Early in 2020, the CDC issued guidelines advising health care providers and individuals in areas affected by COVID-19. Among the guidelines included the adoption of various practices, such as social distancing. The CDC specifically recommended that health care providers and facilities offer medical services through virtual means to reduce contact between individuals.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the utilization of two-way telecommunications tech to provide clinical health care remotely. According to CDC figures, telehealth visits jumped by 50% during the first quarter of 2020. This was from patients seeking care for various conditions apart from coronavirus.
COVID-19 is proving to be highly infectious. Current data indicates that a significant chunk of infections in China was via hospital-related transmission. In the absence of proper containment measures, COVID-19 could overrun hospitals.
This not only limits the ability of health care providers to treat severe coronavirus conditions but also potentially affects the timely treatment of other life-threatening conditions. Telemedicine can potentially help by allowing supportive care to mildly ill patients while minimizing their exposure to COVID-19.
Telemedicine in a Nutshell
- Telemedicine includes all models of treatment that utilize electronic transmission of health care.
- Telemedicine can involve the real-time transfer of data or communication (synchronous).
- It may also be asynchronous where it does not involve the real-time transfer of data or communication.
- Whether provided via telemedicine or in person, the standard of care should be the same.
- For the telehealth encounter, the patient’s physical location is the site of care.
The Primary Tools Used in Telemedicine
Practicing clinicians can use various tools, including computers, tablets, and smartphones, to conduct telemedicine virtual visits. There are now newer tools such as digital otoscopes and stethoscopes. There are also remote devices that can track pulse oximetry and blood glucose. Other devices can be used to conduct a virtual sleep study.
Through telehealth, health care professionals can provide various care services. For example, they can:
- Conduct remote interpretation of echocardiography, radiology studies, and toxicology
- Do remote monitoring of patients in long-term care facilities and their homes, especially in remote or rural areas
- Provide ongoing management of chronic conditions such as immunodeficiency and asthma
- Conduct a newborn weight check
Telemedicine is now an integral part of clinical care in the age of COVID-19, given the various social distancing requirements. It will continue with the same status for community, subspecialty, and tertiary care practitioners even after the pandemic.
At Brevard Health Alliance, we care about your health and that of your loved ones. If you need to know more about telemedicine, contact us today.