Telehealth’s Role in Curbing COVID-19

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By Michael Morgan

The topic of COVID-19 is utterly unavoidable. The novel virus has spread rapidly with no signs of slowing down, resulting in mandatory quarantines, economic disruption and panic among citizens worldwide.

As a result, the CDC has urged American hospitals and independent practices alike to assess patients remotely as the highly-infectious Coronavirus continues to spread at an exponential rate. Even though the U.S. is arguably at the dawn of the stateside outbreak, our healthcare facilities are already flooded with patients, and resources are being spread thin. Government and industry professionals are acting quickly to ensure that our healthcare system doesn’t face the same strain that China’s did, where leaders had to facilitate the construction of a 1,000-bed hospital in just 10 days.

Adopting Telehealth Solutions to Maximize Care

With the use of video for telehealth, practices can triage patients from home, ultimately reducing the risk of spreading the virus. There’s a reason why congressional leaders waived the geographical restrictions on Medicare’s telehealth policy, now allowing providers to use telehealth in urban and rural areas. 

Telehealth has the ability to maximize care by allocating resources properly and prioritizing in-person care for patients in need of urgent medical attention. Additionally, telehealth allows practices to see a larger number of patients by expediting the initial screening and diagnosis process, which can happen outside the traditional care setting and limit the spread of the virus. In fact, physicians who use telemedicine saw a reduction in appointment times, reporting that the average televisit was about 12 minutes, 25% shorter than an office visit. 

By decreasing, and in some cases eliminating, the need for an in-person visit, we’re helping to lessen the spread of COVID-19, giving practices the ability to see more patients and allocate staff time efficiently.

Neurologist Andrew Barbash, MD, who uses telehealth solutions to offer quicker, more convenient care to patients, says, “As a dedicated telehealth provider, I’ve seen how effective video can be in communicating. It’s a perfect way to connect with many patients to educate and assess potential cases quickly and efficiently to maximize care coordination.” 

Widening the Net of Care

COVID-19 is expected to increasingly disrupt everyone’s daily life. The CDC’s Nancy Messonnier, MD,  stated that many U.S. citizens will likely be exposed to this virus at some point this year — or even next year.  And, that if the situation worsens, it will become essential for the healthcare system to offer medical appointments via telehealth

As the virus spreads, individuals are being advised to limit outside and person-to-person contact. Telehealth allows providers to evaluate patients near and far, assess symptoms and provide initial care without potentially exposing them to the virus.  If you don’t currently have access to telehealth technology, you don’t need anything other than a smartphone to start offering telehealth within your practice. With the right software partner, you can easily start a telemedicine component for your business without the need for additional apps, special training, webcams or microphones. 

Technology adoption and the importance of patient experiences are inevitable factors for the future of healthcare. In a time of crisis, telehealth can help alleviate the spread of the COVID-19 by reducing the amount of foot traffic in and out of healthcare facilities. By implementing and utilizing virtual visits today, your practice will be well prepared for the longevity of this public health issue, and for what may come next. 

About the Author: Michael Morgan is CEO of Updox.

With a successful track record in helping organizations use technology to transform the way healthcare is delivered, Mike has more than 25 years of healthcare leadership within software, behavioral health, and HIT organizations. Updox was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America for the past five consecutive years. 

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