Life is sweet at home

Virtual medicine increases care access and options

Have you talked to a physician via computer and screen? Do you know anyone; say out in the boondocks or with a chronic ailment, who has used what is called telemedicine, telehealth or virtual medicine?

No, not yet? Well, according to an article in the AARP magazine’s Feb/March 2018 issue, boomers and older people will soon be some of the principle users of this new health care trend. Why? Because many of us will have more health issues and need to monitor these conditions before we hit a crisis and run to the emergency room.

Article author David L. Katz, M.D. explains that this new approach to health care will particularly help older patients because it offers the option of bringing a virtual doctor or nurse right into the homes of patients, as frequently as needed, monitoring health and making real-time diagnoses and treatment adjustments.

And, oh yes, follow up research shows that this immediate and on-going care significantly reduces patients rebounding back to hospitals after surgeries or rehab while it significantly decreases the overall cost of care.

The value of virtual care

“Convenience aside, the major value driver of virtual care is the ability to intervene earlier, which often prevents disease progression,” said Randall Moore, M.D., president, Mercy Virtual based in Missouri.

Mercy Virtual was opened in late 2015 and serves a health care system which operates 44 hospitals in the Midwest. Inside the new facility nurses and physicians answer patient questions, make medication adjustments and advise physicians at any of the hospitals, which use the service more during the night hours when staffing is at its most slack.

Taking up the nurse and doctor problem

Speaking of taking up the slack, an article in suggests that virtual care can be a life saver in terms of healthcare’s cost and quality challenges. For starters, even as the older population is on the rise, the number of nurses and physicians stays flat. Simply put, there just aren’t enough of these professionals to go around, especially in rural areas. Secondly, the cost of health care, including trips to the ER, has skyrocketed in the past few decades.

Many in the health care profession welcome virtual health solutions. More institutions, patients and professionals see how this kind of still-very-personal care can help to extend provider’s reach. It can close the care gap that is currently making it difficult to meet value-based care’s call to improve outcomes while simultaneously reducing costs.

Patients get lots of attention

An article in US News & World Report describes how, using an iPad and devices such as a home blood pressure monitor, a 72-year-old patient’s vital signs are constantly transmitted to the Mercy Virtual “command center.”  Instead, of on-going crisis and many trips to the ER, the patient’s condition is so well monitored that the team has been able to avoid trips to the ICU.

“We can trend the data on a daily basis and intervene in many cases even before patients experience symptoms,” says Gavin Helton, Mercy’s medical director.

Why patients like virtual health care (AARP Feb/March 2018):

  • Convenience – Reduces travel time
  • Help manages chronic conditions – monitors conditions such as diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure
  • Treat urgent symptoms – get initial appointment fast, from your bed
  • More efficient – can consult with primary care docs and specialists at the same time
  • First-class care anywhere – if traveling can access care, coordinate care.

Have you used virtual medicine? What was your experience?