting therapists, patients, caregivers, and the families that live with the children amidst the pandemic is paramount. “At-risk patients are really vulnerable in this situation, so we had to innovate and be more proactive instead of reactive,” said Adel Bougatef, M.D., Ph.D., an expert in pulmonary care who consults with Wave Healthcare. “We didn’t want complications.” Demand for home healthcare services has risen as those with underlying health conditions and elderly patients stay home to lessen their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Home healthcare has also become a new front in the virus fight as providers care for COVID-19 patients who have been discharged from hospitals.