We know that people with asthma and allergies need to have access to convenient, quality care, regardless of location. However, for many who live in remote areas of the country, specialist care is not always available.
Until 2020, only about 11% of doctors offered a telehealth option, but as a result of the COVID crisis, telemedicine has exploded and practically disrupted the health industry. During the past year, the U.S. saw an increase in the use of telemedicine, and it’s been estimated that doctors are now giving 50 to 175 times more telemedicine visits than they did during 2019.
As patients and doctors become more comfortable with the idea of remote treatment, they are realizing that telemedicine solves many of the challenges faced by rural patients and remote monitoring also improves the overall quality of care for all patients. Because of this, telehealth options will continue to play a significant role in patient care even after we get the COVID crisis in hand.
How Can an Asthma Patient Benefit from Telehealth Options?
During a recent webinar, Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, MD, the Founder of Family Allergy & Asthma Care and the FAAR Institute, detailed the benefits of telemedicine.
- Telemedicine is excellent for managing asthma, keeping asthma maintained, and educating patients and caregivers.
- It helps at-risk patients avoid exposure by cutting down on the number of in-office visits.
- Telehealth is a helpful tool for asthma and allergy patients who are experiencing symptoms – especially if they are unable to get in to see their doctor right away.
- It allows patients to reach out for guidance BEFORE the exacerbation requires an urgent in-person visit
- Telemedicine offers the ability to pre-submit data to HCP leading to follow-up treatments and education.
Dr. Eghrari-Sabet went on to say that home spirometry is an important tool for respiratory patients but she cautioned that the technique needs to be monitored to ensure accurate results and the data needs to be interpreted by a professional.
Remote Monitoring with Emerging Technologies
Asthma management with emerging technologies, such as Aluna, provides value by monitoring lung function and symptoms and delivering the data via the Doctor Dashboard. This makes it easier to dial-up or down on asthma medications and to interpret data over time. With enough data, Aluna can even predict an exacerbation.
Unlike other portable spirometry devices, Aluna goes one step further by identifying ‘inadequate efforts’ and promotes proper technique for the patient doing spirometry. This helps solve the issue of improper technique that Dr. Eghrari-Sabet mentions as a caution.
Why should doctors offer telehealth appointments?
Currently, asthma and allergic conditions are two of the most common health issues affecting children in the United States. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, telemedicine could be the key to cutting the costs of treatment for related conditions which are estimated at $56 billion for medical visits and lost school and work hours.
Remote monitoring and patient coaching can help allergists and pulmonologists support better health outcomes for pediatric and adult patients. It also helps overcome time constraints and provides a revenue stream for doctors, while reducing overall costs by potentially reducing hospital and emergency care costs.
Rural and Underserved Communities Benefit from Telemedicine
As stated earlier, for many who live in remote areas of the country, specialist care for allergies and asthma is not always available. There is also a lack of care in inner-city communities. However, Telehealth is definitely increasing in popularity. Practitioners said that there was a 51% increase in patient interaction via Telehealth during the pandemic period. They expect it to remain at 21% after the pandemic ends.
With over 13,000 members, if just the two leading asthma/allergy provider organizations offer a telehealth option, then rural and underserved communities will have immediate access to specialists regardless of where they are located.
To further the telehealth initiative, doctors need a strategic framework for execution and help in addressing barriers to care. Digital innovation, such as remote monitoring with devices like Auna, will expand access and empower healthy behaviors through education. Digital innovation also allows for patient data insights to be translated into personalized solutions.
The COVID pandemic transformed medicine and specifically telemedicine. Out of necessity, telehealth options have become more widely adopted and accepted by both patients and doctors. Now that both sides see the benefits, it’s a certainty that telehealth options will continue to play a significant role in patient care even after the end of the COVID pandemic.