In this frightening time that we all face together, telemedicine platforms present the ideal solution to manage the many difficult challenges. Implementing telemedicine systems that are focused on addressing the needs of patients with disease exposure concerns, for example, can prevent overcrowding in emergency departments and other healthcare clinics.
Even healthcare providers who have not yet adopted telemedicine capabilities should consider implementing these systems to mitigate the expected increase in volumes of patients seeking reassurance that their symptoms are not due to something more sinister.
Reassure Patients With Chronic Illnesses
Patients with chronic illnesses are more at risk than those who are relatively healthy and without an immune system issue. Their concerns can easily be addressed using telemedicine, and this will reduce in person visits that could put them and others at risk.
With a limited number of hospital beds and staff struggling to cope with demand, keeping the in-person numbers as low as possible is absolutely essential. This recent use of telemedicine reduces not only the number of beds in use, but the exposure of COVID-19 to healthcare workers and other patients. The medical supplies are then saved for those who truly need them.
Treat Patients Without Access To Appropriate Care
Telemedicine can bring specialty care services to patients being cared for in areas without access to this sort of care. Telemedicine systems can significantly improve the triage, treatment, and coordination of care for patients with confirmed COVID-19 – this is especially true in low resource areas.
This is a 21st-century approach that allows patients to be efficiently screened without putting anybody else at risk. This is both a patient-centered approach, and conducive to self-quarantine. It helps to protect patients, clinicians, and the community from exposure to the virus. It can also allow physicians and patients to communicate 24/7, allowing them to monitor the situation and provide reassurance to patients who may be fearful.
All of this can be done using smartphones or webcam-enabled computers. More than 50 U.S. health systems already have such programs in place and more are expected to follow suit.
See Patients At Home
Telemedicine can be effectively leveraged to allow clinicians to see patients who are at home. The recommendations regarding COVID-19 are rapidly evolving, and can be hard to keep up with. That is why these health systems have developed automated bots that refer moderate-to-high-risk patients to nurse triage lines. They also permit patients to schedule video visits with established or on-demand providers, and this helps to avoid travel to care sites.
Patients presenting for in-person care who screen positive for high-risk features should be isolated immediately, and telemedicine helps to accomplish this.
Quickly Respond To Emergency Situations
In an emergency situation, web-conferencing software can be implemented rapidly, and an assessment can be made. Covering multiple sites with a single remote clinician can address some workforce challenges, and is difficult to do if your software lacks a queuing function. With telemedicine, this becomes far easier, saving time and saving lives.
Telemedicine can provide rapid access to subspecialists who aren’t immediately available in person.
Provide Telemedicine Training
Online training modules and remote training sessions are available for clinicians and patients who require training or assistance during their first call.
Keep Hygiene Best Practices
Tablet computers can be cleaned between patients using infection-control procedures, ensuring they are safe for further use. In ambulatory care settings, patients screening positive at can be given a tablet and isolated in an exam room to mitigate risk. A visit can then be conducted without exposing staff by using commercial systems or paired tablets allowing communication.
Address Dwindling Staff Numbers
Reports that as many as 100 health care workers at a single institution have to be quarantined at home because of exposure to the virus has raised concern. With reduced exposure to the virus and potential carriers, staff numbers stay high and patients can be cared for remotely.
Unfortunately, there are a number of people that contribute to the care of a patient, and telemedicine will not be able to replace every one of them. Converting scheduled office visits to telemedicine visits can still make a big difference, however. These visits can be conducted with both patient and clinician at home, greatly limiting travel and exposure and permitting uninterrupted care of established patients.
This is a strange time for everybody, and this type of pandemic poses many challenges to health care delivery. Telemedicine may not be able to solve each and every problem, but it is well suited to a variety of scenarios and allows clinicians to see patients while mitigating risk.
Health systems that have already invested in telemedicine and complementary software are well positioned to ensure that patients with the virus receive the care they need.