On Telehealth: As COVID patients overcrowd hospitals, those with other medical issues wait for care

As Seen in the Houston Chronicle

Belmont Village Senior Living launched its telehealth service at 11 of our communities in 2021. Read the story below, written by Rebecca Carballo, to hear how it’s enhanced the care our residents receive.

Triage and Solutions

Anyone who thinks they need urgent medical attention should seek care, Pile said. He recommended calling 911 and describing their symptoms to the paramedics who can determine if they need hospital level of care.

Other medical experts, like Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, recommend telemedicine.

“Patients have definitely held off on routine screenings and seeking medical care to limit their exposure,” Weatherhead said. “One thing that is being done is telemedicine. It ensures that patients are able to be in contact with their provider.”

Danielle Rushing, 51, of Hunters Creek, has found telehealth helpful when deciding whether to send her 76-year-old mother to the hospital.

Her mother stays at Belmont Village Senior Living, which started using a telehealth platform specialized for urgent care since the onset of the pandemic, leading to an 85 percent drop in emergency room visits among residents.

Rushing said she used the platform four times, and its helped her determine when it’s necessary to take her mother to the emergency room. After a bad fall, doctors determined it was necessary to go to the emergency room. But the screening did save her at least one emergency room trip: When Rushing’s mother experienced stomach issues and lost her appetite, Rushing grew concerned she had a UTI and took her to the hospital.

As the symptoms persisted she wondered if she’d have to take her again. Together, Rushing and her mother decided to use the telehealth program again. In addition to the standard video chat with a health professional, the teleheath apparatus included machines to capture the patient’s vitals and other medical equipment.

“They ran the test and assured me that she didn’t have to go to the ER again,” Rushing said, “And that to put her in the ER again during COVID when there are (limited) hospital beds available would be very distressing for her.”

Eventually, COVID cases will be low enough where people like Rushing and Paz won’t have to debate whether to send loved ones to the emergency rooms, Persse said. In the mean time, people need to get vaccinated so the health care system won’t be flooded with COVID cases, he said.

“We clearly failed at that because hospitals are completely overwhelmed,” Persse said. “This impacts not only patients who have COVID but all the patients who have any other medical problems for which they would need emergent care.”

Read the complete article on HoustonChronicle.com.