Combatting the Coronavirus: Telehealth at the Forefront

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Last week, the senate voted 96-1 for an $8.3 billion emergency spending package that would be used to combat COVID-19, and last Friday, President Trump signed it into law. Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, schools have closed, major conferences and events have been cancelled and many employers are requiring employees to work from home if possible. People are also taking precautionary measures as we’ve seen hand sanitizers and other disinfectant agents, emergency foods fly off the shelves of super markets as individuals prepare to bunker down in their homes.

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In cases like Coronavirus, individuals are being urged by public health officials to stay home if they don’t feel well. Some are being required [by employers] to stay home and to conduct work affairs remotely if possible, even if they are not sick. In parallel with companies using technology in place of in-person meetings, the CDC is encouraging first responders, healthcare providers and health systems to leverage existing telehealth tools to direct people to the right level of healthcare for their medical needs. 

The use of telehealth services has long been recognized as a way to help reduce the spread of illnesses by keeping individuals out of waiting rooms and other public spaces, and by reaching patients in remote locations who have limited access to care. Hospitals are working to raise awareness of this technology and provide access to telehealth options within their communities to provide a safe and efficient way for patients to connect with doctors from the comfort of their homes. It’s a very valuabletool for an outbreak such as Coronavirus in managing wait-times at doctors offices and hospitals, and in assisting with infection prevention and control. 

Remote visits through telehealth are effective for many clinical needs, especially less complex visits that do not require in-office appointments. They are increasingly valuable for reducing the spread of infectious diseases, such as flu and Coronavirus, because they enable early diagnosis and help to prevent exposure to any virus by keeping sick people away from others. 

As an MBL client, your team may have access to HealthJoy which provides access to NCQA-certified medical professionals who are accessible through the HealthJoy app, 24/7/365. Providers can treat common medical concerns, prescribe medications at a local pharmacy, and follow up with visit details sent straight to your employees’ inboxes. If your team doesn’t have access to HealthJoy, your insurance carrier may offer telehealth services. Making an appointment with a provider via phone call or video conference is an effective first line of defense, both now during this outbreak, and during any other time of the year when an employee may not be feeling well. Telehealth can also help in providing routine care for other health conditions as individuals still have other healthcare needs that are unrelated to the virus.This is a great time to remind employees of these tools and encourage their use. 

While there are some limitations in screening capabilities of the virus over telehealth, it is a great initial assessment tool to help direct patients in the right direction of care and to offset Coronavirus fears. Symptoms are similar to that of the cold or flu and telehealth gives individuals the opportunity for initial symptom testing and questioning. Diagnosing and treating patients remotely can help ease the burden placed on urgent care centers and doctors’ offices when high volumes of patients are trying to find relief from their symptoms, and can give your employees the peace of mind they need in knowing they can connect with a healthcare provider without entering a healthcare facility.

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