In the throes of a global pandemic, the novel coronavirus has directly impacted the medical technology industry.
Changes in the Delivery of Healthcare
In light of the rapid spread of COVID-19, the healthcare industry and the federal governmental entities that regulate it have been faced with the issue of treating critical COVID-19 patients, while maintaining healthcare delivery for patients with chronic illnesses and ongoing medical issues as well as patients with problems that need to be addressed during the pandemic.
Going beyond the virus became an immediate need while simultaneously limiting the exposure of these other patients to the coronavirus that began to spread aggressively. Currently, the confirmed cases continue to grow. We are experiencing a surge in our country and a strain on our healthcare system. It has become increasingly evident changes need to be made.
Telemedicine and Telehealth
Many patients did not know up until now that they can have access to their personal EHR through a patient portal if it is offered by their primary (hospitals and specialists as well). Additionally, patients can request remote visits and medication refills. Shifts in telemedicine and telehealth allow patients to be cared for by their physicians by way of video or phone visits.
By offering patients telemedicine, the clinical workflow will be more efficient. This also allows the physicians to minimize the patient’s exposure to the virus as well as themselves. Attention can be given to remote patients in a block while patients who may have COVID-19 are seen in the office in another block of time. This forms a more secure bond between the patient and the provider, especially when the provider designates a quiet place where interruptions will be limited.
WHO Points to Telemedicine as the Best Avenue for Mobilization of Healthcare?
The World Health Organization has published recommendations on mobilizing healthcare delivery to maintain the continuity of essential services for their patients, in response to the demand on the workforce during the pandemic. The most efficient and reliable way to do this is to expand on existing telemedicine and instruct facilities and clinics who do not have telemedicine in place on how to quickly become a provider.
The U.S. Promptly Responds With Telemedicine Expansion
By the end of March, the United States passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that included the CARES Act. The ATA has praised the federal government for including an expansion for the coverage of telemedicine. The 1135 waiver allows providers to safely provide telemedicine to their patients without worrying over prior authorizations, reimbursements, and more.
Over the past two weeks, patients who never knew telemedicine existed have had their first visit via phone or video. Additionally, patients are discovering that they can have their blood pressure and blood glucose related to their physician in real time as prescribed by the clinician. Telemedicine has become the wave of the future.
Will the Telemedicine Train Continue After the Pandemic Is Over?
The U.S. health system has undergone dramatic changes in a very short period of time. HIPAA regulations have relaxed, allowing the use of Facebook and Skype for telemedicine visits. Hospitals have started using chatbots with symptom checkers and telemedicine tools. This has seemingly happened overnight, making it possible to triage patients to keep the healthy patients at home.
In the blink of an eye, medicine has a new front door. Patients can choose to get advice from a chatbot or message a nurse. Providers are relieved to find that they are getting paid no matter what communication mode is utilized.
There are legitimate concerns from the startups with regards to the big dogs of the technology companies. If the telemedicine trend continues beyond the pandemic, there are many questions of liability that will need to be answered. For example, if a chatbot gives the wrong advice to a patient, who is responsible: the start-up company or the provider?
Due to the pandemic breakout, the new options for medical care are on the forefront, and patients and clinicians alike are happy with the benefits. Many want these changes to be a permanent option, and if the companies do their jobs correctly during this critical period, telemedicine will remain an option far beyond this pandemic.