Remote Healthcare During the Pandemic

Nathalie Leung

What is Telehealth?

According to CipherHealth, the term “Telehealth” applies to a broad array of communication technologies used to deliver medical care.

“It is delivered through devices transmitting information between a provider and a patient, whether via phone, text, mobile apps, a patient portal, or videoconferencing. Traditionally, healthcare is delivered synchronously, meaning, in real-time, usually at a provider’s office, or now, via a telehealth consult,” wrote Alex Hejnosz, a co-founder of CipherHealth, in an article published by CipherHealth, “The pandemic has taught us that much can be accomplished when you aren’t face to face. With the ubiquity of connected medical devices, the possibilities are truly limitless for asynchronous communication.”

Telehealth has expanded access to better and faster care.

According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, Intermountain Healthcare had a head start on Telehealth, and that even before the pandemic began, they had a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year digital medical and behavioral health networks set up that were approaching a million telemedicine consults.

With this digital health network already set up, when the pandemic hit they were ready to use and improvise their existing network to adapt to an increasing number of patients.

“Intermountain’s telemedicine service had 830,000 total patient interactions from 2015 to 2019, an average of 454 per day. So far in 2020, we’ve had 1.3 million interactions, or 4,300 per day. In addition, our online AI-based Covid-19 symptom checker is getting 1,800 clicks a day.” said Marc Harrison in an article published by Harvard Business Review.

Benefits of Telehealth

Telehealth poses many benefits and conveniences, especially under the circumstances we are being put in during the pandemic.

Digital Health is Convenient and Safer

Consumers and patients can get the care they need at their convenience in their home or community. This is essential, especially in the midst of a pandemic where it is safer to stay home than go out and it allows you to still get access to what you need.

A patient who’s tested positive for Covid doesn’t have to go see their doctor or go into an urgent care clinic to discuss their symptoms. Doctors and other caregivers who are providing virtual care for hospitalized Covid patients don’t face increased risk of exposure as they would in person. Since it is virtual, they also don’t have to put on personal protective equipment, step into the patient’s room, then step outside and take off their protective equipment and supplies. That protective equipment is needed and in shortage, and Telehealth helps us limit their usage.

Quick Access to Quality Care and Professionals

With Telehealth, highly trained specialists including neurologists, intensivists, neonatologists, and oncologists are now only a couple of clicks away. Digital healthcare has also helped doctors connect with patients in remote areas, which previously they never would have been able to treat.

Reduces overcrowding in ICUs

Instead of transporting more patients to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a referral center in a big city, patients can stay in their local hospital and be treated with the aid of Telehealth. This is important, especially during the pandemic since it is reducing overcrowding and is helping free up as many ICU beds as possible for Covid-19 patients.

The Telehealth Process, how it works.

According to the same article published by Harvard Business Review, “Intermountain Healthcare’s virtual hospital is especially well-suited for Covid patients.”

The article continues to detail about Intermountain Healthcare’s process with Telehealth and how they are treating patients.

“With our virtual hospital — which uses a combination of telemedicine, home health, and remote patient monitoring — we send you home with a technology kit that allows us to check how you’re doing. You’ll be cared for by a virtual team, including a hospitalist who monitors your vital signs around the clock and home health nurses who do routine rounding. That’s working really well: Our clinical outcomes are excellent, our satisfaction scores are through the roof, and it’s less expensive. Plus, it frees up the hospital beds and staff we need to treat our sickest Covid patients.”