Providing Digital Care for Patients at Home During COVID-19
By: Carolyn Bradner Jasik, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Omada Health
We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic is already putting tremendous pressure on the healthcare system. As we come to terms with a new “normal,” the single most important contribution any of us can make at this point is to remain at home and maintain physical distance from others. Doing so will help to flatten the disease curve so that our healthcare system can respond as cases increase.
Omada is deeply grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the healthcare workers who are testing and treating COVID-19 patients across the country. We remain focused on how we can support vulnerable populations -- including those at risk for and with diabetes and heart disease -- as they stay home, and work to stay healthy.
At a time when the in-person healthcare system has an influx of patients dealing with COVID-19, it can feel out of reach, or downright scary, to access in-person care for those simply trying to monitor or control a chronic disease. Disease monitoring and social support typically provided in clinics is likely unavailable for many. It’s at this moment that our commitment to being a true digital care provider feels more important than ever.
The Omada Care Team
Omada’s health coaches and specialists continue to work proactively with our participants to encourage healthy lifestyle, condition self-management, and stress support as they manage their conditions at home. Each of our participants with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, depression, or anxiety is assigned a health coach and/or specialist who stays with them throughout their participation in the Omada program.
For individuals with diabetes, a certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (DCES) works directly with participants to support key dietary, activity, medication and glucose monitoring steps that are essential for living with diabetes. For individuals with depression and anxiety, a licensed social worker and health coach provide screening and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for participants in our behavioral health program.
Over the last few weeks, our health coaches and specialists are more engaged with patients in their homes than ever before. The reason is twofold: (1) reduce the stress of our participants who are spending more time at home than ever, and (2) decompress the in-person healthcare system as it rightly focuses on treating COVID-19 patients. In addition to our usual programming, Omada health coaches and specialists are serving as trusted advisors and listeners - sharing COVID-19 resources and helping our participants come to terms with an entirely new lifestyle for weeks and months to come.“My stress levels [are] through the roof, and it hasn’t even hit my county yet. They’ve shut down schools starting Friday, our stores are picked clean, there’s no food. We had to buy junk food, which...was still on the shelf at the store.”
In times like these, patients have questions about how to best manage their health or their condition - from where to get their medication to how to eat healthy. Stress can also strongly impact diabetes and hypertension control. Patients may have lost ready access to their providers, especially for less urgent questions.
“My doctor took me off of work today....So, this [Omada] will be my lifeline to keep my weight and sugars in line. I am still trying to process this, as I have worked all my life. This is going to be a huge change."
Our health coaches and specialists have stepped in to provide extra support and guidance, including from our licensed specialists, to those who have had doctor’s appointments postponed indefinitely. Whether through private messages or group conversation, individuals have come forward with all manner of questions and concerns -- a true testament to the bonds that have been built between our health coaches and participants in our program.
Filling Gaps Now, and Preparing for a New Future
So much of the future is uncertain, especially as it pertains to medical care for chronic conditions. Scientists and medical experts have appropriately warned that COVID-19 impacts are likely to be months in duration, not weeks. During this time, we need to think differently about how we support patients at risk for and with chronic conditions to keep them healthy - and at home. The stories that have emerged from healthcare workers treating individuals with COVID-19 have been both chilling and inspiring. As we appropriately focus on the most urgent care at the hospitals, digital health care can fill many of the gaps for individuals at home.
“This is the great thing about this group. We can still support each other times like these because we're all in it together. While we might experience it differently, we're still in the same situation and understand it. Also, because we don't meet in person, our support can and will, I believe go on without interruption. I'm loving the program, the support, the camaraderie and the coach”
Primary care providers, endocrinologists, therapists and cardiologists are all converting their practices to telehealth to better serve their patients at home. Digital health care services like Omada will be a key enabler of this care through enhanced education, psychosocial support, and remote monitoring to enable these providers to continue to care for their patients.
“So, I know I’ve been really slacking on tracking everything lately. My stress and anxiety levels have been through the roof here lately and now with the added no school/ no daycare and having to figure things out with work. It’s getting worse. I am still checking my sugars daily they are in staying in range. I’m really hoping that I can get back on track soon.”
Given the long-term outlook of this pandemic, we are prepared for a challenging road ahead. We feel hopeful knowing that while in-person healthcare systems may currently feel inaccessible, our health coaches and specialists are able to step in and serve as a crucial and trusted resource in this time of need. Above all, we trust that this turbulent time will spark a new wave of digital health adoption in the months and years to come.
“I have to tell you that you are the greatest at what you do! While all of this craziness is going on, you still find the time to think about & check-in with us. If no one has told you “thank you”, or that you’re appreciated, then I am telling you now. Thank you so much, & I truly appreciate you as a person.”