Amidst all the news about COVID-19 wreaking havoc on healthcare providers nationwide, I’ve been gratified to see good news in communities nationwide about alternative solutions to help medical providers and workers in this pandemic: Starbucks providing free coffee to healthcare workers and responders. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., donating 5,000 respirator masks, held in storage following a previous health scare over 10 years ago, to local hospitals. Whisky and beer producers, automakers and mass clothing producers re-vamping their operations to make needed supplies such as hand sanitizers, medical ventilators and surgical garments.
Among these innovative approaches, I’m gratified to see telemedicine quickly gaining recognition amidst this pandemic. The CDC is calling for healthcare facilities to adopt telemedicine to protect patients and staff. Many hospitals and clinics are accelerating these capabilities at their frontlines for non-urgent communication between doctors, nurses and patients.
We know that for years, telemedicine has proven effective in monitoring patients 24/7 who suffer from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions. With COVID-19, telemedicine has stepped into the spotlight as a game-changer in helping healthcare providers and caregivers to better respond not only to patients who may be having coronavirus symptoms, but also to patients with chronic conditions.
Now more than ever, telehealth technologies are essential solutions for keeping potentially infected individuals out of hospitals and doctors’ offices during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s even proving effective for patients with mild acute respiratory infections. Instead of many in-clinic visits with their primary care provider, these patients can be followed up with closely, almost on a daily basis, from their homes via telemedicine. The result for all: enhanced provider care and safety of patients and the doctors, nurses and technicians who treat them.
While we all hope and pray that the COVID-19 curve soon will flatten, it may be months before life returns to normal. With telehealth proving to be effective in providing patient care and reducing in-office risk of spreading infection, doesn’t it make sense to make telemedicine part of medical practices and clinics, long after this pandemic ends?
I believe it does. Especially in treating patients with chronic conditions.
We know the facts: Americans are living longer. Life expectancy nearly doubled during the 20th century. Today, there are approximately 35 million Americans age 65 or older. This number is expected to double in the next 25 years. As life expectancy increases, chronic diseases and conditions – heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and others – that threaten the health of older people remain a concern. Caring for these patients will put added stress on our nation’s health systems and providers. I see telemedicine, with advancements in technologies, can be a solution for this.
At the same time, the younger generations are relying more and more on technology solutions and mobile apps for communications. Technology is driving their purchasing decisions. Studies have shown that this demographic of younger Americans, and an increasing number of older Americans who are learning these technologies, are preferring to use mobile apps and virtual channels to communicate with their healthcare providers.
Currently, we’re seeing an increasing number of chronic patients having scheduled teleconsultations from home to avoid face-to-face clinic visits and hence minimize their risks of exposure to COVID-19.
Telehealth is bridging the gap between people, physicians and health systems. Its positive effects are being recognized as a useful means of patient care across generations. It’s working, and I believe it’s here to stay.