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Telemedicine: Helping those with Asthma

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Message From the Author: As someone living with asthma since I was a toddler, I know and understand the struggles of this respiratory condition. Telemedicine as a means of getting my necessary prescriptions and follow ups with my Asthma specialist alleviates the pain points I am currently dealing with. In my opinion, televisits have the power to make it easier to live with asthma.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects your breathing by obstructing air from coming in and out due to inflammation in the lungs.  While your airways are always inflamed with asthma, the already sensitive lungs tend to flare up at certain triggers. Triggers can include physical activities like exercise and occupational triggers like inhaling fumes, gases, etc. but also involuntary conditions such as allergies, changes in weather, smoke, and pollution.

Those suffering with asthma experience stress and discomfort associated with this issue on a daily basis. This chronic lung disease obstructs normal physical and outdoor activities, can negatively affect school and work participation, interrupts sleep, raises health care costs and complicates tasks that are usually apart of everyday life.

Once asthma is triggered, your airways swell and narrow with an overabundance of mucus, making it extremely difficult to breathe. Symptoms for asthma can range from mild to intense including: shortness of breath, chest tightness, chronic coughing, and wheezing. Milder symptoms can typically go away on their own or with minimal treatment. However, as triggers continue to irritate the airways, symptoms can worsen. Intense symptoms have the ability to inhibit common, everyday activities and can potentially lead to an asthma attack and hospitalization.

Asthma has the power to severely impact one’s life, unless treated properly. Prescription medication is key when treating the respiratory condition. The right avenue for treatment should answer the importance of receiving treatment early and be as accessible as possible.

Problem: How is Asthma affecting the U.S

Asthma is surprisingly common.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.4 million adults and 6.2 million children in the U.S. suffer with this respiratory condition. The report indicates that 1 in 12 adults and 1 in 10 school-aged children are affected. As a chronic respiratory condition, a patient can only manage symptoms not necessarily cure it. However, if managed and treated effectively, people with asthma can live a fulfilling life.

Common Treatments

Treatments for asthma range according to the severity of symptoms; what may work for mild inflammation may not work for a severe inflammation. This is why a strong doctor-patient relationship is necessary for a more accurate diagnosis.

Treatments include:

  • Rescue inhalers (Usually albuterol) for flare ups: Relax tight muscles around your airways; Should be carried on person at all times.
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids (taken daily for long-term control): Relieve the inflammation and swelling of your airways by triggers.
  • Steroids (to prevent symptoms from worsening)

Most individuals suffering from asthma know what to expect and what to do in case of a flare up or asthma attack. However, they are usually met with a high level of inconvenience. Receiving the necessary prescriptions and treatment usually requires an on-site doctor’s visit. And because asthma affects your breathing, follow-ups and frequent breathing tests can be expected. Whether a primary care doctor or specialist, visits are typically expensive for patients. Asthma related appointments and medications cost a patient about $3,259 per year; And that figure does not account for lost wages for taking off of work or even missed classes for students.

 

Telemedicine as Treatment

Issues surrounding cost and inconvenience for asthmatics may be addressed with the advent of telemedicine. Notwithstanding the digital health innovations that are marketing for consumers, a simple video visit that could yield a prescription would relieve much of the stress.

Televisits are a great solution for treating patients with asthma, because they are cost effective, eliminate travel, and provide doctors with the opportunity to reach more patients. According to this Allergy and Immunology report, there were an average of 4,446 Allergy & Immunology physicians for every 100,000 people. Meaning that there is a disconnect for those who need treatment and those who treat the condition. So, for patients who don’t have insurance or live in a rural or low income area, it is extremely expensive and challenging for them to receive treatment. And asthma is not a condition that should be left untreated.

In addition to increasing access, televisits add convenience despite living with asthma. In many cases, the patient just needs a refill on their rescue inhaler or inhaled corticosteroids. So instead of taking off of work and traveling to a specialist, telemedicine solutions could help those suffering with getting their treatment fast and hassle free. Specifically, televisits would provide the opportunity for a quick check in with the doctor, refill on necessary prescriptions and if necessary, a great way to perform a follow up. Patients should not have to go through the regular appointment process, just to be told that their prescribed medication is doing its job.

Televisits have proven to maintain the quality of care, while also increasing access and convenience for those who are out of reach of specialists. By using televisits, patients are able to schedule an appointment, see their doctor, receive the proper medicine for their symptoms, all from the comfort of their home or office. Also, if the relationship with the specialist is already established, televisits make it quicker and effortless for a patient to receive proper treatment and lessen the amount of sick days they need to take.

 

Conclusion

Asthma is a significant problem in the United States and is worthy of more attention and innovation in treatment cost reduction and convenience. Advancements in telemedicine are a sensible solution to address the millions of Americans dealing with asthma on a daily basis. Televists cut costs and sick days for patients and allow providers to care for more people. The pros for its use definitely outweigh the cons, and, this is a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved. It is expected that more asthma specialists will adopt telemedicine treatment solutions for their patients.

 

About Simple Visit

SimpleVisit is a video service which allows patients and providers to connect over the video platform of their choice. With SimpleVisit providers are able to deliver on-demand visits to patients over any device or platform they have available to them. For more information on SimpleVisit and on how we are enabling providers to host virtual visits check out www.SimpleVisit.com

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