When the “New Normal” is virtual care, how do we get everyone on the same page?

Being the caregiver of an aging parent involves what can seem like a never-ending series of tasks: scheduling and attending physician visits, arranging support for daily needs, managing medications, and keeping track of medical records. This is not easy under even ideal circumstances, and current circumstances are far from ideal. With the COVID epidemic raging, supporting aging parents with complex care needs is even harder. Around the country, in-office care has ground to a standstill; generally, only patients with urgent needs can still visit medical practices. Care for seniors is shifting to a greater emphasis on virtual visits.

In many cases, both patients and clinicians have welcomed this shift to telemedicine. Patients enjoy the convenience of being seen virtually and feel safer if they can skip a physical visit. Many physicians have adjusted to virtual care, realizing they can be effective when remote. It is likely that even as the COVID crisis subsides, virtual care will account for a much higher share of medical services going forward. We’re not going back to “analog-only” care.

But virtual care can present its own set of challenges, especially when adult children cannot be physically present with their parents or with each other. And these challenges are compounded for seniors with complex needs who are receiving care from multiple remote clinicians who do not know their medical history.

So, how can we help the senior and their care team get the most from the virtual visit, despite our current social distancing practices?

One strategy is to gather all of a senior’s medical history in one place that is easy to share among family and care team members. Luckily, there is a trusted, innovative way to do this called Blue Button. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Blue Button initiative to provide subscribers with the option of making their personal Medicare medical records fully portable and easily accessible, regardless of where and when care was delivered. Blue Button enables transfer, but it depends on intermediaries to translate this massive stream of data into understandable information.

At Health Data Analytics Institute (HDAI), we are building on our existing Blue Button integration to make virtual visits easier and more productive, especially for seniors with complex medical needs who are seeing new providers. We are achieving this by building a secure app that will generate a clean summary of a patient’s past medical history. The Medicare subscriber, as well as their trusted clinician or family member, will be able to quickly understand what a patient’s greatest risks are, where and when they were seen and for what, what medications the patient is taking, and what providers he or she has seen. Clinicians viewing the app will be able to spend less time hunting for information and more time focused on making clinical decisions and supporting their patients. HDAI is working to release this app to the general public, without charge, during this challenging time. Stay tuned.