Telehealth is Here to Stay

Telehealth: Nurses at the forefront

As a result of COVID-19, telehealth is becoming more commonplace in the healthcare community. This article discusses what needs to happen for an easy transition of providers and nurses offering care in dual modalities, that is in-person and virtually.

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Telehealth: Nurses at the forefront

Telehealth and Nursing Care

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, discussions about telehealth, the use and management of health care in whereby individuals manage aspects of their care with remote support from healthcare professionals, were minute. While telehealth has been available almost exclusively for people living in rural areas, the pandemic drew attention to this healthcare delivery option. In fact, the healthcare system was begging to use this service to power through what felt like an eternity of social distancing and mask mandates. COVID-19 has proven it will be around for a long while; now the healthcare system must decide how to manage the care of patients with telehealth, and with nurses at the forefront.

Advantages of and Barriers to Telehealth

Telehealth tackles several barriers for various groups. First, telehealth has allowed for continuity of care for patients who struggle to make numerous in-person provider appointments. Second, telehealth allows for social distancing, which helped slow the spread of the virus initially, as well as other contagious infections like the flu. Third, telehealth has allowed for more triaging and screening of patients. With the use of telehealth, nurses are now able to redirect patients where they need to go for their specific needs. Nurses are also able to alleviate some of the provider’s time with a nurse visit.

While telehealth is a great tool for the delivery of health care for certain settings, it comes with drawbacks also. First, both providers and patients who are not tech-savvy or have never used telehealth are now faced with the task of learning a new system. This could only aggravate the digital divide between those wanting more time to navigate the world wide web and those who prefer more traditional forms of communication. Second, privacy concerns may arise for patients when they are connecting in semi-private areas, and for providers and nurses when reviewing and sharing electronic health data. Third, telehealth does not allow for performing in-depth physical examinations.

Telehealth Beyond the Pandemic

Early literature shows favorable results for the continued use of telehealth. Researchers have found that patients benefited from continued access to care and economic benefits (less time away from work and family, eliminated travel costs, less need for childcare assistance). Providers and other healthcare professionals benefitted from less travel time to work and the preservation of personal protective equipment. On the other hand, technical difficulties have hindered both patients and providers, while time has been a barrier for providers and other health professionals to learn and test a new digital system for televisits.

To ease the continued transition from in-person to remote visits (and the dual offering of both), healthcare systems will need to provide long-term support in the form of education for both nurses (and providers) and patients. Nurses have long been responsible for educating their patients in a way that supports the patient’s ability to care for themselves, while taking into consideration the patient’s environment. Telehealth may enhance nurses’ ability to do this.

Providers and health systems will also need to determine how to develop a standardized process to allow patients to transition from in-person to telehealth visits, as necessary. Providing a trusted digital system for the use of video conferences and the sharing of electronic health information may help some patients to feel more comfortable with televisits, while also allowing nurses and providers to provide efficient care from a distance.

Additionally, the development of both nursing information systems and AI-assisted telehealth systems to provide effective health care remotely for patients with chronic conditions should also be of interest to healthcare systems. Nursing informatics has grown in popularity for nursing schools around the world, as nurses (especially bedside nurses) remain in high demand. While nursing schools have implemented the teaching of conducting a head-to-toe assessment remotely, trainings should be provided to providers, nurses, and healthcare professionals making a swift change from in-person to telehealth visits.

Telehealth provides more opportunities for patients to contact providers, nurses, and other health professionals as needed. It will also continue to slow the spread of communicable illnesses. There will be a continuing period of trial and error with the presentation of telehealth; however, the benefits will likely outweigh the costs. 


References/Resources

Models of Incorporating Telehealth into Obstetric Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Its Benefits And Barriers: A Scoping Review

Opportunities and challenges for telehealth within, and beyond, a pandemic

Expansion of telehealth in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic: benefits and barriers

Telehealth Benefits and Barriers

Preparing nurses for roles in telehealth: Now is the time

Utilization of telehealth and the advancement of nursing informatics during COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandria is a Registered Nurse with telemetry experience, as well as providing care to those experiencing homelessness in and around Skid Row, Los Angeles.

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