As the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly across the U.S., with nearly 18 million confirmed cases thus far, the Healthcare industry is seeing a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine. The surge of telemedicine can be pinpointed to an exact date, March 17, 2020; when Medicare Chief Seema Verma announced at a White House coronavirus briefing, that virtual medication would be promoted in these frantic times. Since March 17th Verma temporarily lifted many federal restrictions on the use of telemedicine, which had been especially scarce in rural areas. Patients have since been checking in with their physicians through numerous methods, including email, telephone, or video chats. The government has even gone as far as to ease the regulations on medical professionals, allowing them more time to focus on their patients. The CARES Act is seen as probably the most critical movement from the government in promoting telemedicine. The CARES Act gave $200 million through the FCC to medical offices, in order to fund new technology and broadband installations.
Not only is telemedicine credited for making patient’s lives easier, but it has also become a financial lifeline for struggling doctor's offices. "For independent practices, small mid-size, it's been a tremendous salvation for those who would otherwise have had to say, 'we can't see patients, we've got to close down,'" said Dr. Jay Wolfson, an associate vice president of South Florida Health. Wolfson said the biggest change happened when Medicare and private insurers began covering telehealth appointments. "The rule has always been, as goes Medicare, so goes the rest of the healthcare system.” It really was a savior for a lot of small practices because they were able to see their patients, provide them with the same kind of clinical services they would otherwise provide and get paid for it." Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, insurance companies generally only covered telemedicine under special circumstances and for patients living in remote areas. (Mesmer, Aaron, 2020, Struggling Doctors Turn to Telemedicine to Keep Practices Afloat).
Below are the top 4 advantages of telemedicine and why its usage will increase for the foreseeable future: (Information was helped provided by John Hopkins Medicine and arkenea
Convenience: With telemedicine, you don’t have to travel to the doctor’s office or clinic and sit in a waiting room when you’re sick. You can see your doctor from the comfort of your own bed or sofa. Virtual visits make it more convenient to see your doctor during your busy schedule, allowing you to see them when on a lunch break, in between meetings, or even before your workday begins.
Infectious illness control: COVID-19, the flu, and other infectious diseases, can spread rapidly from person-to-person through physical contact or through air particles, which is why telemedicine has become so useful and popular during this pandemic era. Physicians can use telehealth appointments to prescreen patients for possible infectious disease. Less exposure to other people’s germs helps everyone, especially those who are chronically ill, pregnant, elderly, or immunocompromised.
Improved quality assessment: Telemedicine provides specialty practitioners an assessment advantage because they can see how you and your body react to your home environment. For example, allergists may be able to identify clues in your surroundings that cause allergies. Neurologists, physical and occupational therapists can observe you and assess your ability to navigate and take care of yourself in your home. Telemedicine is also a good way to get mental health assessment and counseling.
Primary care and chronic condition management: It is essential to your family’s health, to participate in regular visits with primary care practitioners, such as those specializing in family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics. Telemedicine is the easiest way to connect with a doctor or nurse practitioner. Some systems are even set up so that new patients can receive an appointment with the next available practitioner, on the same day, proving that telemedicine’s main goal is to provide fast and quality service.