Thursday, May 21, 2020

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What the Coronavirus is Teaching Us About TeleHealth



TeleHealth usage has been on the rise for several years. However, it hasn’t caught on as a mainstream healthcare option, for a variety of reasons, especially as it cannot replace the comfort level patients have with physically seeing their physicians, at least today.


After all, that’s how medicine has been delivered for centuries. There have also been regulatory obstacles and technology requirements, though government agencies and healthcare technology providers are helping address both.


But, with the world dealing with a viral coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 4 million people – over a million and a half and counting in the United States alone – and governments worldwide issuing social distancing mandates and ordering schools and non-essential business to close or initiate teleworking strategies, healthcare provision seems set for a rapid increase in the use of TeleHealth Services.


While many doctors are increasing their use of TeleHealth capabilities, some are just starting their TeleHealth practices, and still, others are finding new ways to implement it to enable healthcare delivery during this crisis.


Regardless, the COVID-19 outbreak is teaching both doctors and their patients about how TeleHealth can help in crises.


Screening for Covid-19

At the onset of the outbreak, the CDC recommended that patients exhibiting coronavirus symptoms not immediately go to their physicians. Instead, it suggested calling first or setting up a virtual visit, so physicians could identify potential COVID-19 cases and provide specific instructions, including whether to seek treatment or to manage mild cases through home treatment and isolation.


First Responders

TeleHealth can help emergency responders conduct on-site video chats with physicians, to evaluate patients’ conditions, and determine the best courses of action. This can help reduce the strain on hospitals. Also, it can put ambulances and EMS personnel to be back in service faster, enabling them to help more patients.


Consultations and Physical Examinations

While not all in-person exams can be replaced with virtual technology, common consumer devices can provide valuable information to help physicians obtain common vitals from patients. Fitness trackers can provide data around heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature, and more, to enable Telemonitoring of patients without requiring hospital admission or physician visits.


Mental Health ­Counselling
Mental health patients often require regular treatment to manage their conditions, and the stress of dealing with a disease outbreak and home isolation could cause elevated stress levels or other mental health conditions for anyone. Even though therapists may have canceled in-person appointments, virtual visits – either via phone or video call – can enable them to continue treating patients while following safety protocols.


Efficiency of Physicians
Because fewer healthcare professionals are needed to manage virtual visits, physicians may be able to see more patients, and staff can spend more time on other necessary tasks, including ensuring the cleanliness of on-site facilities for those patients who do need in-person visits.



TeleHealth cannot replace all in-person physician engagements, but there are ways TeleHealth and Remote Patient Management can help improve healthcare delivery efficiency.

Even as this current crisis will subside, and it will, new social practices will continue for some time, and many will become a way of life. This makes TeleHealth an increasingly valuable proposition for practices.

After all, the lessons learned during this crisis can help the healthcare system better manage other diseases in the future.
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