Contact Sales

All fields are required

Telemedicine: Telecom in the Age of Coronavirus | SignalWire

Telemedicine: Telecom in the Age of Coronavirus

Telecom has produced countless technologies that keep us all connected – especially tools allowing employees to work remotely by video conferencing. In the age of coronavirus, these same tools are now vital for people to connect to medical professionals. Telemedicine isn’t really a new thing, of course. Doctors have been connected to patients by radio and video for decades. But how often have you opted to participate in a doctor’s appointment via video call?

As coronavirus spreads, so does the concern of overwhelming medical facilities and staff. Some people are more at risk due to other illnesses, some are more likely to be vectors for the virus, and medical staff themselves risk their own health coming into contact with so many patients. And all of these people have a lot to gain by swapping out in-person appointments for virtual meetings.

Telemedicine has yet to really take off in the United States, but that seems to be rapidly changing with the spread of coronavirus and limited testing available. Health insurance plans have been offering the option to patients of talking to a nurse or doctor online instead of going to a clinic or doctor’s office, but most people haven’t made use of that.

In the United States, hospitals are expanding the use of telemedicine during this time to safely screen and treat patients for coronavirus while containing its spread. This is a massive turning point for virtual health, and we’re starting to see the benefits of having it available to us during a public health crisis. Many hospitals now have virtual screenings set up to help identify patients that may have coronavirus, but telehealth will also be crucial for other appointments. Meanwhile, in Canada, a free platform was recently developed to connect doctors and patients remotely with the goal of limiting stress on the healthcare system.

Medicare in the United States has also just been expanded into telemedicine, with the hope of stopping the spread of coronavirus among seniors, the most vulnerable population. Patients can connect to doctors with commonly used apps like Skype or FaceTime. This will be essential for keeping seniors up to date on any of their usual follow up appointments for other medical issues. Telehealth coverage under Medicare was very limited, but now Medicare will cover visits that previously had to be held in person in order to be covered.

As telemedicine becomes more widely available, we can help keep the most vulnerable populations safe while steering everyone toward the proper treatment. By calling in with a video chat, patients can get guidance about whether they should be tested instead of showing up to doctors’ offices unannounced and putting others at risk. Or, high-risk patients can keep themselves safe by opting for a virtual visit first, whether it be with concerns of the virus, or for a routine check-in to avoid crowded waiting rooms.

Especially for an otherwise healthy person who is low-risk and currently has mild symptoms, remaining home while still receiving medical expertise is a great option to prevent putting others at risk. If it is determined that a patient needs to come into a hospital for care, medical staff can prepare appropriately, protecting other patients from exposure and getting the infected to an isolation room. When it comes to coronavirus, this also helps to prevent widespread infection of healthcare workers.

Virtual care still has its limits, and vulnerable patients are still encouraged to seek in-person treatment. Some of these systems may not yet be fully prepared to help patients who do have the virus. But, at the very least, telemedicine can allow the risks of a patient to be assessed to determine whether in-person care is needed, or if self-quarantine would be sufficient. It’s also useful for medical staff who have to self-quarantine due to exposure but who otherwise show no symptoms, allowing them to help patients online.

Telemedicine will continue to be rediscovered and expanded as health systems adapt and develop more virtual tools for patients to use during this crisis. So for now, take care – and if you’re feeling sick, call your doctor and see if a virtual meeting would be accessible for your situation.