The world as we know it is changing. Our daily commodities that we often take for granted are being altered right before our eyes: A constant reminder that the world truly can change overnight. And right now, amidst the chaos and confusion of the coronavirus pandemic, the medical professionals are really feeling the heat. However, not all change is unwelcome here. In fact, our current situation is actually paving the way for what could be a complete revamping of our healthcare system, thanks to telemedicine services.
A trip to the doctor’s office is a pretty routine thing. Whether it’s the common cold, an annual checkup, or evaluating something more serious, we’re used to making the trek to the office: Checkin, check up, check out. But with the widespread panic and pandemic qualities of COVID-19, rushing into the clinic isn’t an option, nor should it be.
With all of the unknowns and fears, it’s more important than ever to be well-informed and to follow the guidelines put into place by health professionals and government officials alike. One of the main channels of doing so? Utilizing the telemedicine resources put into practice by clinics around the world.
What are Telemedicine Services, and Who Can Access Them?
By now, most people have heard the terms telemedicine or telehealth in the media, but not everyone is clear on what these buzzwords really mean. Basically, telemedicine allows patients to visit with a doctor, nurse, or physician remotely. Patients can use a telephone, cellphone, or video chat software to converse with medical professionals regarding health questions or concerns.
During this time of national emergency, telemedicine is becoming widely available for patients in the US, and some countries across the globe. Most clinics are expanding their services to offer telemedicine as an alternative to clinic visits to minimize exposure and help contain the virus.
The recommendations for patients to use telemedicine services comes with its own set of difficulties. According to CNBC, medical facilities such as The Cleveland Clinic are experiencing a surge of patients using these services, causing technical difficulties and delays. The demand for online visits is also exceeding the number of doctors available, further adding to the already lengthy wait times.
A surge in telemedicine patients is causing some technical difficulties, according to staff at The Cleveland Clinic
Despite the technological hiccups, many patients are giving positive feedback from their telemedicine experiences. Patients are surprised by the virtual abilities that doctors have at examining patients through video and audio. For example, if doctors need to look at a patient’s throat, the camera can be positioned in a way that allows for a thorough examination, according to doctors in a recent NPR telemedicine panel. Aside from a physical examination, telemedicine visits are also easing the minds of patients experiencing symptoms. Doctors are able to determine remotely whether or not the symptoms and severity warrant hospitalization, or whether a patient can wait it out at home. Reassuring those concerned by their symptoms allows for less exposure in the clinics, plus lessens the domino effect of anxiety in those around them.
The overwhelming support for telemedicine services (although circumstantial) will have long term effects on our healthcare system. While the decision to partake in virtual visits wasn’t necessarily elective, it marks an important shift in how we will approach healthcare moving forward.
Could Telemedicine Services Change the Healthcare System for Good?
There are certainly numerous benefits that come from telemedicine. Convenience and speed are great, but the potential of virtual healthcare extends far beyond just basic accessibility. Its ability to mediate clinic patients and direct people accordingly is saving lives as we speak. Instead of thousands of patients coming to the clinic and spreading germs, they can be evaluated at home. In the bigger scheme of things, this is allowing doctors to focus their attention on those in critical condition. Plus, it frees up space in hospitals and clinics to ensure that those who don’t have the time to spare are given immediate assistance.
For those who are skeptical about the accuracy of telemedicine services, there are portable devices for purchase online to take your own vitals. Wrist blood pressure monitors, thermometers, and a plethora of health-sensing/tracking apps are all at our disposal. Alongside your virtual doctor, managing your own healthcare has never been easier.
Portable medical devices make it possible to take your vitals at home
However, telemedicine services are not for everyone. Those with more serious conditions may need to be seen in office for a more complete examination. Likewise, laboratory tests and imaging cannot be completed outside of the clinic. But, the results of such tests may be shared using telemedicine platforms, as well as routine monitoring of patients with pre-existing health conditions.
Aside from a doctor-patient relationship, healthcare professionals are also using telemedicine to communicate amongst themselves. New scientific discoveries, questions, and collaborations are all possible on virtual platforms. Our current pandemic situation is also largely being discussed using telemedicine services. Because travel and social interactions are borderline banned, virtual meetings are essential to moving towards gaining control over COVID-19. Remote meetings and panels are also making it possible to collaborate immediately, without waiting for the logistics to play out.
Currently, the coronavirus pandemic is constantly changing. Each day brings about its own news and updates, but one thing is for sure: Healthcare as we know it will most likely never be the same, which may prove to be a very good thing.