Can Telemedicine Help to Flatten the Curve?
The Helium Team
Telemedicine, is not a new term, far back in the 70s, healthcare professionals termed it as “healing at a distance” because no physician had to physically touch or talk to a patient for treatments to be given. Over the years, telemedicine has managed to develop a bad reputation because of a misconception that quality care cannot be given over the phone or video calls. This is strange because medical professionals will often be the first to admit that they spend a substantial amount of time on the phone with patients. These phone exchanges between care providers and patients are so commonplace that it may be understandable to see why it is overlooked as care provision when in fact, it is exactly that.
With the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, the number of reasons to make telemedicine a recognized and mainstay medium of care provision have only increased. Telemedicine is no longer a tool for the comfort of patients, it is necessary to protect the lives of healthcare professionals and provide access to those who cannot go to hospitals for fear of contracting COVID-19.
In the last couple of weeks, the number of infected COVID19 patients has gone from 0 to about 900 in Nigeria. While most of the infected people will experience mild cases of the disease, people over 60 years or people who have already existing health conditions or a compromised immune system are the ones at the greatest risk. This creates a public health responsibility to limit the spread of the virus not just outside healthcare facilities, but within them as well.
Social distancing rarely ever happens in spaces like waiting rooms and encourages the spread of the virus. Telehealth is one strategy we can use to keep healthcare providers safe and keep COVID-19 patients apart from other patients, Telemedicine can help flatten the curve by enabling symptomatic patients to get care at hospitals without the fear of spreading the disease to other patients who can get care through virtual consultations.
Adopting virtual care is also necessary to free up medical staff and equipment, allowing them to be used for those who become seriously ill from COVID-19. It is especially important in this period that we do not overburdening health care systems because it can lead to depletion of medical supplies and human resources. Healthcare facilities should adopt Telemedicine at this time.
Look at Italy, which has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Italian Health Council has relied on telemedicine to help flatten the curve and facilitate greater access to healthcare for those with non-COVID-19 diseases. Also, The U.S. House of Representatives has also approved $500 million to allow Medicare providers administer telehealth services so that more elderly patients, who are at greater risk from the virus, can receive care at home.
This drives us to say that we believe it can flatten the curve of infections and help healthcare facilities deploy their staff and lifesaving equipment wisely. Here at Helium Health, we stand with all healthcare givers this season.