As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for almost a year. In this time, we’ve seen medical practices shift from entirely in-person approaches to having most of their services available virtually.
Telehealth is nothing new: it’s existed since landline telephones were first available in peoples’ homes. However, more and more people are becoming aware of telehealth and its ability to augment, and in some cases replace, inconvenient doctor’s visits and in person screenings.
So how is telemedicine transforming healthcare in this new world of 2020? Let’s dive in!
How Does Telemedicine Work?
In the past, telemedicine was generally reserved for patients who were simply unable to make it to the doctor’s office. This included low mobility patients, elderly patients, and those who lived too far away from their doctors.
Telemedicine generally worked via telephone and fax. Doctors used telemedicine to transmit images, records, and to ask patients questions directly.
Nowadays, telemedicine works much differently. Video conferencing & online seminars were not used nearly as much in telemedicine as it is today. Since doctors are trying their best to limit the spread of COVID-19 in their practices, they’ve allowed for virtual consults to be done via video conferencing.
Telemedicine has proven to be effective for patients who have chronic conditions that need a small amount of physician monitoring. Diabetes, asthma, and mental health have been managed with the help of telemedicine–and the list continues to grow.
How Has Telemedicine Changed Healthcare in 2020?
The COVID-19 epidemic has brought with it some unforeseen changes in the field of healthcare. Medical care has been focused on dealing with COVID-19 patients and handling COVID-19 testing. Research has been focused on developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Despite this, other health conditions haven’t just gone away. Millions of Americans still need to visit their doctor more than several times a year in order to manage their conditions. So what has changed in 2020?
Insurance companies have traditionally had mixed views on covering telemedicine. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for medical practices and hospitals to provide telemedicine services, insurance companies are more readily supporting them.
It’s important to note that Medicare now reimburses for live video telemedicine, however this is the limit of their telemedicine coverage.
Thanks to new wearable technologies and remote monitoring devices, it’s become easier for patients to monitor their own conditions and tell when there may be a problem. This allows for early detection of symptoms of conditions that may have long-lasting consequences if not caught early.
Easing the burden on emergency rooms
During the pandemic, it’s absolutely paramount that patients who have this disease are able to get the help they need, particularly if their situation is dire.
Thanks to telemedicine, a worrying symptom doesn’t need to result in a trip to the ER. Patients can now access 24-hour telemedicine services and speak to a doctor who will tell them what they can do. This makes it so that fewer patients who don’t need emergency treatment end up in the ER due to a worrying symptom.