Has COVID-19 Accelerated The Need For Telemedicine?
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Doximity has innovative ideas that can help a medical professional, including one of their latest offerings, the Doximity Dialer, which allows you to conduct secure telemedicine interactions over your devices.
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Technological advances often take years before they become incorporated into mainstream use.
Take the cellphone for example.
In the early 70s, when the grandfather of current smartphones first appeared, only the “early adopters” were the ones willing to shell out exorbitant amounts of cash (in 1983 the cell phone was $3500 (or $9215 in 2020 dollars).
It took several decades before the cellphone became ubiquitous (and permanently attached to my teenage daughter’s ear).
Besides cost, another reason for delayed acceptance by society may be mistrust.
My Aha! Moment.
It took me several years before I fully embraced ridesharing companies such as Uber or Lyft.
Perhaps it was the warning from my mother during my childhood days of not jumping into a stranger’s car that lingered in the subconscious, but I had avoided ridesharing until the fall of 2019 when I finally succumbed to its appeal and used it extensively when I attended FinCon in Washington DC.
And guess what?
I loved it!
It was amazing to be able to hail a ride from the comforts of wherever I was located.
Not only that but I could track the progress of my designated driver to my location.
Pockets Of Resistance.
Despite technological advances in the business and medical world, there are still strongholds that exist trying to counter them.
My fiancee is a manager at a multi-billion dollar global company.
Pre-Covid, the majority of her workday consisted of attending multiple meetings in person.
These in-person meetings, plus the daily commute, were eliminated entirely during the pandemic and she was able to work from home using teleconferences to chat with her team members.
I actually think her productivity increased because of the decreased downtime.
For years my organization held bi-annual group meetings as well as multiple sub-committee meetings which I had to attend to in person.
The group meetings were after work hours and could last well into the night, especially in the summer when elections were held for board members.
There is nothing more demoralizing that finishing a grueling work day and then still having to “look forward to” a 3+ hour group meeting.
A few of us in the past suggested the possibility of having these meetings via teleconference but these suggestions were shot down.
Then came COVID-19 and meetings with large numbers of individuals were banned.
Lo and behold we transitioned seamlessly into virtual meetings without skipping a beat.
Even previously voiced concerns justifying in-person meetings, such as issues with voting, were silenced as the election process went not only smoothly but was a much faster process as tallying the votes was much more streamlined.
For the participants it was a huge win as we could gather the same information in a much more peaceful setting in our homes.
It also allowed me to multi-task if needed, increasing my productivity.
Discussions were heard even more clearly than an in-person meeting where, depending on where you were sitting, ambient noise could mask the speaker’s voice.
It also was a win-win for the organization as incidental costs were eliminated because the need to supply a fine dining catered meal and alcohol for attendees was no longer there.
Climate favoring Telemedicine?
This brings me to the last bastion of old-school medical interaction, the doctor-patient visit.
This has been the tried and true method of healing since the dawn of medicine.
So why rock the boat?
Because that is precisely what COVID-19 did.
The sanctity of the physician’s office, a protected space where a patient could be examined and plans of treatment deduced, was not as safe as it once was.
There was a reason why multiple states banned non-emergent/elective procedures and that was to reduce potential exposure to the COVID virus for a patient who may be ill-equipped to handle such an infection.
Unfortunately there is no pause button on medical conditions.
This placed patients in an unenviable situation of trying to ride it out and not seek medical attention or brave the halls of medicine and hope not to contract COVID-19 in the process.
Fortunately there was another solution that had been previously the red-headed stepchild of medicine, Telemedicine.
As a radiologist, whose profession already had limited patient interaction to begin with, Telemedicine was not as impactful as it was to my colleagues in other specialties.
But Telemedicine still had an impact on my family from the perspective of the patient.
My daughter had some post-operative visits scheduled from a knee surgery she had (meniscal tear) when COVID-19 concerns first appeared.
I felt a sense of relief when I was told that, unless there was something concerning with her recuperation, she was able to have these follow up visits via Telemedicine.
This was a large multi-physician orthopedic practice and in the prior visits the waiting rooms were always packed with patients.
Eliminating potential COVID-19 exposure in this milieu of convalescent individuals by choosing the Telemedicine option was a no-brainer for me.
To top it off, having a Telemedicine visit was even more convenient for me as I did not have to arrange time off of work to take her there.
Another win-win situation for me courtesy of advancing technology and Telemedicine.
As for my colleagues who added Telemedicine to their practice, they were able to capitalize on a patient population that potentially would have forgone medical attention during the entire lockdown.
Supplemental income because of Telemedicine, especially in a time where more bread and butter income sources in a medical practice were rapidly dwindling due to COVID-19, was a lifeline that many physicians were grateful to grasp.
Good or bad, we are a society that places a premium on convenience.
Given two options, the option that is more convenient/faster wins hands down.
There is such a premium on convenience that even if the more convenient option cost more, the majority would be willing to choose it.
Amazon has become the economic behemoth it is based solely on how convenient it is for its customers who are trying to procure goods with the least amount of inconvenience.
Brick and mortar shops have taken a killing because of the ease of these online options eroding into their bottom line.
The savvy entrepreneur can take advantage of this by catering to the public and providing more convenient options.
This will allow them to obtain a greater slice of the market share pie.
There is no doubt that some medical practices were ahead of the curve Pre-COVID by already offering Telemedicine services.
However I would venture to say that the majority of medical practices did not embrace Telemedicine.
That is until COVID-19.
I have no doubt in my mind that COVID-19 only accelerated this transformation in patient-doctor interaction.
It is like Pandora’s box.
Once it is opened and the public has had a taste of it and what it means for convenience, it is hard to put it back in.
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