by Kavita Jaikissoon
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has already infected more than 4,000 people in the United States, and more than 70 people have died as of March 17, 2020. At this time, it is more important than ever for the population to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.
Health care providers and government officials are encouraging people with COVID-19 symptoms or any medical problems to use telehealth services. Telehealth refers to many different healthcare services and information that is provided via electronic information and telecommunication technologies.
With the increase of COVID-19 patients, it is necessary to reserve medical facilities for those who genuinely need it. Overcrowded emergency rooms can overwhelm the system and lead to greater exposure to infections for healthcare workers and patients.
Telehealth decreases the number of unnecessary visits so that medical facilities can prioritize emergency patients and stop the spread of infection. For people who have minor health concerns, they can rely on this service.
According to Dr. Amy Duckro, Kaiser Permanente’s lead infectious diseases expert for Colorado, “These telemedicine visits are really valuable at a time like this. We want to provide people answers to their questions without the stress of being out in the community.”
Government officials, health insurers, and hospitals have all begun preparations to ensure that people in their communities can utilize telehealth.
The governors of Colorado, Ohio, Massachusetts, California, and New York have all announced that health insurers would be eliminating all costs on telehealth services related to COVID-19 due to the fact that we are in a state of emergency.
This means that insurers in these states would cover telehealth testing and treatment for COVID-19. Mental health services would also be covered due to the stress COVID-19 has brought.
The federal government has also waived rules restricting telehealth services across state lines. This means that doctors from other states can assist without repercussions.
The insurance company, Blue Cross, is now providing free telehealth services to members with an existing telehealth benefit until April 30. Medicare will also cover its patients for telehealth services so that they can have access to treatment while in self-isolation.
Hospitals are doing their part as well. The UCSF Medical Center has already launched a video call hotline for the public.
To contain the spread of COVID-19, telehealth is the best option. It allows people to get medical attention without exposing themselves to people who may have COVID-19. As the virus continues to spread, telehealth may end up becoming an essential part of our healthcare system.