In May, after seeing a significant number of seniors turn to virtual care during the pandemic, Doctor On Demand expanded its telehealth services to Medicare Part B beneficiaries. Now, the company is taking another step to provide for older patients through a partnership with in-home care company CareLinx.
CareLinx currently has 400,000 caregivers that it dispatches to patients’ homes. Now, they will be able to refer them to a virtual visit, if needed.
Doctor On Demand President Robin Glass said CareLinx reached out after the pandemic hit because they were looking for ways to provide more services to their users. CareLinx plans to offer free virtual visits to a targeted group of patients who could benefit from more clinical care, and market the service more broadly to the rest of its users.
“We can be a conduit to have these kinds of clinical interactions,” CareLinx CEO Sherwin Sheik said in a call. “I actually believe this is what the future of healthcare is going to be more like.”
Patients can use the telehealth service to deal with a pressing concern, such as cold or flu symptoms, or they can schedule repeated visits with a physician to talk about an ongoing chronic condition, such as asthma or high blood pressure. Caregivers can also help set up virtual visits, or drive patients in if they need lab work.
Despite predictions of the contrary, seniors were quick adopters of telehealth at the beginning of the pandemic, with older patients facing a higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19. In March, Doctor On Demand saw a 154% increase in people using its services over age 65, the biggest growth across any age group.
“We’re definitely seeing that there are a lot of seniors out there who are understandably reluctant to go into in-person care settings,” Glass said. “We are addressing some Covid-related questions and seeing some patients who believe they might have Covid or have some specific concerns related to it.”
In the early days of the pandemic, Sheik said his company saw a surge in demand for in-home care, as families worried about the novel coronavirus opted not to send loved ones to nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
In April and May, when people were spending more time at home, some saw an opportunity to care for their older parents. But with virtual school in some districts, and some offices reopening, demand for in-home care is surging again.
“The likelihood is there’s going to be another big pain point with Covid in the winter,” Sheik said. “This program, this partnership is going to become critically important again as they’re foregoing elective procedures or things that are not emergent.”
With Covid-19 cases increasing, the holidays approaching, and the possibility of a vaccine next spring, both companies expect to be busy during the long winter months. In particular, Glass expects to see more need for mental health services.
“It’s typically a time when we see a lot of demand for mental health services,” she said. “Compound that with these issues of social isolation, it’s shaping up to be a busy season for us.”