06Jun

Faced with limits on in-person visits and constrained by directives to stay home, an ever-growing number of consumers are turning to telemedicine.

Telehealth provider MDLive says it is fielding nearly double the number of daily calls it gets during a normal flu season. CEO Charles Jones says most of the telehealth visits are not coronavirus-related, but for more usual reasons such as a cold.

Jones said the calls are coming from “people who have normal healthcare needs who now decided they’d rather do it by video.”

Forrester Research says at the current rate, virtual healthcare interactions could hit 1 billion by year’s end. In the past, telehealth growth was limited by public awareness and the easy access to in-person care.

“President Trump talking about the benefits of virtual care, I think, helped reduce one of those barriers that we found in our research of awareness,” analyst Arielle Trzcinsktold CNBC.

survey in mid-March, just as businesses and schools were being ordered closed, found 42% of respondents unfamiliar with telehealth. Of those who were aware, 20% had used telehealth to consult with a provider. Another 40% were considering it, but had not yet had a telehealth appointment. But if they felt they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, 73% would consider a telehealth visit; 12% then already had one.

At about the same time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services loosened the rules on telehealth, greatly extending who can use the service from mostly rural areas to the entire nation and allowing telehealth services to be accessed from home. It also increased the types of providers delivering telehealth services to include a broader range of doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers.

The pandemic has also encouraged individual doctors and medical clinics to arrange for telehealth visits with their patients. According to a survey by medical technology provider Kareo, 75% of practices are now providing telemedicine services or will be deploying one soon.

Health insurance provider Cigna is encouraging its customers to make greater use of telemedicine, waiving out-of-pockets for all COVID-19 related visits including those by phone and video. MDLive, which partners with Cigna to provide mental health services, said calls from those anxious about health or jobs have also increased.

Ironically, as the number of telehealth video users increases, the internet itself could become a limiting factor. IT network professionals and telecoms say that a surge in internet traffic is placing an unusually heavy demand on the infrastructure.

Chintan Patel, Cisco’s chief technologist in the UK, told CNBC, the network is designed to cope with peak traffic times, “It’s just that the peak is at a longer time and longer duration now.”

Still, streaming services like Netflix and Disney have taken steps to reduce network congestion. The European Union is asking that streaming services cut video quality to reduce the demand for the system. Besides Netflix, Google and Amazon have complied. Sony said it would slow PlayStation downloads.  

Photo by Kendal on Unsplash

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Study Finds Cats Can Benefit Kids with Autism

Dogs are the most common service animal, but for children with autism spectrum disorder, cats may be more therapeutic.

A new study reported in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing found ordinary shelter cats had a calming effect on children with ASD, improving their empathy toward others while reducing bullying, hyperactivity and separation anxiety.

“Cats, and companion animals in general, offer unconditional acceptance and someone to talk to that listens, and caring for an animal can help with learning responsibility,” said study author Gretchen Carlisle, a research scientist at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri veterinary college.

But dogs require more care and attention than cats, adding to the burden parents of children with autism already face.

They also are more active and energetic, which can trigger autistic children.

“Many children with autism have sensory issues and when a dog is barking in your face, it can be really overwhelming, whereas cats just sit beside you and are less overwhelming from a sensory standpoint,” Carlisle explained.

Her small study followed 11 families with autistic children ages 6-14. One group of families adopted a shelter cat and was followed for 18 weeks. A second group without a cat was followed for 18 weeks, then adopted a cat for another 18 weeks.

“Our study,” the researchers wrote, ”Found cat adoption was associated with greater empathy and less separation anxiety for children with ASD, along with fewer problem behaviors including externalizing, bullying and hyperactivity/inattention. Parents and children reported strong bonds to the cats.”

All the cats were screened for a calm temperament. “We specifically selected cats aged 10 months to 4 years because there is prior work that younger cats are more social with kids with autism, and adult temperament tends to be set at 10 months with cats, so these are younger cats with an adult temperament,” Carlisle told HealthDay News.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Melissa Nishawala, director of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Research and Clinical Program at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health in New York City, said that though the study was small, “these are promising findings that mirror what I see in practice.”

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk

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Majority of Employers Still Honoring Job Offers and Internships

There’s some good news for college students anxious about their summer internships. Almost two-thirds of employers intend to go ahead with them. The same is true for the jobs they offered to graduating seniors.

A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 64% of employers are not revoking their offers of full-time or internship employment. They may shift the start date and 29% expect to move interns to a virtual program, but only 15% are reducing the number.

The survey did find about a quarter of employers were considering what to do about the offers they made, given that no one is certain what will happen in the next several weeks.

Even if they decide to make cuts, there’s no reason to despair, says Green Key’s Clare Wright. There are companies still hiring. In fact, the dearth of campus recruiting has created opportunities.

“Smaller firms will have a chance to snap up those high caliber candidates who are eager to get working right out of school.”

Katelin Carbon, who as Green Key Resources’ Recruitment Director focuses on healthcare, says jobs are available for new grads in physical and occupational therapy and as speech language pathologists.

“Given all that is happening,” she add, “There is a huge need” for RNs especially in ICUs and emergency rooms, and for respiratory therapists, where there is a severe shortage.

“We encourage new grads to upload their resumes to job boards – Careerbuilder, Monster, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn.”

Add Handshake to that list, adds Wright, who says, it is “an excellent resource for both college students and employers looking to hire.”

Especially for employers who do have internships and jobs to offer, Wright recommends being more proactive and creative in recruiting.

“Employers should reach out to colleges who are currently holding virtual career fairs and offering online career counselling to seniors,” she says. “Companies should invest heavily in their social media presence as well as hiring through their own staff networks – everyone will know someone affected by this pandemic so word of mouth networking will be strong.”

Wright, an Executive Director with a focus on office support, adds that Green Key Resources may be able to help.

“We are always ready and willing to talk to recent grads. While most clients like to see some relevant internship or corporate experience, often companies will look to grads with any kind of work experience such as summer jobs, or customer service.”

Wright, who graduated college in 2009 during the worst recession since the Depression, has some words of encouragement for college students: “Try to breathe. The job market will bounce back.

“This will not be the graduation that you expected, but it will be okay. You might not end up in your dream job right away, but make connections, create a LinkedIn page, network, temp, finish up school strong, use your college career department, attend a virtual career fair that many colleges are hosting, focus on sectors that are hiring right now — healthcare, tech, pharma, e-commerce are all still hiring.”

Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

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