A year ago, a national survey found that less than 10 percent of all Americans accessed the internet for health-related services, more commonly known as telehealth. Fast forward to today, and nearly half of all Americans say they use telehealth to communicate with their doctor or other health care provider. COVID-19 has expanded the role of telehealth, and those over age 65 are greatly benefiting from this. That’s because Medicare has expanded the number of services and coverage areas for online visits. For instance:
- Before the coronavirus, telehealth visits for those on Medicare were limited to people living in rural areas, or certain medical facilities, such as a nursing home, and there was a limited number of medical conditions that were covered under virtual visits.
- Now, anyone on Medicare who wishes to schedule a virtual visit with their physician can do so at no extra costs other than their standard co-pay and more services are available, such as speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy and hospital discharge visits.
All services are at your fingertips via technology
Scheduling a virtual visit is just one benefit of telehealth technology. Patients of West Jefferson Medical Center can do much more through their personal patient portal account such as:
- Communicate with your health care provider through direct email
- Access test results and review your health issues
- Review all prescriptions you are taking and request refills
- Schedule future appointments
- Pay bills
And for those caregivers, the patient portal allows you to manage healthcare for loved ones even if you are not living in the area.
How to get started with telehealth
The first thing you will need to get started is access to a computer or smartphone and the internet. Once you’ve secured that:
- Visit LCMChealth.org/patientportal
- Select “Sign Up Now”
- Follow the instructions to activate your account
- Download the MyChart app
Telehealth will continue to grow and evolve, and that’s good news for seniors, especially during this pandemic. Sadly, those over 65 have been greatly impacted by COVID-19, as nearly 80 percent of those succumbing to the disease are seniors. Having access to health care without leaving home is a huge advantage, but doctors do warn seniors and their families that not everything can be done via telehealth, especially potential emergencies. Something small can turn into a more significant medical event if left unchecked. For older patients, West Jefferson Medical Center now has a senior-friendly emergency room where you can schedule an appointment so you can stay home until your allotted time. Once you arrive, you are brought to a senior-friendly exam room where the medical staff will see you and address current health issues.
You can learn more about our senior care emergency room and all the ways we make our seniors feel extra special by visiting wjmc.org/senior.
About Virgina 'Ginny' Painter, MPH, MSW, RN:
Ginny Painter, MPH, MSW, RN, earned her Master of Public Health and Master of Social Work from Tulane University. She has an Associate of Science Degree in Nursing and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Her combined practices in the healthcare field attribute to over 19 years of experience. Ginny is West Jefferson Medical Center's senior care nurse navigator in the senior care emergency department.