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2022 HEALTH CARE EDITION
PROS AND CONS OF TELEMEDICINE
TELEMEDICINE USE NATIONALLY A snapshot from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows the number of Medicare patients who used telemedicine services from March 1, 2019-Feb. 29, 2020, and compared that with the same usage between March 1, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021. The center denes telehealth sessions as routine oce visits provided via video and virtual check-ins or as short patient-initiated visits via telephone.
March 1, 2019- Feb. 29, 2020 March 1, 2020- Feb. 28, 2021
Allows for more regular check-ins and proactive care Eliminates requirement for patient to travel, making scheduling visits easier Allows providers to work when they otherwise could not Allows patients to be more comfortable in their homes
March 1, 2019- Feb. 29, 2020 March 1, 2020- Feb. 28, 2021
SOURCE: CENTER FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Allows for convenient primary care visits and follow-up visits
3,000% increase in the number of tele- health sessions held nationwide from March 2019-March 2021. Providers in Round Rock, Puger- ville and Hutto also saw stark jumps in telehealth visits in the last two years, and local health care profes- sionals agree that virtual care will remain a popular choice for patients when available. “I just don’t think any of us are going to ever want to revert back—as patients and even as providers,” said Tiany Berry, vice president of primary care at Baylor Scott & White Health. Advantages and disadvantages Berry said while virtual health care is not without its limitations, it has many applications beyond social distancing. Convenience, both for patients and for providers, is one of telemedi- cine’s greatest strengths, she said. Round Rock resident Ellen Leary, who since 2020 has used telehealth for regular doctor visits, lling prescrip- tions and postpartum psychiatry, said the option to meet with a doctor virtu- ally makes those visits much easier. “It’s convenient, for sure—being able to work around my schedule instead of having to nd an appoint- ment at a doctor’s oce and nd child care,” Leary said. Telehealth also allows health care professionals to work when circum- stances might otherwise prevent them from doing so, which helps pro- viders deliver a more consistent level of care, according to Berry. “If they’ve got a sick kid or they’re not feeling well themselves—still feel- ing good enough to work, just don’t want to expose patients—it gives our [advanced practice providers] and our physicians more exibility to still be able to take care of people, just to
Many procedures and exams cannot be conducted virtually Can exacerbate accessibility issues, as more than 2 million households in Texas do not have high-speed internet Cannot utilize for many types of specialty care
“TELEHEALTH IS CONVENIENT, FOR SURE BEING ABLE TO WORK AROUND MY SCHEDULE INSTEAD OF HAVING TO FIND AN APPOINTMENT AT A DOCTOR’S OFFICE AND FIND CHILD CARE.” ELLEN LEARY, ROUND ROCK RESIDENT
Courageous Conversations Therapy. Kasprzyk started her practice in June 2021, oering only virtual sessions out of necessity. However, she said she plans to continue operating fully virtu- ally for the foreseeable future. In addition to the convenience fac- tor, Kasprzyk said her clients often feel more comfortable speaking with her from their own homes. However, Kasprzyk said the tech- nology issues that come with tele- health can be especially disruptive in the case of mental health care. “Maybe somebody’s revealing some- thing for the rst time to you, or they’re really vulnerable and they begin to cry, and then all of a sudden the session cuts out because your Wi-Fi goes out or whatever,” she said. As another example, Hutto ISD has partnered with a school telehealth company called Hazel Health to pro- vide virtual services for students across its 10 schools. District information states the pro- gram allows nurses at Hutto schools to connect students virtually with a doctor or nurse practitioner when their needs exceed the capabilities of the school health oce. Julie Swed, the nurse at Hutto Ele- mentary School, said the partnership with Hazel Health means she can more eectively provide care for students who might otherwise need to leave school for a doctor’s appointment. “Before Hazel … either the kid has
do it from home,” Berry said. However, Berry said while telehealth can be a valuable tool for primary care, some specialty areas such as orthope- dics and rheumatology require proce- dures or thorough exams that can only be conducted in person. Manish Naik, a doctor at Austin Regional Clinic, said the technology itself presents its own set of challenges. Physicians, nurses and patients have all had to learn how to use new technology, he said, which has cre- ated an additional barrier to receiv- ing and providing care. Further, Naik said, not every patient has access to high-speed internet or a device that can use it. “Video just doesn’t work as well without a reliable connection,” he said. Widespread use Regional health care networks including Baylor Scott & White and ARC have been eager adopters of tele- medicine. As one example, in Central Texas, telehealth visits within the St. David’s network of providers went up about 4,660% from 2019-20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the health care provider. But the utilization of virtual med- icine also extends to smaller prac- tices, mental health care and even school health oces. Professional counselor Kinga Kasprzyk runs a Round Rock-based virtual therapy practice called
SOURCE: TIFFANY BERRY, MANISH NAIK, TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF HEALTH PLANS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
to tough it out at school the rest of the day without much relief, or a par- ent has to take o work early, come pick them up [then] make a doctor’s
appointment,” Swed said. The future of telemedicine
As new technology continues to develop, Berry said she expects the applications of telehealth to expand further in the coming years. One application Berry said she is excited to explore is chronic disease management, something that will be aided by the use of peripherals, or testing devices for things like blood pressure that patients keep at home. “When you’re coming in every three months, or even once a month or more … it just lls your life,” Berry said. “A quick video visit … is just a game-changer.” Naik said he does not expect demand for virtual health care to diminish, and health care providers should be prepared to adapt as new developments arrive. “I think it’s up to us as health care providers to continue to more eec- tively leverage technology,” Naik said.
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
ROUND ROCK EDITION • JUNE 2022
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