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Telehealth in the Age of COVID-19

Written by Inbar Tropen, Senior Marketing Analyst The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge and rapid changes to occur across the globe, in all aspects of day-to-day life due to recommendations by health professionals and government policies of social distancing. Many of these changes have to do with the use of digital communication channels, such as in virtual classes instead of traditional classrooms, video conferences instead of business trips, and the acceptance of telehealth as a legitimate way to seek treatment. Telehealth is, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance...healthcare.” Since its introduction, telehealth has remained taboo as many health professionals believed that the lack of face-to-face human interaction would render the service they provide ineffective, and many concerns circulated regarding the security of such connections. However, the forced and sudden adaptation to telehealth has led to doctors and patients alike discovering the many benefits that telehealth offers. The World Health Organization’s publication of “Strengthening the Health Systems Response to COVID-19” claims that telemedicine should be reinforced and established to “provide direct clinical services and provide clinical decision support” as a means of optimizing service delivery platforms. President Trump also signed new legislation which authorized new spending of 500 million dollars for the purpose of helping clinicians expand their telehealth services as part of spending to combat the pandemic.

Some of the main benefits of telehealth is increasing access to care despite a shortage of health professionals, cutting costs of care, and reducing exposure to infections (including COVID-19) - especially important for the groups who are at higher risk due to age or pre-existing conditions. Of course, these come at the cost of a physical examination and inability to draw blood, for example.

An interesting use case of telemedicine, therefore, is the union between traditional office visits and telehealth. An example of this is seen with AEYE Health’s retinal diagnostic system which enables primary care physicians and endocrinologists to incorporate a retinal screening into their annual physical examination through the use of an automated cloud-based diagnosis. Through this, patients who are at high risk for loss of sight can easily access the necessary screens, saving time, and reducing avoidable visits to doctors’ offices. Please let us know in the comments if you know or have thought of additional interesting use cases for telemedicine that would be helpful during and post-COVID-19!

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