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Telemedicine use disparity during COVID-19 among head and neck cancer patients

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The use of telemedicine services has shown to be exceptionally effective in meeting the health care needs of patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But an analysis by Henry Ford Health System found that socioeconomic factors may affect certain patient populations on how they use the technology for accessing care.

In a Research Letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, Henry Ford researchers report that head and neck cancer patients who were , on Medicaid or uninsured were more likely to complete a virtual visit by telephone rather than by video. They also said women with a lower median household income were less likely to complete a telemedicine visit than men in the same income bracket.

Researchers said further study was needed to explain patients’ reticence with completing a video visit, which provides a more comprehensive health care assessment than a phone call with their doctor. “While virtual care may provide a promising platform for expanded access to care in some patients, it must be implemented in a way that it doesn’t create barriers to already disadvantaged patient populations,” said Samantha Tam, M.D., a study co-author and otolaryngologist in Henry Ford’s Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

The pandemic-driven need for accessing care using telemedicine services prompted researchers to evaluate whether impacted a patient’s ability to receive virtual care. In their , they analyzed census-based socioeconomic data of head and neck cancer patients who had a telemedicine visit between March 17 and April 24, 2020 and compared the results to a similar cohort from the same time frame in 2019.

Data included patients’ age, sex, race, insurance status, household income, education, marital and employment status, and English-speaking households. Patient visits were categorized by virtual visits

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Pulse Oximeters and Oxygen Concentrators: What to Know About At-Home Oxygen Therapy

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To survive, we need oxygen going from our lungs to the cells in our body. Sometimes the amount of oxygen in our blood can fall below normal levels. Asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the flu, and COVID-19 are some of the health issues that may cause oxygen levels to drop. When the levels are too low, we may need to take extra oxygen, known as oxygen therapy.

One way to get extra oxygen into the body is by using an oxygen concentrator. Oxygen concentrators are medical devices required to be sold and used only with a prescription.

You should not to use an oxygen concentrator at home unless it has been prescribed by a health care provider. Giving yourself oxygen without talking to a doctor first may do more harm than good. You may end up taking too much or too little oxygen. Deciding to use an oxygen concentrator without a prescription can lead to serious health problems such as oxygen toxicity caused by receiving too much oxygen. It can also lead to a delay in receiving treatment for serious conditions like COVID-19.

Even though oxygen makes up about 21 percent of the air around us, breathing high concentrations of oxygen may damage your lungs. On the other hand, not getting enough oxygen into the blood, a condition called hypoxia, could damage the heart, brain, and other organs.

Find out if you really need oxygen therapy by checking with your health care provider. If you do, your health care provider can determine how much oxygen you should take and for how long.

What do I need to know about oxygen concentrators?

Oxygen concentrators take in air from the room and filter out nitrogen. The process provides the higher amounts of oxygen needed for oxygen therapy.