What to Expect with Telemedicine After COVID-19

By Dr. Shashita Inamdar, Medical Director, Achieve Medical Center/Achieve TMS Center
Twitter: @AchieveTMS

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has transformed the way healthcare practitioners and patients connect. To evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients, healthcare practitioners are increasingly using telemedicine during the pandemic. After the pandemic ends, healthcare practitioners should expect the use of telemedicine to continue.

Telemedicine has become exceedingly important during the pandemic. Many cities and towns were temporarily shut down at different times over the past few months. And some, of course, are shutting down once again in an effort to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. With telemedicine, healthcare practitioners have been able to engage with their patients throughout the pandemic — albeit remotely — and help them manage preexisting or new health problems.

Thanks to telemedicine, healthcare practitioners can electronically communicate and provide clinical services to patients, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for in-person visits entirely at a time when physical distancing is paramount. The CDC and other global health organizations have urged people to social distance to help slow the coronavirus spread. However, social distancing has inadvertently led to emotional distancing, particularly among those coping with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

Social distancing has led to a loss of social engagement, and people can no longer meet in-person with family members, friends, and coworkers in the same way they did before the pandemic. Additionally, people may be overcome by fear on account of the pandemic; this may lead them to ignore therapy for preexisting health issues or forgo treatment for new medical problems.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has created a “new normal.” Healthcare practitioners and their patients continue to adjust to it. Thus far, the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for healthcare practitioners and their patients. The crisis has also led healthcare practitioners to innovate. One such innovation: the use of telemedicine to help patients manage chronic medical conditions, medication use, or other health issues.

Telemedicine technology lets healthcare practitioners deliver patient care — without leaving home. To engage with patients, healthcare practitioners can set up appointments the same way they did before the pandemic. Then, when an appointment is scheduled to begin, a healthcare practitioner enters a virtual meeting via a smartphone, tablet, or computer and meets with a patient in real-time, face to face.

The benefits of telemedicine for healthcare practitioners and patients have been significant during the pandemic. In addition to providing patients with medical support, telemedicine helps healthcare professionals expand their essential health services. They also use telemedicine to stay up to date with patients and ensure they are fully supported, regardless of location. At the same time, these professionals are using telemedicine to provide critical health services to those in need, at a time when health and safety are top of mind for people around the globe.

Both healthcare practitioners and their patients are benefiting from telemedicine in the midst of the pandemic, and the push for telemedicine shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, new regulations have been established that may make it easier than ever before for healthcare. The CDC has established a framework for healthcare systems that provide non-COVID-19 clinical care during the pandemic, and it recommends healthcare professionals optimize their telehealth services whenever possible. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association (AMA) has developed a telehealth quick guide to help healthcare practitioners implement telemedicine. The guide has been continuously updated throughout the pandemic offering resources and tools to help healthcare professionals get the best results from their telemedicine initiatives.

Going forward, telemedicine is poised to be a major component in how healthcare practitioners and patients engage with one another, even after the pandemic ends. For healthcare professionals, embracing telemedicine sooner rather than later may be beneficial. Because, if these professionals prioritize telemedicine, they can find ways to use it to provide their patients with the care they deserve, regardless of physical location, now and in the future.