Telemedicine can play an important role in helping health systems respond to increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hollander, J.E. & Carr, B.G. Virtually perfect? Telemedicine for COVID-19. New England Journal of Medicine (2020). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2003539
30 April 2020
Telemedicine may be an effective method for responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Many health systems are currently seeing the practical benefits of using technology to provide care during this time of increased physical distancing. For less serious visits that would have normally taken place in person, telemedicine visits have been introduced to allow patients to communicate with their doctor from home. For patients who may need testing based on their symptoms, various telemedicine triage programs are being used to evaluate these patients’ risks, helping to avoid unnecessary referral to emergency departments and urgent care centres. In cases where patients are indeed infected and need emergency care, the use of mobile health care units may allow for patients to be admitted directly to the emergency department in order to reduce exposure for health care workers and other patients. Other programs include the electronic intensive care unit monitoring program (e-ICU) that allows nurses and physicians to monitor patients in ICUs across multiple hospitals. Healthcare workers making use of this technology are able to monitor up to 100 patients in ICUs. However, there are also challenges to using telemedicine that need to be addressed, such as coordinating telemedicine with testing efforts. It may also be difficult for health systems to work through new payment models and the regulations that come with telemedicine given the current climate. Nonetheless, the benefits of telemedicine during this pandemic should not be overlooked.
Summary by: Tedi Hoxha