How does telehealth improve access to care for vulnerable populations?

At-Home Diagnostic Testing

How does telehealth improve access to care for vulnerable populations?

Ash Wellness

Healthcare has not historically been designed to serve vulnerable populations. Today, patients might not be able to engage with healthcare due to lack of insurance, work or family obligations, or inaccessibility. However, telemedicine services like video consultations and at-home diagnostic testing can improve access to care and quality of care for elderly patients, patients in rural communities, those at risk for HIV, and specialty care patients. In this blog, we will review some of the benefits of telehealth and remote diagnostics for vulnerable patient populations.  

Improve care for elderly patients

Telehealth services can improve quality of life and access to high-quality care for older people. According to a 2021 review of literature, “convenience and affordability [are] the strengths of telehealth use in geriatric care,” as well as safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has, in particular, affected older people disproportionately. Telehealth allows them to access healthcare tools without endangerment. 

Some of the benefits of remote care for elderly patients include:

  • Less risk of serious events such as fall
  • Service to patients from rural communities
  • Reduced overcrowding in health facilities
  • Personalized management, including reminders

When hospitals and clinics invest in telehealth and at-home diagnostic testing, geriatric patients — no matter their location — can more actively engage in healthcare. 

Offer HIV/AIDS services to at-risk groups

MSM (men who have sex with men) and other at-risk populations for HIV can use telehealth services to access PrEP and additional HIV care. Ash Wellness is the partner of choice for clinics and hospitals seeking to increase PrEP adherence. Our at-home system offers at-risk patients a non-disruptive telehealth alternative to in-person laboratory visits. 

Remote healthcare can also be used to administer antiviral drugs. In 2021, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reviewed a case study in Georgia. Researchers concluded that: “HIV telehealth has been successful at bridging gaps in patient care and in training local providers to offer comprehensive HIV care.” 1,041 persons in the study had a telehealth visit, of whom 1,035 (99.4%) were prescribed antiretroviral therapy. 

Decrease burden for specialty care patients

In general, telehealth can help boost adherence to medications that require routine testing (like PrEP or lithium) by incorporating at-home diagnostics and self-testing into healthcare offerings. Telehealth is especially useful for speciality and chronic care patients who require routine testing. Rather than set in-person appointments for routine lab screening, physicians mail quarterly self-tests to patients to monitor conditions like chronic kidney disease or diabetes. This is how the process works: 

  1. Physician sends a self-test to patient via a drop-down tab in the EHR. 
  2. Patient collects samples at home. 
  3. Ash Wellness CLIA/CAP certified lab partners analyze tests and submit results to EHR or patient portal.
  4. Physician follows up with patient to prescribe additional care.  

Improve care for patients in rural areas 

When Ash Wellness interviewed Executive Director of Go Doc Go, Maggie Carpenter, MD, she spoke about the shortage of doctors in rural communities. “Virtual care and home diagnostics also have the potential to free up primary care providers, especially in rural areas with few doctors,” says Carpenter. “Those doctors could focus their in-person attention on people who really need them.” Patients in rural areas who require specialists, as well as those who might not feel comfortable with services in their community, could also rely on telemedicine services to access appropriate care. 

Book a time with us to discuss how to launch at-home diagnostic testing for your business or healthcare organization.

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