June 18, 2020 | In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic made virtual medical visits the way many if not most physician-patient interactions happen. No one was wholly prepared for the sudden transition from in-person to on-screen visits, but some healthcare organizations were clearly better positioned to make the leap because they had already moved beyond the dabbling stage with the technology.
Selecting vendor partners, getting staff properly trained in video etiquette and deciding which patient groups to prioritize were just a few of the immediate hurdles. Planning for surges in cases that might arrive sooner than planned, reappear for a second time, or never materialize at all has required nimbleness of unprecedented proportion.
The shift to digital health has also exposed inequalities in payment practices and broadband access, as well as created a living laboratory for establishing the cost effectiveness of telehealth as a care delivery model across a diversity of populations and settings. But the enabling regulatory and reimbursement policies remain provisional, and the jurisdiction of state medical boards is within borders that televisits seamlessly cross.
During active outbreaks of COVID-19, patients without the virus who might otherwise go to the hospital are staying home—to their own detriment. A computer screen is not an ideal venue for diagnosing a heart attack, and some cancer treatments and surgeries can’t wait until the curve has been flattened. So, a lot remains to be worked out before providers can be truly “all in” with any telemedicine solution.
But no one is suggesting things will ever go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. Patients seem to appreciate the convenience of video, at least when they have a laptop and a decent internet connection. Many clinicians predict telemedicine will be the new standard of care. In fact, more and more of them are beaming in to see patients on a full-time basis.
Telemedicine is a big topic, so I’ll be tackling the phenomenon on a weekly basis. Immediately below are links to the stories published to date. Please plan to enjoy this fascinating learning journey with me.
—Deborah Borfitz, Senior Science Writer, Diagnostics World News
UW Medicine: Pandemic Could Give Long-Term Boost To Telemedicine
Long View On The Role Of Telehealth In Primary Care
Telemedicine Not So New To Nursing Homes and Rural Hospitals
Making Choices With Telemedicine: Stanford’s Approach
Which Way Forward With Telemedicine? The Regulatory Perspective
The Great Experiment In Taking Trials Virtual
COVID-19 Prompts Telehealth Innovations
Zoom and Skype Rule Telemedicine World of Physicians
CHOP: Virtual Neurologic Exams A ‘Best Practice’
Alexa, What’s Your Role In Telemedicine?
Experience Of Kaiser Permanente Oncology Providers With Telehealth Mostly Positive
MUSC Stretching ICU Surge Capacity To Statewide Proportions