The modern healthcare system has never faced a challenge like the Coronavirus epidemic. The contagiousness and virulence of the COVID-19 virus has severely restricted visits to all healthcare providers because of quarantine orders and self-imposed isolation due to fear of exposure.
Isolation is the Problem, Telemedicine is What’s Missing
People are not visiting their primary care physicians and specialists for the routine exams and care that maintain their health. They are missing psychiatric and therapy appointments. They run out of needed medication. They may be forced to put off surgery. We are hearing that people with life-threatening symptoms of their disease are avoiding the emergency room until it is too late; they arrive gravely ill and die because they did not seek care soon enough.
In other cases, people experiencing COVID-like symptoms are seeking testing and care but are delayed due to a lack of testing resources or the time it takes to get their results. While they wait, symptoms worsen and by the time they can get care, it is too late.
We need more tools to take care of everyone — the coronavirus sufferers, the chronically ill and the “worried well” — in the midst of this epidemic. And we have them. Telemedicine, often called virtual care, is a solution perfectly suited to caring for people during the coronavirus pandemic. Telehealth is not confined to geography, distance, time. There are no physical barriers to getting access to care. Telehealth allows people to remain socially distant, even quarantine, and still receive medical care, wherever they are. Here’s how medical professionals can use telehealth to deliver care during COVID:
1. Provide at-home telehealth monitoring for people with Coronavirus
Hospitals can’t afford to admit patients when their symptoms are mild or not critical. But diagnosed or symptomatic patients can isolate at home and still be monitored for coronavirus by their primary care doctor. The doctor can issue a COVID-19 monitoring kit that allows him or her to see the readings from devices the patient uses to measure their temperature, blood oxygenation, heart rate, and blood pressure. With a digital stethoscope in the kit, the doctor can listen to the patient’s lungs. The patient is continuously assessed for worsening symptoms and treated in place or escalated to the hospital. Many will recover without needing to use Emergency Department or hospital resources.
2. Leverage telehealth video triage to prevent unnecessary ED visits
When doctors can “lay eyes and ears” on the patient, it exponentially increases their ability to triage, diagnose and treat. Telehealth video visits make that possible. Without the stress and risk of travel, patients are able to see and speak with their doctor in the safety and comfort of home. The doctor can assess and determine whether a trip to the Emergency Department is necessary. If not, they can provide home care instructions and order a prescription for delivery. Best of all, patients and providers both remain safe.
3. Discharge recovering COVID patients sooner with telehealth
Hospitalized COVID patients can be safely discharged sooner – freeing up a hospital bed — if they are equipped with a COVID kit of devices that will send vital readings back to the doctor for monitoring. The pace of recovery, the return of symptoms or new infections can be observed and addressed swiftly, preventing (or informing) a return to the hospital.
4. Protect the chronically ill during the Coronavirus epidemic using telehealth
People with underlying symptoms of hypertension, pulmonary diseases and other chronic health issues are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Remote patient monitoring and video visits can build an “envelope of care” around chronically ill people. This keeps them safely at home, yet in their doctor’s line of sight. After issuing the patient the appropriate monitoring kit and a smartphone or tablet, the individual’s primary care doctor or specialist can:
- Receive daily readings from biometric devices in the kit
- Send electronic surveys to assess symptoms, anxiety and depression
- Deliver education and messages of encouragement
The doctor can also see the patient with regular video visits using a tablet, laptop or smartphone. Using telehealth gives the doctor far more information about the patient’s health than if the patient came to the office every month.
5. Use telehealth to create connections when people need it the most
With telemedicine, no one needs to be sick and suffering alone. People can get easy and timely access to care without risking going out. Healthcare providers benefit too, by being able to reach more patients, safely.
Want to know more? Get our Free Essential Telehealth Primer (COVID Edition) below.
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Telehealth Associates designs and builds telemedicine solutions for healthcare clinics and individual practices. Our virtual care solutions include technology considerations, care delivery workflows, internal communications, patient marketing and the enrollment structure necessary for success. During the COVID crisis, we are donating one free hour of consultation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 888-458-1275 for more information and to schedule an appointment.