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How Innovation Fueled the Rise of Telehealth

Posted by eClinicalWorks on 4/22/20 6:08 PM

How Innovation Fueled the Rise of Telehealth_JD3

Imagination reshaping healthcare

Much attention has focused on how public health authorities and politicians are coordinating policies, equipment, and supplies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

But another important and lesser-known story centers on the innovation and creativity of doctors and researchers on the front lines of the crisis.

Ventilators and vaccines capture headlines, but telehealth is the new daily champion of the medical world, enabling practices to continue to deliver care. Using existing computers, cameras, and bandwidth, clinicians are delivering everything from routine pediatric care and dermatological checks to orthopedic follow-ups and mental health counseling.

Physicians and researchers are also capitalizing on the growth of FOAM — free open access medical information — including social media, podcasts, blogs, message boards, and group emails and texts.

Faced with the most serious global pandemic since the 1918 influenza epidemic, the medical community is connecting with new ideas and solutions that can’t necessarily wait for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Innovation fueled telehealth’s rise

Telehealth has long been on the innovation frontier. A 1996 Institute of Medicine study notes:

  • In 1959, clinicians at the University of Nebraska “used two-way interactive television to transmit neurological examinations and other information across campus.”
  • in 1967, the Miami Fire Department used radio channels to transmit electrocardiographic rhythms from rescue units to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Such procedures “are now so routine and so much a part of mainstream health care that they are often not mentioned as telemedicine applications,” the study concludes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time telehealth has helped during a crisis. Telehealth helped coordinate care for victims of earthquakes in Armenia in 1988 and Pakistan in 2005. In 2013, Indian researchers reported on how telehealth was used to share data, helping to avert a cholera outbreak.

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Creativity and collaboration continue

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists and doctors are once again combining technology and medicine in creative ways.

  • A Vermont pulmonologist suggested on an emergency medicine blog that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAC) techniques to treat sleep apnea might be a good alternative to using ventilators. The idea has been implemented at some NYC hospitals.
  • A hospital in Brescia, Italy, got help from a 3D printing company, which designed and produced a valve critical to saving patients’ lives.
  • Teams from Harvard and MIT developed the Private Kit: Safe Paths app, which uses phone tracking data to alert users they may have encountered someone with coronavirus.

Not all of today’s innovations are directly related to telehealth, but they break down the same barriers of time, distance, and limited resources that telehealth solutions target.

Each has a role to play in meeting the challenges of this pandemic, and some are likely to endure — perhaps in new and surprising ways — long after COVID-19 has been brought under control.

To learn more about how healow Telehealth Solutions can help practices continue to serve their patients, contact us today.

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Topics: telehealth, TeleVisits, telemedicine

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