Telemedicine: A Strategy for Avoiding Contagion?

Telemedicine: A Strategy for Avoiding Contagion?

( – The coronavirus is spreading across the country with overwhelming speed. On April 7, the total number of deaths passed 12,000, after a staggering 1,970 US citizens succumbed to the virus in one day. That’s why social distancing is so important, now more than ever. Just as important is that we start getting creative if we want society to continue functioning safely and effectively. Some doctors are adapting to the times by offering online visits.

Shifting Approaches

Doctors and other medical personnel have taken a hard hit over the course of the outbreak. Business Insider reported that thousands of doctors in China became infected while treating coronavirus patients, and a few of them have even died. In Italy, 61 doctors have died as a result of the infection.

In response to the ever-present threat, many medical professionals are seeking out ways to bypass physical contact altogether. According to Reuters, Chinese doctors have seen this as an opportunity to promote online alternatives.

Doctors in the United States are following suit. So are many health insurance providers all over the country, including Medicare, by offering telemedicine appointment coverage with no copay during this crisis (and beyond for some providers). Companies like MediSprout offer innovative platforms to connect physicians and their patients, making virtual visits easy and accessible to more people. And at $4 per visit, it’s also an affordable option. Patients can interact via video, discussing or demonstrating any symptoms. If the doctor decides the patient needs testing or further assistance, a referral can direct patients to testing centers or appropriate hospital care.

In addition to preventing doctors and patients from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19, telemedicine offers several other benefits. It can prevent urgent care clinics and emergency rooms from overcrowding and also allows medical supplies to be used for those who need them most. Virtual appointments may also be an ideal option for patients who don’t believe they’re infected with the virus but have ongoing health issues that need to be addressed or those who have other infections that may require treatment.

Beyond COVID-19

Virtual medicine may prove beneficial well beyond protecting doctors and other patients from potential coronavirus exposure. Online exams could be an option for people with any number of conditions that make it difficult to get to a doctor’s office. Of course, it can’t replace every type of exam — sometimes you need to be physically seen — but it could simplify the process and possibly even save a lot of lives.

And this could extend even beyond medical needs. People who can’t afford to take time off or commute in busy areas to reach their appointments might find virtual visits a viable alternative. The approach is still relatively new, however, so doctors will need to overcome a few hurdles as they streamline the process.

Adapting as We Go

The future face of medicine could be your computer screen, although we’ll need to find the right balance between physical and virtual contact for the shift to work. Most of us don’t have the supplies or knowledge necessary to perform certain measurements and tests at home, for example. There’s also the chance that some people might be uncomfortable with, or even downright resistant to, attending some of their office visits online. There may be a learning curve for all of us, so we’re going to have to be willing to adapt as we go.

Social distancing could literally save millions of lives, but that means cutting contact using every means possible. Telemedicine could be a powerful tool in protecting doctors, our front line of defense against this pandemic, as well as patients. And once we’ve smoothed out all the wrinkles and figured out what works and what doesn’t, we might find ourselves asking why we hadn’t thought to do this sooner.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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