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Staying healthy with telemedicine in a changed world

Tom O'Reilly By Tom O'Reilly

Telemedicine has become a popular way for Medicare members to receive care. 

Getting care via a phone visit with a doctor, an online chat with a pharmacist or even a wellness app on your smartphone can be fast and convenient. But many older adults who have a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan have only scratched the surface of the services they can access outside the clinic. 

Whether you’re dealing with an acute or chronic physical or behavioral condition or you just want to stay fit and active, you can do it all through virtual care with Aetna®. 

Here are some of the virtual offerings available to MA members and tips on how to take advantage of them.

Telemedicine and virtual health options

The most common form of telemedicine is meeting with your provider virtually, by phone or in a video chat. Many older adults use technology this way to get health care. In 2021, Aetna’s MA members will continue to be able to access their primary care physicians or urgent care using telemedicine.

According to a recent poll by Morning Consult, more than half of the older adults surveyed said they’re comfortable using telehealth.  Among  these, 91 percent said they had a favorable experience, with 78 percent planning to use telehealth again. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, familiarity with virtual care is growing even more. According to a new study by Deft Research, since March 1, 2020, 87 percent of MA members who used telehealth did so with a previously seen doctor. And  42 percent used just the phone while 52 percent used both video and audio.1

If you’re thinking about using virtual care, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re a member and unsure about your options,  just call the phone number on the back of your member card. 
  • If you’re concerned about privacy, just ask your provider if the virtual care offering is secure and private.

Resources For Living® program (RFL)

Resources For Living is available to all Aetna® Medicare Advantage plan members and their caregivers. With Resources For Living, caring consultants provide personal support for your health journey by helping you find local resources and services. Calls are at no cost to you. You just pay for any services you want to use. 

Members can call Resources For Living to get help with:

  • Grocery delivery, transportation and other services
  • Housekeeping, home maintenance and yard care
  • Senior living options, adult day care and caregiver support

It’s easy to use. Just call Resources For Living at 1-866-370-4842 (TTY: 711).

You can talk with someone Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 6 PM in your local time zone. 

Ask a nurse 24/7

Another telemedicine tool for all Aetna Medicare members is the Nurse Hotline. Registered nurses are available around the clock to help members:

  • Decide whether to see their doctors or get urgent care
  • Understand symptoms
  • Manage chronic conditions
  • Learn about treatment options and medical procedures

When you call 1-800-556-1555 (TTY: 711) anytime, a nurse will ask for your medical history. Then they can help, whether it’s with managing a chronic condition or promoting a healthy lifestyle. 

SilverSneakers® fitness benefit

Exercise can improve not only your physical health, but also your mental and emotional well-being. SilverSneakers connects Aetna’s MA members to programs at local gyms. It also offers a variety of virtual exercise classes like high-intensity dance workouts, yoga and even a “Sit and Get Fit” class. The program also has an active Facebook following. 

According to an Aetna internal study, 70 percent of SilverSneaker members who took part in activities said their physical health improved. And they could move more. Another 84 percent reported the program improved their quality of life. And 87 percent felt healthier as a result of using the program.2

We don’t yet know exactly how COVID-19 will affect telemedicine and virtual care offerings. Or whether they’ll be permanent fixtures of health plans. But we do know they’re here for now and they offer an easy and convenient way for older adults to access health care.

About the author

Tom O’Reilly is a writer and editor based in Austin, Texas, focused on science, health and technology. He enjoys indie music and spinning, although his Shih Tzu mix Max is afraid of the Peloton in the corner.