Covid-19 Pandemic Highlights the Importance of Telemedicine

With the World Health Organization now classifying the current Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic, health care systems around the world are implementing new policies, restrictions, and preparedness plans. Amongst the flurry of activity, new methods of care delivery have been flung into the spotlight, including drive through virus testing, triage tents, and (last but not least), telemedicine.

A recent New York Times article highlights the sudden expansion of telemedicine as an effective tool to help combat the Covid-19 outbreak and how the U.S. Government is allowing a loosening of restrictions on care delivery via telemedicine for Medicare patients. Several private insurers have also endorsed telemedicine as a method of improving access to care for their beneficiaries.

Of course telemedicine is not a new phenomenon and has been around for several decades now, but continues to grow in popularity and acceptance among not only the previously mentioned policy makers and insurers, but also patients and providers. With the American Medical Association having estimated that nearly 75% of all doctor, urgent care and emergency room visits could be handled safely and effectively over the phone or through a video, such popularity and acceptance should only continue to grow.

A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine also endorsed telemedicine as an effective form of “forward triage” in addressing the Covid-19 outbreak:

“Direct-to-consumer (or on-demand) telemedicine, a 21st-century approach to forward triage that allows patients to be efficiently screened, is both patient-centered and conducive to self-quarantine, and it protects patients, clinicians, and the community from exposure. It can allow physicians and patients to communicate 24/7, using smartphones or webcam-enabled computers.”