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Health care is changing to meet seniors’ needs

Jeremy Chrisman, DO

The way Clark County seniors receive health care is evolving—and the pandemic is only serving to accelerate the pace of change. Video visits are now common. Clinics are developing new ways of serving adults with complex needs. And health insurance preferences look different, too.

It’s particularly valuable for seniors to understand what’s new and what their options are so they can keep themselves safe and healthy.

Video visits

One of the biggest changes we’re seeing is how many seniors are opting for video visits. Patients can stay home and visit with their doctor via a tablet, phone, or laptop with a video camera. Nationally, 43 percent of Medicare primary care visits were provided by video during April, according to Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most providers in Clark County now offer this type of modern house call. Vancouver Clinic started offering video visits during the early days of the pandemic and continues to make them available. Video visits have a number of benefits:

  • They allow doctors and patients to connect when it’s difficult or uncomfortable for a patient to leave the house.
  • They encourage more frequent check-ins, which can promote better health.
  • They reduce stress for individuals who are afraid of coronavirus exposure.

Video visits are covered by Medicare and Medicare Advantage. They can also help some patients save money because many insurance carriers are waiving fees.

However, it’s important to remember that video isn’t the only means of connecting with a doctor. Most health care providers allow patients to message their doctor with questions, request prescription refills, receive test results, and book appointments online. Vancouver Clinic does this through MyChart.

New care approaches

Of course seniors also need to receive in-person care, and that can look different than it used to. Neighborhood Clinics Together with Humana launched at Vancouver Plaza in 2019 and is expanding with a new location at Evergreen Place, opening in November 2020. These two Vancouver Clinic locations offer a new way of delivering care to adults living with chronic conditions or complex medical needs.

Patients enjoy longer visits with their doctor and expanded support. A social worker, dietitian, and resource specialist (provided through the Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities of Southwest Washington) are available to provide insight and to connect patients with resources. With extra care and services, patients with chronic conditions can feel their best every day.

When the coronavirus is no longer a public health threat, exercise classes, art therapy classes, and health education sessions will resume, and the community space used for board games, puzzles, reading, and events will reopen.

Different plans to pick

Another trend among seniors is a shift to Medicare Advantage as their health plan of choice. Medicare Advantage is a type of health plan coverage that is offered by private companies who contract with Medicare to provide everything that Medicare offers, plus additional services.

The annual enrollment period for Medicare Advantage is October 15–December 7. This year, many plans and insurance brokers are offering free online seminars to get questions answered from the comfort of home. Learn more at: tvc.org/ma. Seniors can also contact an independent broker to help them decide on the right plan for them. Two local brokers are Hargrove Financial (360-326-0805) and Medicare Help Now (866-353-0920).

Looking forward

The health care landscape is always changing. When those changes are making care easier and more effective for seniors, that’s something that all doctors can celebrate.

Chief Transformation Officer Dr. Jeremy Chrisman oversees Vancouver Clinic’s population health program and manages the expansion of the organization’s neighborhood clinics, which serve adults with complicated health conditions. As a family medicine physician, Dr. Chrisman cares for older adults in a facility setting. He finds it rewarding to be able to help people navigate life-changing situations.