The boom of Telehealth during COVID-19
COVID-19 has impacted communities worldwide, and for the healthcare industry it has presented both opportunities and challenges, due to the increased demand for remote patient monitoring tools and Telehealth solutions. In a recent survey undertaken by Qardio, 91% of the healthcare professionals surveyed reported that their patients were now more confident to monitor their health at home and 87% will be investing more in Telehealth in the future.* We explore the boom of Telehealth during COVID-19.
Qardio spoke with Dr. Virginia Thornley, a Board-Certified Neurologist in Sarasota, Florida to understand her thoughts on technology in the healthcare industry.
Providing access to healthcare in rural areas
The COVID-19 outbreak pushed the industry to rapidly adapt to new ways of working, like Telehealth. In fact 85% of healthcare professionals surveyed by Qardio had to cancel face-to-face appointments in their doctor’s office due to the crisis. Dr. Thornley’s experience was no different. For her, it was her first time taking her consultations online and delivering patient care remotely: “I have been doing telemedicine since the second week of March 2020 due to COVID-19. Patients still have acute issues during this time and still need care. I think it is excellent when they are established patients, as they will not have to travel every time to see a doctor if it’s a simple follow-up. I’ve found it is particularly beneficial in rural areas, as it is helpful for Emergency Room doctors if there are no neurologists in the community or if the specialists are spread very thinly and relief is needed at night.”
Telehealth as a double-edged sword
In Dr. Thornley’s opinion, technology in the healthcare industry has its pros and cons: “Telehealth facilitates monitoring, as it saves staff from having to manually take measurements, such as blood pressure readings. However, I feel it can take away the personal quality that is important in medicine.” In this way, maintaining contact with the patient via a phone call or an in-person visit where possible is key, in addition to using technology.
Driving behavior change in patients
Transitioning to Telehealth is not always an easy task for patients, especially when it is a new experience. In Dr. Thornley’s view, it is necessary to take time to explain everything to the patient so they feel comfortable and familiar with the technology: “I find it beneficial to explain things in a risk and benefit ratio. In terms of technology, if the benefits outweigh the risk, why hold off? My patient population does tend to be older and whilst I think telemedicine is a great option, if the patient cannot handle it I still make sure to communicate by phone.”
Future of tech in healthcare
As healthcare technology is increasingly booming, Dr. Thornley shares her thoughts on the future: “I think in the future, it will only become more advanced, with automatic check-ins replacing staff, which on the one hand will increase efficiency but on the other hand will depersonalize medicine. However, there will always be pros and cons with everything. In general, I feel telemedicine will be booming and shifting to a more convenient schedule.”
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With thanks to Dr. Virginia Thornley, Neurologist of virginiathornleymd.com for her input.
Disclaimer: this is medical information only not medical advice, please talk to your doctor.
*Survey conducted in June 2020 with 89 healthcare professionals participating.