Benefits of Direct Primary Care and Telemedicine During the Pandemic

The Reality

Imagine a single mother of two kids. She barely has time for herself. While working at a professional cleaning services company, she developed occupational asthma. Whenever she got sick, she relied on OTC drugs instead of scheduling  an appointment, because she couldn’t find the time to see a medical practitioner. 

In 2020, COVID-19 hit the U.S. She suffered severe bouts of asthma. She couldn’t go to the hospital to seek relief for fear of getting infected. Her situation is a sad reality faced by many Americans. Not only people suffering from chronic diseases are affected. 

The pandemic and lockdowns have reduced medical follow-ups, screening, and vaccinations in primary care settings.  Access to healthcare was already in shambles, but it has become much worse due to medical restrictions and stay-at-home orders.

Direct Primary Care (DPC) continues to thrive despite the pandemic. DPC offers direct billing and payment to companies without going through insurance providers. For more details on the various DPC services, call the Well Life ABQ of Albuquerque at 505-585-2345 For COVID-19 testing, CLICK HERE.

This blog presents the benefits of DPC and telemedicine for your employees.

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DPC Benefits During the Pandemic

Accessibility

In a setting such as Well Life ABQ,  DPC is accessible 24 hours, seven days a week. It’s helpful for on-demand acute care. Your employees also won’t have to bother with co-pays or fear of surprise bills.

Preventive care

Some medical conditions increase the death rate of people with COVID-19. These conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart diseases. Your employees spend more time with our medical practitioner  discussing their medical condition and managing  their risks. Our medical practitioners can immediately attend to their minor medical condition before it escalates into something serious.

Convenience

Your employees can call us to get an appointment and have a consultation with our medical practitioner. It can be a face-to-face consultation. They may also opt for a virtual consult in keeping with stay-at-home orders. Since we also value their time, they won’t have to leave work.

Our Telemedicine service has become the preferred method for healthcare. We offer phone calls, text messaging, and video consults. Your employees’ safety is assured as they talk to our representatives instead of visiting an emergency room for acute illnesses.

However, if they still want to see our medical practitioner, their safety is considered. Our facility is COVID-19 compliant with adequate infection controls in place. Well Life ABQ caters to a smaller number of people than a typical clinic, so their risk of exposure is lower.

Chronic care

DPC providers such as Well Life ABQ efficiently manage chronic conditions. For those without DPC, the pandemic has affected the continuity and quality of care for people with chronic diseases

In a study, people reported postponing health consultation, because  some of them feared catching the COVID-19 virus. Thus, people with chronic disease have an increased risk of complications and progression of the disease. The World Health Organization proposed innovative strategies in chronic care management. Well Life ABQ bridges your employees and our medical practitioner through our virtual and no-contact options.

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Telemedicine Benefits and Barriers During the Pandemic

Telemedicine has become a relevant and convenient channel that connects people with DPC providers like us. 

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine has become mainstream in healthcare due to increased use of the internet.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services defines Telemedicine as “a service that seeks to improve a patient’s health by permitting two-way, real-time interactive communication between patient and the physician in a distant site.” 

In short, Telemedicine is the delivery of care at a distance through the use of technology. It includes various electronic devices such as cellphones, computers, mobile phone apps, and wearable gadgets. These devices are used for calling, sending messages, and video conferencing. 

Various applications including Zoom, Skype, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts allow Telemedicine streaming. People seeking medical consultation and medical practitioners may benefit from Telemedicine video visits. It complies with the U.S. Department of Health and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic.

How is it different from Telehealth?

Telemedicine refers to specific clinical services while Telehealth refers to a broader scope of health care services. It may include the collection and transmission of electronic patient records and monitoring devices. Telehealth  improves the delivery of health services,  is used as a tool in delivering healthcare services, and assists in keeping people safe during the pandemic.

Benefits of Telemedicine

Pros

  • Telemedicine is a convenient and cost-effective tool in the delivery of health care. It allows communication anytime and anywhere. It prevents people from getting exposed to viruses otherwise found in medical facilities.
  • Telemedicine receives faster results than face-to-face consultations. A study shows that Americans devote an average of 123 minutes seeking medical care. Travel time takes 38 minutes and 86 minutes in a clinic. On  average, they have face-to-face consultations for 20.5 minutes. Telemedicine appointments cut down travel  and waiting time at the clinic.  A medical practitioner can spend more time with each person.
  • Telemedicine benefits people who are living in rural areas. According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of rural adults have home broadband, and 85% reported using the internet. Telemedicine serves as an alternative to rural people who already lack access to healthcare. In a study of Native Americans, Telemedicine  lowers healthcare costs. It also relieved them from the burden of traveling.
  • It’s a vehicle for informing people about health regardless if they are infected or not.
  • It may help mildly sick people to get the care they need. It minimizes their exposure to other people who are also ill. The same situation applies to older adults who have underlying medical conditions. People can avoid contact with potentially sick people.
  • A 2015 review reveals Telemedicine works in managing chronic conditions. It has  the same outcomes as  face-to-face management of congestive heart failure. There is also an improvement in the control of blood glucose among people with diabetes.
  • Another study shows telemedicine is comparable to an in-person visit for asthma management. It has been useful for surgical wound follow-up and post-discharge follow-up after colorectal surgery.
  • Have you ever encountered a chatbot online? Bots are computer programs, or automated logic flows that can do a person’s repetitive task. In telemedicine, a bot can  transfer moderate to high-risk patients onto a triage list. At the same time, video calls can lessen face-to-face interactions.
  • According to a study, telemedicine  assesses and triages people with COVID-19. A medical practitioner can get a history of symptoms through home-based video interaction and perform an observational assessment. It includes temperature, respiratory rate, and general appearance. The medical practitioner also notes for cough, difficulty breathing, and visually checking the mouth and throat.
  • It’s noteworthy to add that telemedicine is  a benefit to the environment. Telemedicine may decrease the carbon footprint of people seeking medical care.  A”carbon footprint”, as defined by the World Health Organization, “is a measure of the impact your activities have on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced through the burning of fossil fuels…” With telemedicine, people spend less traveling to and from face-to-face appointments.

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Barriers of Telemedicine

The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health presented a study on telemedicine’s shortcomings during the pandemic. The study  shows a decline in virtual consultations among Americans,  despite the increase in the use of telemedicine.

The researchers found a 21% decline in primary care consultations in the second quarter of 2020—as compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019. Moreover, there was a decline of 26% in medicine renewals, 50.1% in blood pressure check-ups, and 36.9% in blood cholesterol tests. The study only pinpointed the decline in virtual consultations. 

Other studies report various barriers and drawbacks of telemedicine and telehealth.

Cons

  • Based on a 2019 survey, 66%  of people are willing to use telehealth.  8% have tried it. However, the Consumer Survey cites some barriers that need to be overcome.

    The survey shows  people tend to go back to their previous ways of doing things. They prefer face-to-face interaction with a healthcare provider. This behavior was prevalent in all age groups, mostly among older adults.

    Privacy was a primary  concern across all age groups. Reimbursement issues were a concern for adults aged 35-44 years of age. And,  technology was a large concern among people aged 45-54 years old.

  • People may not be aware of telemedicine as an option. They also don’t know how to access it. Based on the 2019 J.D. Power Telehealth Satisfaction Study, 39.7% of people don’t know if their healthcare providers offer Telehealth. At the same time, 34.6% are unaware of Telehealth at all.
  • Virtual assessments have drawbacks such as poor internet connectivity, digital literacy, and lack of technology access. Video consulting saves time, especially for working people, but the improved technical infrastructure is required. Researchers suggested technology companies create “plug-and-play” telemedicine devices at low cost.
  • Medical practitioners play an essential role in establishing new clinical practices. They may use social media apps to share ideas, resources, and come up with collective learning. Remote training on video consultation is also vital for medical practitioners and clinical staff. 

DPC and Telemedicine 

An employee benefit program with both services provides your employee with the best and most economical access to care. People reported overall satisfaction with video visits. It provides communication, comfort, convenience, efficiency, and privacy. 

During this time of the pandemic, safety is an utmost consideration in seeking healthcare. For more details about our services and Telemedicine, call Well Life ABQ  at 505-585-2345

Telemedicine is only a piece of Direct Primary Care services.  Face to face visits are still available, when medically appropriate.  It is a best of both worlds approach.

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