How Telehealth Is Helping Those With Chronic Conditions During COVID-19

November 11, 2020 - 7 minutes read

COVID-19 has changed how medical providers see their patients for wellness check-ups, illness check-ins, and on-demand appointments. More and more people are turning to telehealth to avoid the risk of catching the virus from visiting the doctor’s office. Especially for patients who are managing their chronic conditions, telehealth has been a more convenient and less painful way to receive medical attention.

Managing Chronic Conditions During COVID-19

Adding the stressors of COVID-19 (like job loss or reduced salary) to a chronic condition can quickly worsen symptoms, leaving the patient with reduced energy and capacity to physically and quickly find help from a medical provider. Traditional care models for chronic conditions don’t reduce or address the patient’s emotional well-being.

For many chronic conditions, stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional states cause and control the condition. So failing to address emotional well-being only raises the cost of healthcare for these population groups. For example, patients with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) who have a mental health co-morbidity increase annual healthcare costs by three to five times, according to the CEO of Trellus Health, Monique Fayad.

IBD is a complex chronic condition that affects more than 3 million people in the U.S. alone. During COVID-19, medical applications are helping patients navigate their condition with more ease. Telehealth, for one, improves the patient experience by not requiring the patient to leave their home for care.

Fayad says that COVID-19 has intensified the need for “telehealth and resilience-driven care for IBD patients due to their immunocompromised conditions.” These patients already struggle with physically meeting their doctors for check-ups, so the shift in the healthcare system due to COVID-19 has “improve[d] outcomes and quality of life” for the patients.

A New Approach to Chronic Condition Care

Trellus Health is a healthcare organization that analyzes patients’ risk factors to identify what types of patients need the most touch and care from their medical providers. Using this information, the company organizes and coordinates a custom team to develop a personalized treatment plan for the patient group. Trellus wants to provide medical services to patients who need the highest level of care for their mental health and chronic conditions.

This approach utilizes the company’s comprehensive resilience-based program equipped with a dedicated multidisciplinary care team, called Trellus Triad. The team is comprised of registered nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers, and psychologists, and they’re all available through telehealth using the TrellusElevate platform. The TrellusElevate platform seamlessly coordinates and communicates between the providers and the patients, and it monitors patients remotely.

Fayad says research has shown that patients who aren’t getting this form of coordinated holistic care face increased risks and reduced outcomes. For the IBD patient, the wellness journey takes many years and requires overcoming failed therapies, misdiagnoses, emergency room visits, surgeries, and high rates of opioid abuse, steroid misuse, depression, and anxiety. Patients are usually diagnosed during adolescence or early adulthood. According to Fayad, for patients working with the Trellus network of certified IBD experts, the typical patient journey gets reduced from years to days.

Leading the Charge In Positive Change

The New York City-based Susan and Leonard Feinstein IBD Clinical Center in the Mount Sinai healthcare system has been using Trellus’s clinical and behavioral approach for over five years. Trellus’s goal is to ultimately develop a technology platform that can scale this proven resilience-driven, connected approach to all chronic disease patients across the world. The platform allows insurers to improve their tracking and management of chronic disease patients, and even the providers are easier to reach on the Trellus platform, which increases patient satisfaction and engagement. The Trellus platform also allows patients to give access to their caretakers, family members, friends, and anyone else who is involved in their medical care.

Employers can onboard their employees onto the Trellus platform to reduce medical expenses and monthly costs generated by unplanned and inappropriate medical care, absenteeism, presenteeism, and high-cost drug therapies. Employees using the platform have experienced improved outcomes, quality of care, and quality of life.

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For medical providers, the Trellus platform works as collaborators for the provider’s staff. Trellus also providers medical providers with a free CME-accredited online program about the most up-to-date evidence-based guidelines and therapies for IBD patients. Trellus also educates providers about the importance of maintaining resilience and addressing behavioral health to significantly improve healthcare outcomes for IBD patients.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Fayad says that resilience is “a learned trait”. She says that resilience can be slowly weakened from social, physical, psychological, and environmental stressors, surroundings, and circumstances. Having to navigate a healthcare system that is reactive to sick patients, rather than one that focuses on managing and mitigating patients’ chronic conditions, has created a worsened patient experience. This deficiency has affected all patients involved, not just those with chronic conditions.

With a program that looks at the patient’s history and goals more holistically, the patient’s resilience and strength can be fortified over time. But this requires a proactive medical provider and healthcare system, which we are one step closer to achieving with platforms like Trellus’s.

Have you used telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic? What did you think of it? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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