As the impact of the Coronavirus continues to evolve and expand, doctors and healthcare providers are continually being forced to reimagine the way they deliver care to their patients on a fundamental level. Providers are relying on live video appointments with patients, commonly known as telehealth, to address concerns during the pandemic.
“We quickly saw people over 65, people with autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hypertension, those were the ones we were most concerned about," said Dr. Ted Belsches, a primary care physician for Prisma Health in Columbia. "And so, we didn’t really want them coming into the office potentially getting infected. And we, necessarily, didn’t want to get exposed either.”
Dr. Donnie Aga of the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic Group in Houston, TX adds that the virus’s rapid spread forced them to make changes quickly.
“We were starting to lose our employees due to exposures. So it became probably about the 2nd or 3rd week of March that we decided that we needed to move to 100% virtual health.”
According to a survey conducted by the South Carolina Office of Rural Health, 90% of healthcare providers who responded were using telehealth to provide care for their patients.
Dr. Leslie Lenert, of the Medical University of South Carolina, adds that telehealth plays an essential role in easing the pressure placed on an already overburdened healthcare industry.
“All of this is focused on preserving capacity in the health system so we have the beds, and the expertise in place to take care of the people who are really sick, who are just now coming into our health system.”
In addition, Dr. Aga notes that telehealth has also been effective at increasing access to care for those with long distances to travel, and busy schedules to accommodate.
“On average if you have a doctor’s appointment you’ve probably lost three to four hours of your day just in the part of getting an appointment, taking off work, going to the doctor, and all those kinds of things. We can relegate that down to 15 to 20 minutes, I mean that’s a win for everyone.”