What is the role of telehealth during Covid-19 pandemic? With the pandemic around for some months now and looking to continue yet, the need arose in large numbers for changes in all sectors keeping the patients’ health in mind. This was even more true for the healthcare sector where the stakes are always much higher, be it exposure or the need for the service.
Telemedicine & Telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic
Before discussing the function, impact, and other details of telehealth and telemedicine, it is important to understand what these terms mean and how they are different from one another.
The term telemedicine is not too widespread when it comes to their definition. This means providing in-clinic services traditionally over long distances through the medium of texts or video conversations based on laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.
Compared to this, telehealth is a much significant term and includes telemedicine as well as other non-clinic services. It is interesting to note that for most practitioners, mental health care falls into the latter category rather than the former.
With the COVID-19 pandemic nowhere near a slowdown and also with many people who otherwise unaware of these systems, understanding what these are, telemedicine and telehealth are gaining a lot of ground across the world recently. This will need detailed insight into telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic. This also includes understanding telemedicine during COVID-19.
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How do they work?
Any understanding of something that is not well established or a norm yet is often met with fear and resistance. As telemedicine and telehealth began making a mark, this was the reaction they were met with, too, for some years.
Along with the time factor that went into the acceptance and adoption of the system, the COVID 19 pandemic also played a vital role. With social distancing becoming a necessity and the ability to step out and head to a healthcare facility becoming more difficult than ever due to multiple reasons, healthcare methods and Telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic have picked up.
The method of working of these systems is as simple as it seems complex. Any consultation that a healthcare executive would have performed face to face in terms of conversation and questions is now carried on over a video call or, in some minor cases, over text. The doctor is then able to draw a preliminary analysis based on which further steps can be taken.
This is not to say that the system does not have its own shortcomings as of now. It is imperative to understand that the system is not a replacement in serious matters for an actual visit. This is due to the fact that certain diagnosis is only possible by the person’s physical presence. For everything else that is not as dire, these forms are undoubtedly picking up pace in these times.
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Government measures for Telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic
Not only here but across the globe, governments have made an effort to up their healthcare facilities and conveniences offered in order to help the people as much as possible. In times of a pandemic, this certainly involves reducing the footfall to health care centers in order to reduce the transmission of the virus but not compromise on what is provided to the people.
Telemedicine and Telehealth during COVID-19 contribute significantly to this effort by the government, and keeping that in mind, the government has taken certain measures to ensure these services are understood and availed.
- Awareness – Multiple online campaigns with tie-ups with the most common social media and OTT platforms have been pushed by the government to implore the public to stay home and safe. Many of these share details related to telehealth in order to make people aware of their options in health care. Apart from this, many government sites and online resources share in-depth information about the various concepts related to telehealth. This helps the people gain confidence in the systems, along with understanding them in detail.
- Availability – Telehealth is restrictive in the sense that one needs to have a smart device and internet connectivity to be able to avail it. Keeping this in mind, the government has taken a number of measures to ensure connectivity. It is not an issue for any member of the public in these trying times. Internet access through Public Wi-Fi and shared resources have been made available and encouraged by the government repeatedly throughout.
The world is now slowly coming to terms with the virus’s presence, and it is the new normal. This is far from ideal but is a fast ground gaining reality. With this new normal, offices and even schools and colleges are opening up or looking to begin again soon. Most of these systems have been running on one or the other virtual model throughout and are looking to pick up from there itself.
This, however, makes the need felt for a new norm in telehealth too. As more and more kids go to school, the demand for such health services will rise drastically. It needs to be seen that this is not true only in terms of COVID 19 or its symptoms but also in general. Kids visiting the school/ college medical center will be unable to continue as it did, along with the ability to take children to hospitals if needed for any consultation. This makes telehealth a necessity.
Teachers and school guardians will need not only to understand how this system works but be adept at it to ensure the health of the children in their care. Not only this, but older students will also need to know the basics and engage in emergency services if need be in order to help themselves and others.
We may see many schools tie-up with telehealth providers in total in order to get the services they need when they need them. This is true not just for physical ailments but also mental health. The students and even teachers will need telehealth services like never before, and the ecosystem needs to be prepared for that.
Impact of Telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic
Any change or sudden flux in the system is bound to have a considerable impact. Something as severe as this in a sector as crucial as healthcare is bound to be true even more so. It becomes relevant then to gauge the present and probable impact this has on various aspects. Let us see what the main lines in which there has been telehealth impact in pandemic are.
- Mode of deliverance – The most obvious and present impact of the pandemic leading to rising telehealth is how health care is delivered and consumed. Physically going to the center, meeting the doctor, detailed discussions on each point, and impromptu visits have all been impacted and replaced with virtual calls, detailed questions and counter questions, fixed online appointments.
- Payments – Doctors tended to charge for consultation based on the time they spent as well as the severity of the issue and the payments were through various modes. In the case of telehealth, the payment process will be entirely virtual through net banking or mobile-based payment methods such as wallets, and the consultation will have to be we defined in terms of what parameters are billed and how.
If the current scenario is to be seen, telehealth is here to stay due to the COVID 19 pandemic itself. The future, however, is dependent now on more factors than that.
This translates to that the COVID 19 pandemic has broken many barriers when it comes to the acceptance of telehealth and telemedicine. As we advance, it is highly likely that this will be used more and more by many different kinds of people for non-severe issues, and when visiting a healthcare center is not possible for them.The future of the telehealth industry, therefore, looks bright in that sense.