The coronavirus outbreak has enforced social distancing, isolation, and quarantines around the world. As a result of the need to distance, telehealth has become the norm and not the exception for medical appointments. This digital form of connecting doctors and patients has become a bridge during the pandemic.
As a healthcare practitioner (HCP), you are probably seeing the need to implement more digital tools and connections in your practice or hospital. Luckily, telemedicine is connecting physicians and patients in hospitals and households all over the world. Following are three approaches to improving connections.
Automated chatbots are a standard for many businesses, like banks or tech companies. Now, you may be seeing text-bots or chatbots for healthcare practices as well. They can do everything from checking symptoms to receiving information.
For instance, Conserva and Healthgrades have developed a symptom-checking bot for messaging. Individuals can text “VIRUS” to 83973 to learn about their symptoms, next steps, and HCPs in their area. Such chatbots can help reduce daily call volumes that can overwhelm staff.
Implementing an automated chatbot into your practice’s site allows employees to focus on more pressing issues. A chatbot can also reduce the amount of contact a person with the virus has if they isolate themselves or seek immediate help.
- Video Chatting
Telehealth covers a wide range of capabilities, from patient assessments to treatment and remote monitoring. Now, with the relaxed telehealth regulations from Medicare, HCPs can help patients remotely. Chatbots act as a preliminary step, after which some patients will require consultation. This is where video chatting comes in.
Video chats through telehealth apps—or apps like FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype—provide remote communication from anywhere. As an HCP, you may want to suggest to patients that video chatting is a safer option than office visits during COVID-19. The possibility of spreading the virus is a risk you can’t take. If the patient’s symptoms are mild and they can stay home, they may not need to come in. Teladoc, a common example of a telehealth app, covers every day, dermatology, and mental health visits. The app has become especially helpful during the coronavirus outbreak.
Teletriage is a newer term that encompasses a unique approach to telehealth. Most people think remote health technology is for connecting doctors and patients who are at home. However, telemedicine can help within a hospital, as well.
At Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, teletriage is the standard for some patients. Upon arriving at a hospital with symptoms, patients may receive an iPad or tablet, and a physician may instruct them to go to an isolated room. From there, they can use the device to video chat and discuss symptoms and treatment plans. This dynamic can limit contact so the virus doesn’t spread.
Elsewhere, data and analytics can help experts understand how the virus is spreading and predict what will happen next. Since big data is a resource to fight the infection, using technology to gather triage and treatment information is necessary. From there, HCPs can monitor, in real-time, the numbers of those coming and going.
The Next COVID-19 Technology
These three areas of telehealth are crucial now more than ever. They will help you send out information and treat patients in high-tech ways to slow the spread.
What comes next, however, is also important. Contact tracing is something experts and big tech are trying to roll out as soon as possible. With contact tracing, telehealth takes the next step toward stopping COVID-19.