Pandemic accelerates adoption of telehealth strategies for hospice care
Denver, Colo. – The pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for hospice and palliative care patients and their families.
If there is any good at all to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic for hospices, our patients and their families, it is the push to make promising ideas on the horizon arrive even faster to support comforting care in new ways.
Health care experts have said this life-changing pandemic has accelerated the use and acceptance of telehealth by three years — all in just a matter of months.
We firmly believe hospices and palliative care providers can benefit from telehealth in many of the same ways as hospitals and physician offices.
You may have heard about some of the now-common uses of telehealth: A teenager or a working parent at home with minor symptoms talks to their doctor over the video camera on their computer. Or an elderly patient uses a home blood pressure monitor tracked remotely by their provider to avoid another trip to the hospital.
With so much of our world off limits because of the pandemic, the Affiliates within the Care Synergy family are employing these versatile and adaptable qualities of telehealth to help families stay in touch and patients stay as comfortable and connected as possible during these most trying times.
Care Synergy’s affiliates — the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, The Denver Hospice, Pathways, and Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care — have many patients who want to stay at home and strictly limit contact with the outside world right now. We of course respect their wishes and are working extra hard to accommodate them, while providing continuity of care.
Meanwhile, we are taking extra steps to limit exposure for our caregivers, who are often in contact with multiple patients over the course of their week.
We partner with Healthcare Recovery Solutions to offer remote patient monitoring to homecare patients. Devices in their home monitor blood pressure, diabetes blood checks, and other vital signs or conditions — and are connected to our caregivers and providers.
We are also using a HIPAA-compliant app from Doxy.me to provide face-to-face remote contact with our caregivers using any smart phone or tablet preferred by the patient. The app allows our patients and caregivers to keep a close connection even more frequently than before the pandemic.
The same technology is being used to provide care at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers, where many of our patients live. These facilities have had to, understandably, restrict outside contact, often even from family members.
Yet life-limiting illness is hard enough without the added challenge of isolation. Virtual connections can help.
Many of our patients in facilities have their own smartphone or tablet, and many others can borrow one from their facility.
When we are allowed inside to see our patients, we can sit with them and help them set up the app. They can then be in touch with their families, friends or providers, communicating (virtually) face to face.
The holidays are upon us, making these connections seem more vital than ever. When nursing homes and assisted living centers collaborate with us to embrace telehealth innovations, our patients and their families see the benefits immediately.
Telehealth may have arrived in our part of the health care world a little sooner than expected. But we’re convinced it’s here to stay, and patients will benefit over the near and long term from these advances.
Tricia Ford is vice president of operations for the not-for-profit Care Synergy.network, which includes the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, The Denver Hospice, Pathways, and Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care.