COVID-19: The Need for Better Remote Healthcare is Here.
Unless you've been off-the-grid for the past month, you know that COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live and interact with others.
As of today, many countries like Spain and Italy have shut their doors - both as citizens and as a country. After this writing, surely other countries will follow suit as well.
People are being asked to stay inside to help contain the spread of COVID-19, and police and governments are making sure people only go outside for absolute necessities. Some people in the most affected areas in Italy haven't left their house for full weeks. This is a reality many of us would have found hard to imagine only a few short days ago.
We know COVID-19 is less fatal for younger, generally healthy people, but it is important to stop it from spreading - especially to older people, those with underlying medical conditions, and those with compromised immune systems, such as people who have recently had a medical treatment or surgery. That's why governments are encouraging 'social distancing'.
What about the U.S?
While in the United States we're not quite at full-blown lockdown, some cities and states like California have enforced "shelter in place" stay-at-home orders.
It's important to think about social isolation-related questions like:
Should I stock up on food? How can I get my groceries delivered?
How long will my kids really be home from school? How can they stay active and keep up with their schooling (or learning) from home?
How do I do my exercises, physical therapy, or surgery preparation from home?
Which appointments or outings are absolutely necessary?
The answers to those questions depend on who and where you are. As a whole, they highlight a need for being able to access services remotely.
Most of us have access to grocery delivery services, and many schools are beginning to plan how to give lessons virtually, but how do you access healthcare when you're not supposed to leave your home?
The answer is also remotely.
It's time to discuss why now - more than ever before - we need our governments, businesses and employers to invest in remote healthcare options. They're as effective, more convenient, safer and can decrease costs for employers, patients and providers.
The Benefits of Remote Healthcare
Let's imagine you're a 75-year-old who's just had hip surgery. Your surgery went very well and you're now at home recovering. Every few days you have to leave your house and take the bus to your physical therapy appointment. You wait in the waiting room and sometimes chat with the other people waiting. Eventually, your PT sees you and then you go back home.
While it seems very mundane, you've just increased your risk for infection by leaving your home. Depending on where you live, and the eventual spread of the virus, leaving your house may not be possible. Each outing and each person you come in contact with increases your odds of contracting and spreading any virus- whether it's a basic flu or COVID-19. Contracting even the most standard flu virus makes recovering from injury or surgery significantly harder, especially for those more vulnerable.
So, this begs the question: If you had the option to stay home and still receive quality care, wouldn't you?
Safer during COVID-19 & smarter in the future: Why remote health is about more than safety
It's not just germs that make recovering from home attractive. Maybe it's the convenience of doing physical therapy on your own schedule instead of someone else's? Maybe you'd rather not make the trek into town? Maybe your hip hurts and driving or taking the bus would be painful? It could even be that your physical therapist is temporarily closed. There's a whole host of reasons why digital healthcare and telemedicine make sense for a lot of patients.
As a key player in remote health, specifically musculoskeletal care, we're attune to the fact that telemedicine and remote care is growing. Research backs remote health care as a viable, or even better, option to in-person care in some cases.
Now is the time to give your employees or patients this vital option of being able to access health at home.
Health from home, (remote health care), is:
Better for hospitals and clinics: by keeping patients at home, we decrease the risk of negative health outcomes like readmission.
More convenient for patients: people are able to access healthcare services whenever and whenever they want - even if they're sick, live in a rural area or don't have a caregiver to help them get to appointments.
Safer: avoiding congested clinics and offices helps decrease the risks of getting a cold or other illness that slow recovery. Also, by delivering timely health literacy information, patients are better informed on how to take care of themselves.
Cheaper: by decreasing the number of in-person PT appointments, we save money on health costs. Patients, employers and providers don't have to pay for as many appointments. Also, by effectively educating patients and providing pain management techniques, we decrease the risk of readmission for infection or pain.
A 'two birds with one stone': ability to deal with comorbidities, like obesity and smoking, by harnessing both health literacy information and habit formation techniques to improve overall health before surgery.
More effective: a shorter hospital stay for patients, less in-person time for physicians
Evidence for remote musculoskeletal care:
A study published this year showed that using prehabilitation technology, in this case patients in PeerWell's PreHab program, had:
Decreased hospital stays from the national average of 2.5 to 2.0 with PeerWell
A better disposition at and after discharge
A 29% decrease in post-acute care use
A 45% decrease in pharmacy costs
Win the recovery race with at-home surgery optimization (PreHab)
With elective surgeries being cancelled, it makes sense for patients who are stuck at home to have the option to become stronger, and decrease their risks of negative outcomes, before surgery.
Have patients at their best before they even enter the operation room. Using prehabiliation programs, like PeerWell's PreHab, helps to increase health literacy, decrease risks associated with surgery, and speeds up recovery times.
The multifaceted nature of PeerWell's programming means patients can learn about important topics like pre-op preparation, wound care, nutrition, pain management but also how to decrease their comorbidity risks before entering surgery.
Daily information and interactive elements based on current research allows patients with an increased BMI or other comorbidities like smoking to mitigate their chances of negative health outcomes, while also doing therapist-recommended physical therapy activities for their surgery.
Now is the time
COVID-19 isn't the reason for remote care. However, it shows the need that patients already have to be able to access the same quality of healthcare from home. If it's as effective and safer, why aren't we doing it?
Twitter is asking the same question.
Health and tech reporter at CNBC, Christina Farr, expressed it quite well a few days ago,
Are you interested in offering musculoskeletal digital solutions to your patients, claimants or employees? Learn more.