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Why Telehealth Is Here to Stay

John Schall

CEO, Caregiver Action Network

For years, telehealth and video calls were things of science fiction. No longer. With the sudden onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, teleheath has become the new reality for doctor visits.

Caregiving during the coronavirus crisis has left most family caregivers and their loved ones with no other choice. In addition to everything else they do to take care of their loved ones, many family caregivers now have to fill the role of tech support for their loved one’s video visits.

If you don’t know what telehealth is, it allows patients and healthcare workers to meet virtually to receive care, advice, reminders, etc., without the risks currently associated with meeting in person. Think of it as a FaceTime call or Zoom meeting with a doctor.

New technology always comes with its growing pains. While video appointments are convenient and minimize chances of coronavirus exposure, it doesn’t work for everyone, such as those who are not tech savvy or those with no internet connection.

Room to improve

While virtual visits are great, from a caregiver’s perspective, there is still some room for improvement. Family caregivers need to be able to engage in a virtual visit the same way they would if they were in the exam room with their loved one.

Some video conferencing platforms or health system policies do not allow a caregiver to join a visit from a third location. 

In the past, caregivers who joined a loved one at their doctor’s appointment functioned as another set of eyes and ears. They expressed concerns, asked questions, and helped report symptoms. Caregivers are vital to ensuring adherence to their loved one’s care plan. But now, without their caregiver present, some patients may be left confused, or unable to manage their own care.

Caregivers may be wondering about how insurance covers telehealth. Most health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, currently covers telehealth appointments. However, the current waiver that allows Medicare to pay for telehealth for all enrollees is only temporary and has not yet been made permanent.

Here to stay

With no end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, telehealth is here to stay. Even after the coronavirus is behind us, telehealth could very well be the new reality for patients and family caregivers, just as teleworking has become the new normal for millions of Americans.

With the love and strength caregivers display in abundance, through whatever the future holds, America’s family caregivers will continue to adapt — as they always do — and tackle the challenges of caregiving in these extraordinary times.

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