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COVID-19: The Virtual Age of Healthcare

Nurses Article   (617 Views | 0 Replies | 860 Words)

PCU_RN9 is a MSN and specializes in Insurance/ cardiac.

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Will the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020 Be the Groundbreaking Year for Telemedicine?

The virtual age of healthcare is upon us. I believe 2020 will be the groundbreaking year for telemedicine. Now, virtual medicine is not new. This technology has been around for several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has shaken up and altered the healthcare system in unprecedented ways. This article discusses the pros, cons, and future recommendations and thoughts on telehealth.

COVID-19: The Virtual Age of Healthcare
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The virtual age of healthcare is upon us. I believe 2020 will be the groundbreaking year for telemedicine. Now, virtual medicine is not new. This technology has been around for several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has shaken up and altered the healthcare system in unprecedented ways.

Let’s face it. The world is changing all around us. When I was growing up (which doesn’t feel like all that long ago), my friends and I played hide and seek, it-tag, and kickball in our free time. As teenagers, we spent time hanging out at the local shopping malls and spent evenings at bonfires. These days, children and teenagers spend hours on apps such as Tik-Tok, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, to name a few. Ordering food and having it delivered is as easy as downloading an app, choosing a meal, and clicking “submit.” Buying items from books, to clothing, to household goods, can be also be completed by simply using your phone or computer. Even all of my courses for my MSN/ MBA degree are virtual! At some point, healthcare had to jump on board. That time is now!

Is telemedicine appropriate?

Telemedicine certainly has pros and cons. When I began working as a nurse case manager for an insurance company, I was hesitant to advise customers to use virtual doctor visits for symptoms/ailments, a benefit available for many customers. After all, how is a doctor going to diagnose pneumonia without listening to the patient’s lungs or getting a chest x-ray? How well can a doctor determine that a patient has strep throat without actually looking at their throat or performing a throat culture? Maybe that sore throat is just a viral infection and unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics is compounding antibiotic resistance.

Pros

Telemedicine can be quite helpful as long as the practitioner has sufficient experience. While diagnosing over the phone/computer can pose a challenge, many conditions often present in a typical fashion. If the practitioner knows the right questions to ask, diagnosing can be simple with many straightforward conditions.

Cost

The cost of medical care today is astronomical. Many health plans have switched to high deductible plans. This means that patients pay out of pocket until a deductible of $4,000 or even as high as $6,000 has been met. Using telemedicine is a more cost-effective option for those who do not have the funds to pay for standard office or urgent care visits.

Convenience

This is extremely important. Everybody always seems to be busy and on the go these days. Telemedicine provides convenient access to care. Instead of wasting half of the day going to a doctor’s appointment, why not call a doctor on the phone on your lunch break, then pick up your prescribed medication on the way home?

Availability

A frequent complaint I hear in my position as an insurance company case manager is the lack of availability of appointments. Wait times for doctor/NP/PA appointments can be days, weeks, and even months depending on the specialty and area of the country one resides in. This is not practical if an individual is experiencing acute symptoms. Telemedicine offers an option for immediate care in these situations. Also, telemedicine can be especially useful for those who live in rural areas or those who do not have transportation to traditional doctor visits.

Cons

It is possible to misdiagnose

Even the best practitioners can misdiagnose when typical evaluation methods are not possible. This can lead to follow up virtual visits or a trip to the doctor’s or urgent care center for further evaluation.

Not all symptoms are appropriate for telemedicine

I have had customers try to use telemedicine for symptoms such as black tarry stools, right lower quadrant pain, or symptoms consistent with pyelonephritis. As healthcare providers, we can help educate patients on when telemedicine services are appropriate and when in person care is warranted.

Not all specialties participate in telemedicine

Virtual medicine is ever-changing and I believe this will change, but currently, some specialties do not use telehealth services (for the most part) which can hinder a patient from seeking care at the onset of symptoms.

Recommendations for healthcare professionals

Over the next few years, the demand for virtual medicine is going to evolve and skyrocket. We are on the brink of major changes in healthcare at this time. It is imperative for healthcare professionals to stay abreast of the changes so they can provide the best care to patients.

What exactly does this mean for nurses and other healthcare professionals?

Perhaps incorporating virtual evaluation courses into the curriculum for health care professionals. With an increased push to outpatient care, perhaps virtual nursing visits will also become more mainstream.

What do you think lies ahead for telemedicine/ telehealth services and how will nurses at all levels play a role?

2 Articles; 2,766 Profile Views; 53 Posts

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