Will Virtual Care Be The New Norm After Covid 19??

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The Question: Last week, my wife called our doctors offices after one of our twins had a slightly high temperature. She was told that she could schedule an online video call with our doctor instead.  The idea was to keep patients away from the consulting rooms, unless absolutely necessary, and this would help to  slow down the spread of COVID-19. It was very convenient, easy to do, and she got the solution in half the time, and best of all, she didn’t even need to leave home….her question now is … will she be able to keep seeing our doctor this way after the pandemic is over?

The Answer: That is certainly the hope of many advocates of virtual care, also known as telemedicine, which can include video conferencing, e-mails, and old-fashioned phone calls.

In the past, many barriers stood in the way of the wider adoption of virtual care. There were concerns about patient privacy, regulatory concerns and barriers and debates over how much to compensate doctors for their time….if they even got compensated. Having said this, there were always those who were the early adopters, who made telemedicine work for them and incorporated it as part of their practice. To these individuals, telemedicine is just another day at the office, to the new comers, it became a necessity and no longer just a “nice to have.”

But the sudden need for people to keep physically apart has led many practitioners to adopt measures that make it easier for them to provide certain forms of care without seeing patients face-to-face. We saw the introduction of new billing codes, a rushed introduction of new telemedicine solutions and a raging debate over the appropriateness of Zoom for clinical use, although many have still opted for this, ignoring the warnings from indemnity insurors and associations.

Almost overnight, virtual care has become the norm. And that is certainly true when it comes to nonhospitalised patients with COVID-19.

We have seen how patients who tests positive for COVID-19 , and have been discharged home to self isolation, are followed-up through a secure online platform. 

There can be no doubt that the pandemic has proven the value of virtual care in a crisis, and it will also demonstrate its effectiveness for ongoing chronic care management. This will have a long lasting effect on the adoption of virtual care and accelerate the shift from in person care to virtual first engagement for a variety of different conditions.

While the need for remote care will not be as acute once the pandemic crisis subsides, demand for telehealth systems will likely remain high. Patients and doctors have got used to the ease and efficiency offered by telehealth. Patient communities will want to continue to receive online care for some things, like managing chronic conditions, follow up visits after surgeries, or to discuss diagnostic results. 

Its going to be really important for doctors to make sure that  they are able to  assist, or face losing the patient to someone who can. 

There is no doubt that we expect the waters to recede a little after all of this is over, however, we have seen some amazing examples of doctors who have utilised telemedicine to keep their practice going and revenue flowing…there is no ways that this will just go away.

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