Telemedicine during COVID-19: Benefits, limitations, adaptation

As the COVID-19 virus wreaks havoc with the healthcare system, telemedicine is stepping up into the spotlight and helping healthcare provider organizations and caregivers better respond to the needs of Americans who have contracted the virus and Americans who need to touch base with their providers on the status of their health.

Telemedicine is making a very positive contribution to healthcare during the pandemic, and is being used in a variety of ways. But telehealth technologies do have certain limitations when it comes to treating patients during a pandemic. Further, there is a chance telemedicine could add to hospitals being overwhelmed, unless it’s used well. But hospitals and doctor’s offices are learning to adapt to telehealth during a pandemic.

How telemedicine is being used in the context of COVID-19

During this global pandemic, telehealth is emerging as an effective and sustainable solution for precaution, prevention and treatment to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Telehealth is bridging the gap between people, physicians and health systems, enabling everyone, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians through virtual channels, helping to reduce the spread of the virus to mass populations and the medical staff on the frontlines.

Minimizing risk to healthcare workers

Appropriate measures can then be taken to minimize the risks to healthcare workers and patients. The right actions can then be taken for the patients who have been pre-screened, saving precious time and minimizing risks of transmission to all.

Many chronic patients can from home have scheduled teleconsultations to avoid face-to-face clinic visits and hence minimize their risks of exposure to COVID-19.

Not yet equipped for telemedicine

The most significant limitation to telehealth use in the COVID-19 response right now is that while some hospitals and large physician practices are equipped to deliver care in this way, most hospitals and private practices are not.

The CDC is calling for healthcare facilities to adopt telemedicine to protect patients and staff, and many large hospitals are racing to implement and scale up these capabilities at their frontlines. Luckily more doctors’ offices also are implementing telehealth, like The Medical Group of South Florida.

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Actually reducing the burden

Actually, telemedicine is reducing the burden on hospitals and doctor’s offices as they deal with the spread of COVID-19 and the associated increased caseload. Although some doctors are now required to dedicate time to screening patients via telemedicine while maintaining treatment of other patients, they would be doing that anyway – and worse, they’d be doing it in person.