COVID-19 can Transform American Healthcare for the Better

  • The problem is there are simply too many patients.
  • Telehealth can be used to increase patient access to medical advice through online patient portals.
  • As the baby boomer population continues to age, we’ll see more patients in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices than ever.

Telehealth and telemedicine have been implemented into American healthcare to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 and protect the at-risk population. In late March, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help Americans pay for telehealth. This has helped at-risk patients receive the care they need from home while conserving hospital beds and resources for those that need it most.

Telehealth is defined as “an umbrella term that covers a broad range of healthcare applications that can be performed remotely, using audio, text messaging, or audio and video conferencing.”

Which brings about the question: are overcrowded hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices a new problem or just one that’s been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic?… Most believe it’s the latter. And there’s no time better than the present to make changes for the better.

The problem is there are simply too many patients

For decades, hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices have been packed to the gills with patients. Like machines, doctors work against the clock—shuffling patients in and out so they can actually get through the day and maybe make it home for dinner. Strict time limits are put on visits and patient care may suffer as a result. Relationships are formed with computer screens rather than patients.

Why telehealth and telemedicine can be solutions

Something has to be done to take the pressure off of physicians and medical staff. And telehealth and telemedicine can definitely be solutions. Before diving into the reasons why it’s important to understand the difference between telehealth and telemedicine. In a recent article by Vohra Wound Care Physicians:

  • Telehealth is defined as “an umbrella term that covers a broad range of healthcare applications that can be performed remotely, using audio, text messaging, or audio and video conferencing.”
  • Telemedicine is defined as “diagnosis, consultation, or any other type of care provided by a doctor from a remote location.”

Both can be used to deliver care to patients in the comfort of their own homes rather than having to make a trip to the doctor’s office. Telehealth can be used to increase patient access to medical advice through online patient portals. The portals serve as a direct communication avenue between patients, nurses, and physicians. Non-emergency related questions can be answered quickly without having to make a telephone call or come in for a visit. Appointments that don’t necessarily need to be conducted in person can easily occur with a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner via telemedicine.

Telemedicine is defined as “diagnosis, consultation, or any other type of care provided by a doctor from a remote location.”

An example of telehealth and telemedicine at work

Telehealth and telemedicine are certainly helping out during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they aren’t necessarily new. Vohra Wound Care Physicians has had a telehealth program in place for over seven years. The program has been able to deliver wound care to patients in skilled nursing facilities. Because Vohra Wound Care Physicians can treat patients at multiple facilities without having to physically move from one to another, patients:

  • spend less time waiting on their doctor
  • spend more time with their doctor
  • do not have to be transported to a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office

The program is helping immensely during the pandemic because doctors can treat all wound care patients, the overwhelming majority of which are at-risk, without putting them in danger of catching the virus. The program is practical and efficient.

What the future may hold 

As the baby boomer population continues to age, we’ll see more patients in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices than ever. And something has to be done about it. Companies like Vohra have established telehealth and telemedicine programs that work. It’s time to use these programs as models to help improve our healthcare system. Who doesn’t want to improve their quality of care, spend less time waiting for appointments, and spend more time with their physicians?

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hwest

Heidi West is a medical writer that writes about healthcare and technology.

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