How Telemedicine can help us in the crisis of COVID-19
Just three short months after the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), life has turned upside down, as we have known it. Stocks are tanking. Stores are cleaned of important items such as milk, toilet paper and sanitizer for hands. The trip is anchored. Schools and public activities are coming to a close. Employers are sending workers home to work. Improving access and intervention The CDC is advising patients to call ahead before receiving face-to-face medical treatment to reduce the possibility of spreading the disease. The problem is that telephone lines are tied up and in-person visits have the potential to put others, including more than needed staff in the healthcare sector in harm’s way. Providers urgently need a method to help them figure out cases of seasonal allergies, cold or illness flu easily – without resource tying up. Telehealth can help by allowing clinicians to evaluate and classify potentially infected patients safely – whether via video conferencing or text communication. When a patient is at high risk or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 based on symptoms, they would most likely be suggested to stay home and self-quarantine because there are not enough test kits to go around and no vaccine is available In these circumstances, virtual consultations will help physicians keep a watchful eye on the progression of the illness, allowing them to treat and monitor patients with milder conditions and know who is sick enough to refer to a hospital. Modernizing healthcare communications Given healthcare digitization over the past two decades, communications approaches have not kept up. Most providers tend to rely on in-person appointments, telephone calls, voice messages and response services. These one-to-one communication methods are inefficient which lead to bottlenecks, delays and frustration. As populations are struck by the epidemic, we hear reports of patients who have been waiting on hold for more than four hours to speak to healthcare staff. Soon the phone network would be overwhelmed, adding to the uncertainty, anxiety and tension. Virtual appointments can help patients coordinate resources and triage patient issues quickly and easily, whether, through live two-way video conferencing, storage and forward contact, remote patient tracking, or asynchronous messaging and text messaging. All modalities have their benefits, but the most realistic, expedient and capable of managing a large number of patients turn out to be Texting. Meeting patient demand with texting Despite Telehealth’s many advantages, when it comes to consolidating and streamlining communication, not all are created equal. The crisis is showing this weakness as some telemedicine services crash, are slow to load and cause long waiting times, or have bugs to repair. Of all of these reasons text messaging stands out as a promising alternative. Texting allows for multiple conversations in real-time, so healthcare staff can triage questions from 6-10 patients at a time and direct them to the most appropriate resource. In this way, practices will get the right people at the right time to have the right discussions for the right intervention, whether to refill prescriptions, quell concerns, track symptoms or route cases to a test centre. Maintaining humanity in a time of uncertainty Hospitals providing patient-centred care understand that there is a need for an effective communication strategy to reach patients where they are. They are beginning to leverage communication networks that facilitate secure messaging, social media and telehealth capabilities to effectively communicate with patients in their preferred manner.