When the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of Americans to lock down in their homes, telehealth became a huge part of many peoples’ lives. The ability to meet with your doctor through video chat or telephone became a crucial way to stay healthy without going into a physical office.
Albert Ferreira, director of telehealth operations with MetroHealth in Cleveland, and Chris Verdi, president of Parafill, in Beachwood, said telehealth is likely here to stay.
Parafill is a pharmacy that operates on a mobile and distance platform. It gets orders directly from doctors’ offices and deliver them straight to people’s homes. Telehealth comes into play in the sense that doctors are operating on a much more remote platform right now. Verdi said, and in a lot of ways, it’s increased accessibility for their relationships with them.
“But, we’re also, ourselves, planning on expanding into it to become a fully integrated platform where we’ll have direct prescribing done here,” Verdi said. “Like mobile health visits, prescriptions processed by us, and then delivered straight to the patient’s house. COVID was a challenge. The adoption of mobile health and telehealth platforms was sort of forced on a lot of people, but It got a lot of populations of people who were not perhaps going to be engaging in that kind of thing. A lot of older adults were using Zoom and other things to see their physicians, which is probably something that never would have happened quite as rapidly, had it not been for COVID.”
Verdi said there a bit of a push toward a new aspect of health care called ‘remote patient monitoring.’
“Doctors will ask patients to check home blood sugar and check home blood pressure, either manually or through wearable technology,” Verdi said. “As the baby boomer generation continues to become pretty tech comfortable, a lot can be done by doctors and their offices in monitoring patient condition based on the use of wearables to monitor people’s health. And so the doctors actually can get reimbursement from these insurance companies for monitoring those conditions remotely. That is something that is certainly part of the next 10 years of healthcare and is going to develop quite a bit in those ways.”
However, one thing that Ferreira has learned is that there is somewhat of a ‘fear’ with technology, whether it be with the operational staff, clinical staff or with patients and patient communities.
“There’s a significant fear of using technology to receive care when they haven’t done it before,” Ferreira said. “So there’s a lot of hand holding that is required to get various people comfortable with the tool and technologies. Generally, once they’ve done it once or twice, people seem to overcome those fears, but it does take a little bit of hand holding to walk them through the steps and to make sure that everything is working.”
Despite these challenges, Ferreira said there is a multi-pronged approach to help make people more comfortable with this. Ferreira said there are a lot of training, documentation and how-to videos MetroHealth provides to staff and patients so that they can get familiar with using telehealth.
“But ultimately, it’s really a hands-on approach where we try to provide, in our clinical spaces, that at-the-elbow tech support where we have someone looking over their shoulder and watching them go through and kind of clicking and logging in and doing the steps necessary,” Ferreira said. “And then of course, if there’s any issue that comes up, being able to address and resolve those issues.”
Verdi said the future of telehealth is bright, especially for people that use Parafill as a necessity that may have their mobility impinged by limited transportation access.
“So, those kinds of people who previously couldn’t see a doctor, because there were bus transfers to get to their doctor nearby and it all took a little too much coordination, that’s going to be a thing of the past,” Verdi said. “But the option of clicking buttons and seeing your provider, that’s going to be there.”