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How telehealth can keep people with disabilities out of the ER

Emergency departments should be a last stop medical option, but for people with disabilities who visit emergency services in a disproportionate rate compared to those without disabilities, this last stop becomes more common.

Virtual care has inherent advantages that help prevent excess visits to the emergency department for all populations, including people with disabilities.

Early detection of medical problems is vital to reduce the flow of people to emergency services. Offering people with disabilities quality care from their homes can help avoid avoidable visits.

Ophir Lotan is vice president of product and customer success at TytoCare, a provider of telemedicine technology, believes that virtual care should provide comprehensive diagnostic exams and focus on simplistic overall user design to achieve a reduction in office visits. emergencies for populations with specific considerations, such as people with disabilities.

Q. What is at the core of the problem with people with disabilities visiting the emergency room at a disproportionate rate?

A People with disabilities often face higher rates of chronic conditions, and experience a high score of financial difficulty to cover the costs of care, compared to the population without disabilities. They are less likely to be able to afford health care and more likely to have unmet health care needs.

This combination of complications, from increased care needs and lack of means to cover health care costs, has led to a smaller proportion of people with disabilities who receive annual routine check-ups and preventive care that is essential to divert visits to the emergency department.

Q. How can telehealth help keep people with disabilities out of emergency rooms?

A Virtual care can help people with chronic care conditions by reducing the barriers to access that prevent them from going to a physical doctor’s office, especially when they need check-ups very frequently.

By using virtual care visits, people with disabilities can have their chronic care conditions reviewed regularly, prevention of visits to the emergency department later. Regular checkups can prevent patients’ conditions from reaching critical status, but only virtual care can go the extra mile to break down additional barriers like transportation, scheduling, and long waiting periods for medical appointments.

For a person without disabilities, these obstacles can be frustrating and time consuming. For someone with special needs, these additional challenges can be insurmountable. Telehealth smooths out the process of these preventive checkups, empowering and enabling people to attend these critical appointments, without the added burden of leaving home.

Q. You suggest that comprehensive diagnostic exams via telemedicine are key to helping people with disabilities. Why?

A Remote physical exams take virtual care to the next level by going beyond basic audio and video visits. Providing clinicians with reliable patient data and information from a comprehensive set of exams is critical to providing accurate information about a patient’s condition, enabling more accurate clinical decision making.

For example, the ability to accurately examine patients’ throats, lungs, and hearts from a distance could save lives, specifically for those with physical mobility issues that may impede their ability to easily leave the house.

The added ability to provide physicians with accurate medical information that they were previously unable to obtain from the comfort of home is a game changer for this population, caregivers, and medical staff alike.

Physicians will now have access to a more comprehensive understanding of a patient’s overall well-being, supported by accurate diagnostic exam data, enabling equitable and quality care.

Q. What should CIOs of healthcare provider organizations and other healthcare IT leaders do today to help people with disabilities in their communities?

A Providers should focus on ways to increase their patients’ access to high-quality virtual care with solutions that have real-world exam capabilities.

For many people with disabilities, virtual visits that only use audio and visual capabilities are not enough, especially if they have a specific disability that affects their speech, hearing, mobility, or vision. CIOs and healthcare IT leaders should not and should not compromise on the quality of care that is delivered remotely.

We must meet people with disabilities where they are, designing inclusive solutions with accessibility features and patient care, rather than expecting people with disabilities to conform to the status quo.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bsiwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is published by HIMSS Media.


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