And what primary care providers can do to mitigate
The coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges for primary care providers. While policies to bring about mass social distancing may have slowed viral spread, they come with tangential health consequences.
Primary care providers are uniquely positioned to mitigate the collateral damage from the lockdowns by addressing the biggest health risks that are affecting patient’s overall health and wellbeing.
Below are 5 negative health consequences from the lockdown with some suggested tools for primary care providers to address them:
1 – Weight Gain
One of the worst long-term health consequences from the pandemic has been weight gain. Terms like “Quarantine 15” and “Covid Curves” have become popular parlance to describe the phenomenon.
According the The Center for Epigenetic Counseling, 76% of Americans have gained weight during the pandemic, with an average weight gain of 16 pounds!
This is possibly the worst consequence of the pandemic as it has both short and long-term health ramifications.
Obesity increases patients with COVID-19 chances for serious complications, in addition to the long-term consequences for nearly every system of the body.
One tool that many primary care providers are utilizing to fight this trend is offering Medical Weight Loss Counseling through a telehealth platform.
Patient compliance has always been the biggest impediment to success with weight loss programs for most doctors. However, CMS and private insurers now cover up to 24 weight loss counseling sessions per year for patients who are overweight or obese through telehealth.
Medical weight loss through CMWL has been proven to be effective, with patients losing an average of 11% of their body weight in the first 12 weeks, and a sustained average of 12% over a 24-month period.
The program uses a proven process to identify risk and provide a treatment plan, with over 40 preset modules to customize counseling to the unique needs of each patient.
2 – Stress & Anxiety
COVID-19 not only causes physical health concerns but also results in numerous psychological disorders.
One recent survey found that one in four (24%) adults ages 65 and older reported anxiety or depression in August 2020, a rate which has been relatively constant since the pandemic started in March, substantially higher than the one in 10 (11%) older adults with Medicare who reported depression or anxiety in 2018.
The large majority of Americans with behavioral health conditions receive their behavioral health care exclusively from primary care providers, consequently only one-third of patients with behavioral health conditions report receiving the care they need.
CMS offers Behavioral Health Integration as a covered service for recipients if their primary care provider offers a Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model, which is a set of integrated behavioral health services that includes care planning for behavioral health conditions, ongoing assessment of the condition, medication support, counseling, or other recommended treatments.
Platforms like Mass Care and Precision VBM make it easy for primary care practices to easily integrate BHI and other preventive services by identifying medical necessity for eligible patients and generating a provider summary containing a superbill with supporting documentation.
Management of these systems can be done in-house or outsourced to a Clinical Call Center.
3 – Addiction/Overdose
According to the AMA, the nation’s opioid crisis has become much more deadly, with 40 States reporting increases in opioid-related mortality since the start of the pandemic.
Many patients take opioids to treat chronic pain, which no doubt has been exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle.
For many conditions, there are alternatives to opioids that a primary care provider can offer patients to mitigate this problem.
PEMF Therapy is utilized for the treatment of soft tissue and pain mitigation, clinically shown in recent studies to produce a 3-fold decrease in post-operative pain and a 2.2-fold reduction in narcotics consumption.
This System has been engineered for use on all major body parts such as cervical, shoulder, back, wrist, elbow, knee, and ankle. It is a non-narcotic, non-opiate, non-pharmacological pain relief alternative, cleared by the FDA as a Class II device, proven to restore blood flow, enhance revascularization of tissue and provide pain relief while initiating the body’s natural healing process
PEMF devices are an extremely cost-effective way to mitigate the risk from opioid dependency.
Microcirculation & Thermotherapy
The Avacen microcirculation and thermotherapy device is clinically-proven to reduce pain and improve mobility.
This patented device infuses heat into the circulatory system using the arteriovenous anastomosis (AVAs) in the palm of your hand. This action reduces the viscosity of the blood where it rapidly circulates throughout the body, enhancing oxygen delivery and decreasing inflammation.
This non-invasive device is used in the home and can be shared by multiple people, and is most commonly used to treat arthritis, sprains, strains, stiffness, and chronic pain.
CBD has exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason.
CBD’s effectiveness is due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (specifically the CB1 and CB2 receptors), a newly discovered regulatory network that boosts both the neurological and immune systems, and can be found in all mammals, including humans.
Although there is already a tremendous amount of anecdotal information about CBD, there are thousands of studies going on at universities, major health organizations and the highest levels of the government to research the full potential health benefits. Some of the areas being researched are CBD’s potential to assist in: pain relief (reduce overall pain, decrease joint pain) overall health (enhance the symbiotic immune system, reduce inflammation in the body, help short-term sleeping problems, strengthen bones throughout the body), brain function (alleviate opioid addiction, relieve anxiety and depression, help the function of nerve cells, improve overall daily mood), and as a digestive aid (stimulate appetite control, reduce nausea and vomiting)
Not all CBD products are equal. Companies like Hilltop Meds and Doc Patel’s CBD are not only certified by third-party labs, but they specialize in working with medical practices as distributors.
4 – Sleep Apnea
The prevalence of sleep apnea is increasing in large part due to the increasing rate of one of the major risk factors: obesity.
To make matters worse, Recent research has confirmed an association between OSA and severe illness from COVID-19.
Luckily, sleep apnea can be diagnosed without the patient having to leave their home. Home-based diagnostic tools allow the patient to sleep comfortably in their own bed with fewer leads and no observer, enabling the patient to have a more natural night’s sleep.
SleepView is a small, lightweight monitor that complies with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The device detects airflow, respiratory effort, heart rate and finger pulse oximetry.
5 – Vitamin Deficiency
With winter approaching during the height of the pandemic, many patients will be at further risk due to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals.
In fact, multiple studies have concluded that having low serum vitamin D levels was an independent risk factor for having symptomatic COVID-19 with respiratory distress requiring admission to intensive care. With people spending less time in the sun, patients need to supplement.
In addition to Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin C, Elderberry and other supplements have been shown to boost immunity and fight off infections.
There are several brands of supplements that physicians can distribute to patients. Pharmanex is one of the most trusted brands and the only supplement that can prove efficacy through use of their patented biophotonic scanner.
For more ideas on ways to help your patients during the pandemic, consult with your local Practice Development Manager.