In recent weeks, our lives have changed in ways we may never have imagined. One thing that has also changed in a way that is potentially even more beneficial right now - and going forward - is access to patient health care through expanded telemedicine capabilities.
According to a statement (https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/president-trump-expands-telehealth-benefits-medicare-beneficiaries-during-covid-19-outbreak) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “CMS is expanding Medicare’s telehealth benefits under the 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. This guidance and other recent actions by CMS provide regulatory flexibility to ensure that all Americans—particularly high-risk individuals—are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).” CMS additionally explained that “patients will now be able to access their doctors using a wider range of communication tools including telephones that have audio and video capabilities, making it easier for beneficiaries and doctors to connect.”
We have always offered the opportunity for remote appointments, but with the new changes to current legislation we can also see patients in other states than where our offices are located. Not only is this a huge advantage in light of the present travel restrictions, but it’s an exceptional benefit for our neurology patients who under ordinary circumstances have difficulty making even a short trip away from home. Think about the challenges that may face an individual with a movement disorder like ALS and Parkinson’s or someone with Alzheimer’s disease just to do something that many of us may take for granted. Even with a caregiver’s assistance, these visits can be quite complex to facilitate especially right now.
Lack of transportation on just a local basis is one of the biggest barriers to regular treatment and care, often cited as a primary reason for missing appointments particularly in at-risk and underserved populations. With telemedicine, patients are able to see their doctor more frequently and on-schedule, provide regular updates about any changes in their condition or new symptoms so physicians can better ensure treatment plans are being followed. It’s a use of technology that truly considers the human element in its design and in the resulting benefits.
Telemedicine and Neurology.
Providing convenience and ease of communication, telemedicine shows excellent promise for improved health outcomes thanks in part to the consistency of engagement between both patients and physicians. It also complements the face-to-face experience, when in-office visits are again possible, and allows for ongoing communication and care for patients with many neurological conditions.
It is likely that even after the COVID-19 crisis has passed that we find telemedicine will continue to play an important role in providing the most effective care for patients. As always, we will continue to advise each patient on an individual basis based on their particular health needs – so always contact us if you have any concerns or questions or need to update your permissions for communications. We are here for you and together we will get through this, today and tomorrow!
Dr. Suzy Gazda
• San Antonio