RALEIGH –  Medicare announced Tuesday it is immediately expanding coverage of telemedicine costs nationwide to help seniors with health problems stay home to avoid the coronavirus.

The option will help seniors heed public health advice to stay home.

“It helps us prevent the spread of the virus,” said Medicare administrator Seema Verma. “If it’s your mom, you may need to go over to her house to help her do this,” she added.

What is telemedicine and how can it coupled with such tools as artificial intelligence help combat the virus?

Stephen Hyduchak, a former executive with life science firm PRA Health in Raleigh, is CEO of Aver, a startup focusing on blockchain, identiy verification and the use of artificial intelligence. He recently published a blog about the potential of using new and advanced technology in the struggle against coronavirus.

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“The Health Resources Services Administration defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration,” he wrote.

“Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.

“These are things like a Skype, Zoom, GoTo video-call with your general doctor. Instead of waiting in a hospital or medical office, a patient gets matched after answering some general questions with minimal wait times. These services are cheaper for the health providers and bring time/cost savings to the consumer.”

In fighting the virus, Hyduchak noted that “So far, closure and self-quarantine is one of the most powerful tools to contain the spread.

“People are voluntarily self-quarantining; but when they call their general doctor, they are told to call the CDC, when they call the CDC, they are told to call their doctor.

“All these steps are literally increasing the risk of exposure to others. But, with telehealth services, a patient can see a doctor in isolation from their smart devices. Telehealth is an ideal plaform for an outbreak like this.”

“Telemedicine can also increase access to care. It can offer care that is commensurate with the acuity and nature of the symptoms and make referrals as needed. This helps with infection prevention and control. This also allows patients to receive care in their home without exposing themselves to further illness.”

Other key points made by Hyduchak:

  • Identification via tech

With identity verification services like Aver, healthcare ID cards can even be verified to allow doctors to issue prescriptions remotely.

  • Aritificial Intelligence in the fight

Telemedicine is a powerful tool in itself. But, chatbots that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) are another promising tool to aid in learning new diseases. These technologies allow algorithms to be created and adjusted as more is learned about the coronavirus. These bots interact with patients and can perform assessments, triage and ongoing support. The bots can even escalate an interaction to a telehealth provider or refer the patient for in-person care.

Pairing these technologies with our devices to monitor sleep and heart health is truly shaping healthcare; reducing exposure rates and offering on-demand treatment and support.

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