Everything You Need to Know About Telehealth

Everything You Need to Know About Telehealth

If you hadn’t heard of telehealth before the coronavirus pandemic, you probably know about it now. Medical providers are trying to move as many of their appointments to virtual means as they can. While telehealth options have been around for years, this is the first time it’s been implemented on such a wide scale. Since many people want to know exactly what telehealth is and how it works, we answer all your telehealth FAQs. Ever wonder about security concerns and how providers diagnose symptoms like the coronavirus via video call? We’ve got you covered.

What types of telehealth are available?

There are three main types of telehealth interactions that you might have with your provider. They are:

  1. Live consultations, which are usually held over video conferencing.
  2. Asynchronous messaging, where you send your provider text or pictures and they respond as they are able.
  3. Remote monitoring, when the patient uses at-home devices to measure vitals such as blood glucose and then sends them to a provider for an examination.

A telehealth appointment usually refers to the first option, i.e. scheduling a video call with your provider (white lab coats and nursing scrubs not required), but your telehealth interactions will usually span all three categories.

Is telehealth secure?

Given all the privacy concerns surrounding technology, many people are understandably concerned about the security of their virtual visits. The security will vary depending on the service(s) that your provider uses. If your doctor is part of a larger hospital network, they may contract with a major telehealth provider or use a proprietary system, which should be more secure. Smaller practices may use more general-purpose virtual meeting software, such as Skype, which usually have looser privacy restrictions. Investigate the privacy policies of the services that your provider asks you to use, and you can also ask your provider about implementing security features such as encrypted data transmission.

Is telehealth covered by insurance?

This depends on your insurance, your provider, and the telehealth system they use. In general, telehealth services provided directly by a doctor or a hospital are more likely to be covered, though not always. Even if the virtual visit is covered by insurance, patients may still have a co-pay or another charge. If it’s not covered, patients can choose to pay out of pocket for the entire visit. Common per visit fees range from $50 to $80, while other platforms charge an annual membership fee.  If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, thanks to some recent changes, Medicare will cover telehealth services and Medicare Advantage plans may waive or reduce cost-sharing.

How can I find a telehealth provider?

If you already have a provider, check with them first to see if they have existing telehealth or upcoming telehealth options due to coronavirus. Depending on what insurance you have, you might also be able to filter your provider search on the insurance portal to only show providers that provide telehealth options. Some telehealth service websites, such as Teladoc Health and MD Live, will let you search for providers on their website. If you find doctors via the latter route, you’ll need to contact their offices to see if they accept your insurance before you make an appointment.

What are some advantages of telehealth?

Telehealth offers several benefits over regular appointments. For one, it protects both patients and providers from the transmission of germs (very important in the age of coronavirus). It also eliminates the need to secure transportation and elder or child care. Plus, it reduces the time spent in waiting rooms and on the road. Telehealth appointments save patients and providers money as well as time. They also give providers more flexibility to set their own schedules and schedule appointments when it’s most convenient for everybody involved.

What are some disadvantages of telehealth?

However, telehealth does have some drawbacks. Obviously, some visits simply need to be completed in person. Patients can’t just grab a stethoscope and listen to their own vitals. There can also be issues of access, as not everyone has a smartphone or laptop and a stable internet connection, which are necessary for video consultations. The inconsistency of insurance coverage for patients and reimbursement for providers can also cause headaches and complicate what would ordinarily be a simple visit.

Can I get a prescription via a telehealth appointment?

Yes, doctors can use telehealth to write or renew prescriptions. If you just need a refill on an existing prescription, you might be able to request it by messaging your doctor and eliminating the need to book and pay for an appointment. If it’s a new prescription, or you’re not sure what medication you need, you’ll probably need to book a quick appointment for a diagnosis. They’ll still have to call in the prescription at a local pharmacy, so you’ll have to venture out to pick it up or arrange to get it delivered.

Can coronavirus be diagnosed via a telehealth appointment?

Because the symptoms can vary so widely from patient to patient, and also overlap somewhat with those of other common infectious diseases (including the flu), the only way to confirm that you definitely have coronavirus is to get a test that involves taking a swab in person. However, you can use a telehealth appointment to discuss your symptoms with your doctors and determine whether you need a test or if you’re just suffering from allergies. In fact, many hospitals have set up a coronavirus hotline specifically for this purpose. Your doctors can also talk you through quarantine best practices and how to keep those around you safe.

If you need to talk to your doctor right now, odds are that you’ll be making your visit virtually via telehealth services. Keep these FAQs in mind to make sure that your visit is covered by insurance and your privacy is secure. Welcome to the future of medicine!

9 Benefits of Remote Health Care

9 Benefits of Remote Health Care

Telehealth has slowly been making inroads over the past couple of decades, and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has only escalated its adoption. Doctors have been told to hold every visit possible remotely in order to cut down on the chances of spreading the virus between patients and medical providers.

While in-person doctor’s visits have been the standard for generations, telehealth offers several benefits that in-person appointments simply can’t match. In fact, telehealth can reduce costs and barriers to access for both doctors and patients. If you’re new to the idea of telehealth, here are nine benefits that you need to know about remote health care.

For Patients

1. You don’t have to worry about transportation.

Getting to and from the doctor’s office can be a large barrier. Even people with reliable vehicles have to make arrangements with their households to use the car, as well as taking both travel time and gas into account. Patients who use public transportation or ride-sharing options have to account for many more unknowns, including unreliable transit schedules and routes that may not take them directly to the doctor’s office. By letting you stay in your home, telehealth visits make it easier to talk to your doctor and increase access to care.

2. You don’t have to find elder or child care.

For adults serving as primary caregivers, getting away from the house can be tough, even if they’re not officially employed. In that case, they have to arrange for their partner to stay home, or if that’s not possible, find or hire other people to watch their children or parents while they go to the doctor. This added expense and hassle serves as a barrier that keeps people from getting to the doctor’s office. Remote health appointments remove the need to find elder or child care for dependents, making it easier to virtually visit the doctor.

3. You’ll waste less time.

Time is a major consideration in scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments. You have to factor in not only the length of the appointment itself, but also transportation time and time spent in the waiting room. Between everything, many patients must sacrifice two or three hours of their day just to talk with their doctor for 15 minutes (or less!). Some people simply can’t get that much time off of work, which makes them reluctant to visit the doctor. Remote appointments eliminate transportation time and significantly reduce delays as well. No more wasting an hour in the waiting room while the minutes tick past your appointed time.

4. It reduces your chances of catching an illness.

We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a waiting room during cold and flu season, listening to other patients around us coughing and coughing and coughing. Simply due to the concentration of sick people, in-person doctor’s offices increase the odds of spreading germs. Plus, if you’re already visiting the doctor because you’re sick, your compromised immune system can make you more vulnerable to picking up more germs. Taking appointments from the comfort of your own home keeps you safe and prevents you from spreading any potentially contagious illness to other people.

5. It’s increasingly covered by insurance.

More and more insurance companies are covering telehealth visits, and as the cascading effects of coronavirus encourage more processes to move online, this trend will only continue in the future. While once considered a luxury, remote doctor visits will soon become as mundane as visiting a typical office for both you and your insurance company.

For Providers

6. You can see more patients.

Because of the increased efficiencies and reduced downtime between appointments, telehealth systems allow you to see more patients that you otherwise would not. Some physicians also use the time they would have spent commuting to extend their office hours, letting them see even more patients. For example, some patients who can’t get off work during the day might be able to hop on a call with you at night for half an hour. (And none of them will know if you’re wearing pajama pants under your white lab coat.)

7. You don’t have to leave your house.

Many of the same benefits that apply to patients are also a boon to physicians. Staying at home eliminates health care providers’ commutes, which saves time and money that they can use to see more patients. Telehealth doesn’t just limit patients’ exposure to germs. It also limits physicians’ exposure, which keeps them healthy and eliminates the chance that they might carry germs between patients. Finally, telehealth visits can ease the burden on physicians and their families who are also caring for children or relatives at home.

8. It reduces costs.

By increasing the number of patients and decreasing overhead expenses, telehealth visits save money. These savings are especially important for physicians who own their own practices instead of working for a big hospital. While you might need to initially invest in setting up or subscribing to a secure telehealth system, remote visits will quickly pay for themselves as they become more popular. In fact, telehealth might actually open new opportunities to bill for activities that were previously uncompensated, such as follow up phone calls.

9. It improves patient engagement and reduces no-shows.

A doctor’s primary goal is to improve patient outcomes, and telehealth can accomplish this on several levels. Unfortunately, the patients most in need of doctor visits are often the ones who struggle the most with getting time off work, finding elder or child care and securing reliable transportation to and from the doctor’s office. Telehealth can help break down these barriers and result in a wide variety of benefits like reducing no-shows and diverting unnecessary visits to the ER. Ultimately, all these benefits ease the strain on the whole health care system.

Now, don’t hang up your nursing scrubs quite yet. There will always be a need for in-person doctors’ visits. But incorporating a telehealth option into your practice can benefit both you and your patients greatly.

What You Need to Know About Kate Middleton’s Nursing Now 2020 Campaign

What You Need to Know About Kate Middleton’s Nursing Now 2020 Campaign

Though well into her final trimester, Kate Middleton hasn’t let the impending birth of her third child stop her from attending royal engagements. At the very end of February 2018, the Duchess of Cambridge visited the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and St. Thomas’s Hospital in London. While there, Kate Middleton ran into the midwife who helped deliver her daughter Princess Charlotte, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, and the two shared a warm embrace.

But Middleton didn’t make the visit just to be reunited with her former midwife: She was there to become the second patron of the Royal College and to officially announce the Nursing Now 2020 campaign, which aims to raise the profile and status of nursing worldwide. As the name suggests, the three-year campaign is scheduled to last until 2020, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

“This campaign means a lot to me personally. My great-grandmother and grandmother were both volunteer nurses,” Middleton said in a speech she gave the campaign launch. “They would have learned first-hand from working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment and the Red Cross about the care and compassion that sometimes only nurses can provide.”

Find out everything you need to know about the Nursing Now 2020 campaign below.

Critical Roles Played by Nurses

Nurses are the heart of most health care teams, caring for patients from their first breaths to their last, helping with everything from checking blood pressure to offering diagnoses to administering shots and painkillers. “Nurses are always there. You care for us from the earliest years. You look after us in our happiest and saddest times. And for many, you look after us and our families at the end of our lives,” Middleton said. “Your dedication and professionalism are awe-inspiring.”

As the Duchess of Cambridge went on to point out in her speech, sometimes nurses may be the only health care provider readily accessible in certain areas of the world, which is why it’s extremely important that enough nurses be trained and placed in the coming years. “In some parts of the world, nurses are perhaps the only qualified health care professionals in their communities, so your work is all the more vital,” she said.

Coming Shortage of Nurses

According to Middleton’s speech, 9 million more nurses will need to be trained by 2030 to meet the rising demands worldwide, which works out to about 2,000 more nurses each day for the next 12 years. Nursing Now 2020 hopes to start filling that gap by increasing the profile of nursing roles and raising awareness about becoming a nurse. Indeed, the nursing shortage has been deemed a global crisis since 2002, but the recruiting and retention of nurses hasn’t been able to keep up with the health care demands of a growing population.

Five Campaign Goals

To help increase the number of nurses, and to support nurses already working in the field, the Nursing Now website lists five main goals that the initiative hopes to achieve by 2020. They are:

  1. Greater investment in improving education, professional development, standards, regulation and employment conditions for nurses.
  2. Increased and improved dissemination of effective and innovative practice in nursing.
  3. Greater influence for nurses and midwives on global and national health policy, as part of broader efforts to ensure health workforces are more involved in decision-making.
  4. More nurses in leadership positions and more opportunities for development at all levels.
  5. More evidence for policy and decision makers about: where nursing can have the greatest impact, what is stopping nurses from reaching their full potential and how to address these obstacles.

Basis for the Initiative

The goals and methods of the Nursing Now movement are based on a Triple Impact report, which was released by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health in October 2016. The report found that empowering nurses would not just improve health globally, but also build strong economies and promote gender equality (as the vast majority of nurses are still women). These three results combine to form the triple impact that nurses could potentially have. “The nursing contribution is unique because of its scale and the range of roles nurses play,” the report said.

Organizations Behind the Movement

Kate Middleton may be the most recognizable public face of the Nursing Now campaign, but two major health organizations are behind the campaigns: the International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization. The International Council of Nurses represents millions of nurses worldwide, and seeks to represent them, advance the profession, and influence health policy. The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that seeks to address international health policy. The campaign is also supported by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, an independent charitable trust that helps fund nurse-led projects.

A Global Campaign

The Nursing Now Campaign Board includes both nurses and non-nurses from 16 different countries to represent a truly international group. Official launch events were held in London (where Middleton spoke) as well as Geneva. Various international nursing associations also hosted their own launch events, with locations including Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa, Taiwan, and Macao.

Ways to Get Involved

Beyond advocating for nurses and nursing, individuals who wish to support the campaign can sign the Nursing Now pledge and share the social media kit on various platforms. If there is no existing Nursing Now group in their area, nurses and non-nurses may band together to form their own group, though the process is lengthy to ensure participants are committed.

Whether you live in a developing country or an advanced health care economy, the coming nursing shortage will affect the entire globe, and is being felt in some places already. Through its five goals, Nursing Now hopes to help meet that need by recruiting new nurses and empowering existing ones through greater leadership opportunities and better policy decisions. To learn more about Nursing Now 2020, visit the campaign website.

Nursing School in the U.S.: What International Students Should Know

Nursing School in the U.S.: What International Students Should Know

With their state-of-the-art medical technologies and outstanding nursing programs, the United States has long been one of the most desirable destinations for international nursing students to enroll. As an international nursing student studying in the U.S., you’ll have the opportunity to receive a top-notch education that provides hands-on experience under the guidance of world-class nurse faculty members.

But before you can begin learning from leading experts in the field, there are a few important things that all international nursing students should know. Below, you can find out the crucial skills you need before enrolling in a U.S. nursing school, and how to set yourself up for career success.

1. Strong English skills are a must.

One of the most frequently asked questions of any international nursing student is, “Do I need to have good English to succeed in my program?” To put it simply: Yes, you need to have a good grasp of the English language to enroll in a U.S. nursing school.

Most nursing school programs will require you to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to ensure that you understand the language well enough to complete the coursework. This is true whether you’re a first-year nursing student or an experienced RN enrolling in graduate-level studies in the United States.

2. You need to complete prerequisite coursework first.

Before you can apply to nursing schools in the United States, you need to show proof that you have completed the necessary prerequisites for the program. International nursing students must fulfill these prerequisites in order to obtain an F-1 visa, which allows you to take up foreign residence in the United States for the duration of your program.

Once you’re accepted into a nursing program, your school admissions office will issue you an I-20 application form. The next step is to fill out this form and take it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where you will pay a fee to submit your application for a student visa.

3. Take advantage of scholarships and financial aid programs.

Even for in-state students, the cost of nursing school in the U.S. can be steep. In-state nursing students can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000-$8,000 per year, depending on the type of education, location and the type of school (i.e., public vs. private).

As an international nursing student, you can expect to pay more than an in-state American student. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of housing, food, and all the basic nursing supplies you’ll need for nursing school. To help ease the financial strain, be sure to apply for financial aid and scholarships that are available to international nursing students. You can find out which financial aid opportunities are available to you by getting in touch with the admissions office of any nursing school you’re considering.

4. Buy everything you need in advance.

Studying in the United States for the first time can be overwhelming. With so much to take in, it’s easy to forget all the supplies you need before your first day.

Depending on when you arrive, you’ll want to figure out which medical supplies for nursing students in advance and order them sooner rather than later. This includes at least a few sets of scrubs, a good pair of slip resistant shoes and compression socks, note-taking supplies, a stethoscope, and a clipboard, just to name a few.

5. Study groups are key to your success.

Though you may prefer to study solo, don’t immediately dismiss the idea of joining a study group. As an international student, being part of a study group can make all the difference in your success. Studying in a group can help you retain more information from class, improve your test scores, and provide you with moral support from your fellow classmates. Additionally, working with a group builds teamwork and social skills, which are highly valued in the field of nursing.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Nursing school is challenging even for those who are accustomed to U.S. teaching styles. If you’re struggling to keep up with the coursework or to understand a certain concept, don’t hesitate to reach out to your nurse educators. After all, they were once nursing students as well and have been in your shoes.

Though they may not know the exact challenges of being an international nursing student, they can help make your life a lot easier in several ways. Be sure to make use of their office hours and let them know what you’re struggling with. They may post their lecture slides online to help you study or work with you one-on-one to help you better understand the lesson.

7. Get comfortable with NCLEX-style testing.

Don’t wait to begin preparing for the NCLEX test. Instead, start studying for it while you’re enrolled in nursing school. This challenging test—which is required to become a nurse in the United States—can throw many students off with its different styles of questions. The format ranges from multiple-choice, order response, calculation questions, and select-all-that-apply questions, which can take some getting used to.

Fortunately, there are ways for international nursing students to prepare for the NCLEX test early. In addition to challenging yourself with a daily NCLEX-style question, you can also invest in practice resources offered by Kaplan, NRSNG and UWorld.

Being an international nursing student can be challenging. On top of social and cultural barriers, you’re also faced with undergoing a rigorous program that will put your skills to the test. Don’t let this dissuade you from pursuing your dream of studying nursing in the United States. By keeping the above things in mind, you can ace your nursing school program and go on to become a successful nurse.

7 Tips for Nurses with Disabilities Going Back to Work

7 Tips for Nurses with Disabilities Going Back to Work

Going back to work after a disability can be tough for anyone, and especially for nurses whose jobs are incredibly demanding. Returning to work can seem like an insurmountable obstacle on bad days, but don’t think about hanging up your stethoscope quite yet. There are plenty of legal and social resources for you to fall back on if you’re a nurse with a disability. Read on to  discover seven strategies for nurses with disabilities who wish to return to work.

1. Know the Americans with Disabilities Act well.

Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in a variety of settings, including jobs, schools, and transportation. (Additional amendments went into effect in 2009.) Many different conditions may qualify as a disability if they significantly impair your ability to engage in one or more major life activities. Categories of disabilities include neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, immune, circulatory, lymphatic, skin, endocrine and more. In the U.S., the ADA is the single most important law for dictating how employers can treat employees during and after the hiring process, so study up on the ADA and get intimately familiar with what it means for you.

2. Learn your employer’s benefits package.

Beyond the ADA, your employer might also have certain benefits or protections that are relevant to employees with disabilities. For starters, see if your employer offers any short-term or long-term disability insurance. Your employer might also provide Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or stay-or-work or return-to-work policies in the context of employees with disabilities. If you have questions about what your employer does and does not provide, the HR department should be able to answer your questions. If you need accommodations in the workplace as a result of your disability, such as the use of a wheelchair, you’ll also need to discuss that with HR (they have a responsibility to work with you on accommodations under the ADA).

3. Seek out other nurses with disabilities.

No one will be able to understand your challenges quite like another nurse with disabilities. Even if they have a different disability from you, they’ll still be able to empathize about issues such as working with an employer to get necessary accommodations or understanding the ins and outs of the ADA. Ideally, you’ll be able to find an experienced nurse or two who can serve as a mentor and help guide you through the transition of returning to work with a disability. Even if the nurses aren’t experienced enough to serve as your mentors, you will still benefit greatly from building connections with others who know what you’re going through.

4. Build a support network for yourself.

Your connections shouldn’t stop with other nurses with disabilities. Other nurses, especially your immediate coworkers, can be a huge help as you transition back to your job. Of course, this depends on how supportive your company culture is, but your coworkers might be able to help you brainstorm small changes that you all can make together to make your return to work more seamless. (And if you need any accommodations or other changes, you’ll need to discuss them with your supervisor for sure.) If you have a spouse, partner or roommate, they can also help you with non-work tasks—like cooking and cleaning—to make your return to work less stressful as well.

5. Keep your license and certifications up to date.

State boards vary in terms of what certifications they require from disabled nurses, so look up your state’s guidelines and make sure that you’re in compliance with them. Wherever you leave and whatever the state requirements are, make sure that you renew your nursing license while you’re on active duty and that you keep up with any and all continuing education requirements. Keep in mind that sometimes additional training or refresher workshops may be necessary before you can renew your nursing license. Keeping your license current is important because you don’t want anything to jeopardize your standing with your employer and everything that goes with it (insurance, paycheck, etc.).

6. Get involved in professional organizations.

There are many professional organizations available for nurses, including the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND), which works to promote equality for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions in nursing through education and advocacy. Beyond NOND, there are plenty of other associations for just about every nursing specialty and issue available, so there’s bound to be something that connects with your interests. Participating in these organizations will help you build your network and advocate for nurses with disabilities within the profession. This network will be critical if you decide that you need to make a career change because of your disability (see the next tip).

7. Explore new specialties to find your niche.

No matter how accommodating your employer is, after returning to work with a disability, you might decide that it’s in your best interest to make a career change. If that describes your situation, start exploring other options. Perhaps you can find a job where you don’t have to be on your feet as much, or you can transition to a lower-stress unit that won’t cause your symptoms to flare as often. Reach out to your fellow nurses, especially those who also have disabilities, and ask them about the pros and cons of their positions and how accommodating their employers are. If you don’t feel like you have the right experience to make the career change you want, you can also consider going back to school for additional certifications or even an advanced degree to help you make the leap.

Putting on your scrubs and returning to nursing work after a disability can be daunting, but thankfully there are resources available for nurses in this exact situation. Do as much research as you can about the ADA and your employer’s policies, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice if you need it. Plenty of nurses with disabilities do meaningful work and take care of their patients very successfully, and even if you need accommodations, we know you can do the same.