Skip to comments.The Growth of Telehealth: A Bright Spot Amidst the Pandemic
Posted on 10/19/2020 6:53:36 AM PDT by Kaslin
Amid the turmoil of the coronavirus, a bright sign of progress has emerged: The growth of telehealth.
Millions of Americans and their employers have learned that they can continue to do their jobs from home, while staying in their sweatpants and reallocating their commute time to family time. But as a physician, I am particularly excited that Americans have discovered the power of telehealth.
Earlier this year, policymakers opened-up regulations to allow more Americans to access health care through a video or phone call with their doctors. Patients and providers experienced the convenience and quality of care that remote doctors visits provide, and its going to be tough to put the restrictions back in place when the pandemic is over and we shouldnt.
Telehealth is an undeniable benefit to patient care: The CDC points to contactless medical appointments as effective in reducing exposure to the virus for doctors and patients alike, and helpful to preserving PPE. Virtual visits also save time and money by alleviating the hassle of taking time off from work, and according to the CDC, [T]elehealth can also improve patient health outcomes.
For those in rural areas without medical services close by, telemedicine may be the only way patients can connect with a medical professional. It is the difference between having access to care, or not. That fact alone underscores the advancement telehealth represents to improving access to quality health care in the United States.
Virtual visits are also an effective and practical way to treat chronic conditions. For example, a patient with diabetes can monitor blood sugars and, with a simple telehealth appointment check-in, quickly review the results with their doctor who can make immediate medication adjustments.
But as the future of health care starts to take shape, it is important keep patient care the top priority rather than convenience.
As a physician, I caution policymakers, tech champions, and the public against taking technology too far and making health care transactional. Health and wellness are personal, whether we are considering symptoms, degree of pain, knowledge base or level of anxiety. We cannot lose sight of the individual person and craft health care into the model of streamlined efficiency, like ordering a burrito bowl at Chipotle where minor preferences are expressed but ultimately everyone gets a slightly altered version of the same thing and is out the door as soon as possible.
Progress can quickly turn into regression if the human person becomes a blind spot in the drive for technology-facilitated convenience and efficiency.
A true advancement in health care combines in-person interaction between patients and their doctors with virtual visits. Enthrallment with doing everything remotely has swept the nation Facebook and many other companies have announced new policies to allow employees to indefinitely work remotely. This is overwhelmingly viewed as the advancement in how we do work. But convenience and increased technological assistance doesnt necessary equal progress or improvement.
The best medical care relies on a comprehensive approach that includes a face-to-face connection, physical examination and enough time to observe and listen to signs and non-verbals that can only be appreciated in-person. Noticing that Mrs. Davis is taking a bit longer to get into the exam room or has a new tremor that was not noted at her last visit six months ago contributes greatly to the quality of medical care that cannot be entirely replaced with telehealth.
The prospects for accelerating telehealth options are promising post-coronavirus. President Trump has announced an executive order allowing Medicare to reimburse telehealth visits indefinitely. Medicare reimbursement guidelines set the tone for what general health insurance companies will cover, so the move will most likely spill over to the general population. And, Medi-Share, a health care sharing ministry for which I serve as Medical Director, recently voted to include telehealth visits among the bills that members share. We also offer free telehealth visits for non-emergency care through a telehealth partner.
As our nation emerges from the pandemic and employs lessons learned, optimal health care must be our goal, with or without the use of new technologies. It is imperative that cost and convenience do not overshadow the needs of individual patients. If we allow physicians to lead the way in designing health care delivery for a post-coronavirus America, we can ensure the best of both worlds: an affordable and efficient system that respects and serves each sacred human life.
This should have been done years ago
There are many things I could do online. Got a cold? need some cough medicine? why come to the office and spread it to everyone... call your doctor online and let him have a look at you.
If he needs you to come in, then he can say so.
Another in a long list of fantastic positives thanks to Trump.
This is the one thing I have loved. I call the office and leave a message about what I need....then the doc calls me when he gets around to it and then calls in my rx. No office visit required. I have done this twice now. Once for a sinus infection...antibiotics. And I have an auto immune disease that requires antibiotics once in a while.
Why wasn’t it happening before?
Life saving innovation stifled by the Clintons.
Most likely to keep political opponents from getting their hands on Bill’s medical records, which are rumored to be quite interesting.
I'm sure if Biden's full records were released he'd never get elected.
Problems in developing a nationwide billing system to satisfy private health insurerers and Medicare/Medicaid? Lawyers...
As I understand it doctors were prohibited from using their personal phones or devices for patient consultations due to HIPAA.
Trump did away with that one simple restriction and voila.
“This should have been done years ago”
This depends on how privacy conscious you are. Medical records are now digitized, which simply means they can and will be hacked if you are a person of interest to the hacker.
Video’s (telehealth) are probably easier to hack since they must travel over some medium, such as the internet, so the health facility and patient can connect. Again, if the patient is also a person of interest to a hacker, you are toast.
Example: Let’s say anti gun red flag laws are passed that include restricting gun ownership to those treated for depression. Let’s say a corrupt federal surveillance agency is hacking such videos. Any and all evidence needed to take away your gun is right there. With a Biden presidency, this can and will happen.
Telehealth is just more Koolaid we all love to drink thinking it’s just harmless good stuff.
Our carrier has Healthiest You for such but did not have telehealth with your actual physician or specialists covered. So some of us owed for visits during the pandemic when there was no choice. That has now been changed.
Gas_dr might have some clarifying or corrective comments on the subject.
Medicos have to account for their billable time using nationwide standard codes...the Telemed system or variants rely on software used by the Dr and patient to track that time, call log in time, call close time, all logged into IT sytem.
For example I've had to install apps for lab appointments for taking blood sample since Covid-19, blood draws are no longer done in offices. Need other apps for the telemed call to my Drs.
All these must be integrated into a uniform patient/info/billing system. Just changing Hippa doesn't provide a magic wand for overnight change.
What the net effects are, positive and negative, I could only guess at.
“The best medical care relies on a comprehensive approach that includes a face-to-face connection”
With masks, THAT isn’t possible.
“call your doctor online and let him have a look at you.”
I wish it were that simple. For our provider, you can’t just call. It requires a special app on a smart phone. I’d consider doing it via PC and something like Skype, but that isn’t an option.
If I need a doctor it isn’t a video phone call need. I will never use this mostly due to privacy.
Doing my first “zoom” like video meeting with a doctor tomorrow.
I am doing it in spite of security concerns - privacy and data doing it across the internet.
I would not have the same concerns if video was possible across the landline network which is not as open as the Internet.
You are on tv and the doc says the ratings are not so good and that you are going to be cancelled....
The doc says the angels are going for a younger person.
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