Many hospitals are the battlegrounds of the raging COVID-19 and in the face of this pandemic, a shortage of personnel, hospital beds and medical equipment, healthcare systems are forced to adapt. This means improvisation and innovation at a rapid pace to meet the demand that COVID-19 has thrust in healthcare systems. There is no dancing around the need to mobilize resources so that hospitals and healthcare workers can have the necessary tools to combat COVID-19, while ensuring that patients receive the care they need and healthcare workers can protect themselves while caring for their patients. As it stands, social distancing and lockdowns measures and the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) aimed to minimize transmission of the virus are insufficient to stop the excessive strain of already overstretched healthcare systems. Telemedicine and telehealth services are digital innovations that support remote healthcare delivery that can aid in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and minimize pressure on healthcare workers.
Telehealth and Telemedicine
The American Academy of Family Physicians defines telemedicine as “the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance,” while telehealth “refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at-a-distance.” Telehealth encompasses a broader scope of remote health care services and can include remote non-clinical services, unlike telemedicine, which specifically relates to remote clinical services through the use of telecommunication devices. In essence, both telehealth and telemedicine are virtual delivery systems that allow providers to screen and treat patients for illness symptoms and mild conditions. During the current public health crisis brought on by COVID-19, telemedical innovations can be leveraged by U.S. health systems that have existing technologies and services to respond to COVID-19.
Telemedicine and Remote Care
Telemedicine allows patients to get care remotely, reduce travel, minimize COVID-19 exposure, and ensure that they can remain at home if they are high-risk. With a healthcare surge, telemedicine provides a way for patients to be efficiently screened through an automated screening intake process, allowing physicians and patients to communicate 24/7, via webcam-enabled computers or smartphones. A review by Biomedical Central established from an assessment of multiple studies that a significant use of telemedicine can minimize the cost and time of any travel required for care, leading to faster delivery of medical services. This keeps patients at home and protects both patients, careers and clinicians, as well as the broader community from exposure.
Telemedicine Screening and Treatment
Telemedicine is great for COVID-19 screenings, acute illness treatment, and more all from home, which reduces your infection risks. This approach can be used to remotely evaluate respiratory symptoms, which may indicate early signs of COVID-19, eliminating the risk of exposure to the virus. This is especially important for at-risk people-the elderly, who need to stay out of waiting rooms and limit their contact with healthcare facilities and workers. COVID-19 patients who do not require hospitalization can be remotely monitored, allowing for more free beds for serious cases. Additionally, people who are not COVID-19 patients who suffer from acute and chronic illnesses can get continued treatment and care, changing scheduled office visits to telemedicine versions, permitting uninterrupted care while limiting the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic creates unique challenges to health care delivery to patients. Telemedicine cannot solve all the challenges, but it helps patients to have access to critical medical care, slow the spread of COVID-19 and enhance patient outcomes. Book telemedicine from a local urgent care center to get started!