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Using Telemedicine to Manage Chronic Conditions

chronic conditionsThe long term management of chronic conditions is one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare system in the United States today. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis affect an estimated 117 million people. People with chronic conditions account for 81% of hospital admissions; 91% of all prescriptions filled; and 76% of all physician visits. Chronic diseases can be disabling and reduce a person’s quality of life, especially if left undiagnosed or untreated. For example, every 30 seconds a lower limb is amputated as a consequence of diabetes.

Unfortunately, the incidence of chronic conditions is not going away. It is estimated that by 2025, chronic diseases will affect an estimated 164 million Americans – nearly half of the population. This is a health challenge that the current method of care delivery is ill-equipped to support. Fortunately, telemedicine can help.

The use of video visits for the management of chronic conditions benefits both patients and providers in a number of ways.

Treatment Plan Management

The treatment of chronic conditions often involves changes to the patient’s lifestyle. Weight management, smoking cessation, condition specific dietary changes, and other behavioral changes all play a role in keeping the patient as healthy as possible. Using technology to conduct lifestyle counseling remotely makes it more likely that the provider and patient can stay on top of the treatment plan and check-in as frequently as necessary.

Medication Management

Patients with chronic conditions often need more than one medication, sometimes many. Getting the dosing and mix of medications just right can take time and a bit of trial and error. Remote medication management takes the burden of multiple visits off the patient, making it easier for them to balance their need for treatment with their quality of life.

Triage

When a new symptom comes up for a patient with a chronic illness, it can be difficult to tell if it is just something to be expected or if a new, potentially urgent condition has appeared. Some chronically ill patients react by seeing the doctor very frequently, while others ignore new symptoms until they become serious. The option of a quick remote visit to determine if an ailment is just par for the course, or something that needs attention, can help reduce the burden on the provider and office staff, while at the same time making sure that any serious problems are addressed.

Medicare Chronic Care Management

The new Chronic Care Management Program reimburses providers $42.50 per month for 20 minutes of clinical staff time spent on patients with two or more chronic conditions. Telemedicine is a perfect fit for the CCM program, which can earn practitioners upwards of $200,000 annually.

There’s nothing fun about having a chronic condition. Frequent doctor’s visits only add to the stress and expense of living with an illness that just won’t go away. Telehealth is a win-win for patients and providers, making it easier to get – and give – excellent care.