Is Telehealth our Best Hope against a Global Pandemic?

doctor meeting a patient virtually

As the total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. escalates to 525,704, many hospitals have already exceeded maximum patient capacity. Limited bed availability and shortage of well-functioning medical equipment hinder patients from receiving proper care.

Staffing is also a major concern due to the growing rate of infections among health care staff. Since infected workers must undergo quarantine for at least two weeks, hospitals are left with more patients and even fewer health care workers.

Since most of us rely on the internet and mobile devices to navigate our daily lives, it is only natural that we leverage technology to enhance health and medical care across America.

What is telehealth?

To keep up with the demands of this global pandemic, more hospitals and health care providers are adopting telehealth solutions.

The World Health Organization recognizes telehealth as the use of virtual technology and telecommunications to deliver remote health care. Telehealth services range from virtual doctor-patient consultations to remote health education.

Traditionally, telehealth is used to virtually care for the elderly and the chronically ill. Vulnerable patients can be monitored and guided in certain procedures while remaining at home. They can even have their medication delivered directly to their doorstep.

Telehealth has also made critical training and quality education opportunities accessible to medical practitioners stationed in remote places. Through this technology, they easily receive instruction on diagnosis and care from professionals elsewhere.

Using telehealth to fight a global pandemic

Switching to virtual care minimizes the risk of transmission to medical front liners and mass populations. Because of its digital nature, telehealth enables vulnerable groups especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and still receive proper care and consultation from physicians.

In addition, chronic and high-risk patients can have scheduled teleconsultations to avoid face-to-face clinic visits. This reduces their exposure to the virus which can even be more fatal for them whose health is already compromised.

Telehealth solutions also enable doctors to closely monitor patients exhibiting cold and flu-like symptoms. If their health worsens, appropriate actions can be taken immediately. This offers patients comfort and peace of mind knowing health care is just a few clicks away.

The number of in-house patients can also be controlled through telehealth technology. Rather than visiting medical facilities, people who are suffering from other ailments can receive care from home, allowing emergency rooms and clinics to prioritize virus-infected patients.

The challenge for health care providers

doctor checking a patient's health sheet

Unfortunately, not all hospitals and medical providers are equipped with the right tools and technologies to deliver telehealth options.

Hefty costs can prevent smaller hospitals from investing in the necessary equipment. Medical staff must be trained to use the right software, create triage protocols, establish billing policies, and implement other complementary tools including 360° review online kits to administer staff feedback and coaching.

Switching to virtual channels also require appropriate adjustment periods and guidelines for both provider and patient. While the transition can be costly and time-consuming at first, adopting telehealth practices is a safe and sustainable investment in the long run.

Solving the current challenges in health care means addressing evolving patient needs and advances in technology. Using telehealth improves health care access worldwide and ensures no patient is left behind.

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