COVID-19 caused a drastic decrease in in-person care. Nearly overnight, anyone displaying symptoms of the virus was urged not to walk into their medical clinic without calling ahead and making sure it was necessary. With COVID-19, suddenly, telehealth was more necessary than ever before. So – where do we go from here? If this is the new normal for doctor’s visits, is it good enough? How do we make it better? And how?
A blueprint for COVID care via telehealth
Obviously, throughout this year, doctors have opted for treating COVID patients with non-life-threatening symptoms remotely. Alongside learning how to treat the virus, doctors and nurses had to quickly learn how to provide the best care they could via telehealth, as most physicians had never used telehealth before.
Now, with almost 8 months of experience treating patients remotely, some physicians are helping others get up to speed. New York City was the epicenter of the outbreak earlier this year, and according to mHealth Intelligence, NYC hospitals have taken what they learned treating COVID-19 this year and published a blueprint for healthcare providers to treat patients via telehealth. Clinicians at NYU Langone Health and the NYU Long Island School of Medicine are helping to make sure physicians across the nation are able to provide quality care to their patients without risking exposure to themselves or others.
Telehealth for non-COVID patients
COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought telehealth to the forefront of primary care. While it has been incredibly useful for those patients and their doctors to avoid any further spread of the virus, telehealth is also becoming more popular among the general public -- for any type of appointment that doesn’t require a physical procedure. Those opting for elective or cosmetic surgeries, or otherwise healthy people with a minor health issue, are opting not to go to the doctor so as to avoid catching the virus there.
Of course, a large portion of people are probably wondering when they can stop seeing doing virtual visits. And while telehealth visits have gone down since the peak of the pandemic, they are still being used more than they were before.
The problems with telehealth
While being able to see your doctor from the comfort of your own home is a blessing in a year like this, there are limitations and plenty of room for improvement.
While the technology used will improve over time, many physicians are only just catching up to using current telehealth technology as it is now. As MedPage Today points out, Interstate licensing is a huge issue, as patients usually can’t see their doctor, despite using telehealth, if they’re out of state.
Some users don’t trust telehealth – some have concerns over privacy, or the quality of the examinations they’re getting over a phone or computer, according to the Denver Post.
And then there’s inconsistent reimbursement – why willingly use telehealth if you’re already frustrated, but don’t know that you’ll get reimbursed on top of it?
But if one thing’s for sure, where there’s a problem, there’s a company with a solution.
The future of telehealth
With the challenges of telehealth as it is today, there are sure to be countless new companies popping up to cater to those exact same frustrations.
New telehealth platform miinehealth was launched by telehealth company justmiine to help municipalities, schools, and businesses open safely by making COVID-19 support available remotely, according to Yahoo. The platform offers at-home COVID-19 testing, provides access to medical teams, and allows organizations to monitor individuals in quarantine to make sure the virus doesn’t spread to in-person events or workplaces.
According to the Inquirer, new company Ready dispatches EMTs or paramedics to patients’ homes in order to bridge the gap between virtual visits and in-person visits when necessary.
Telehealth, in some form, is likely here to stay. Everyone will have to adapt, but some companies and providers will be better equipped than others, and there are already companies already starting to get ahead of the trend.
Telehealth has been an incredibly useful and necessary tool in the fight against COVID-19. It’s likely here to stay, but there is plenty of room for it to improve and evolve, just as there is room for providers to adapt to the changing technology. A healthy future may require adapting to telehealth – but adapting is possible, and it’s worth it.