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Exponential increase in the use of telemedicine – doctor visits over the phone or video

One of the side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was an exponential increase in the use of telemedicine – doctor visits over the phone or video. But the rapid adoption of this technology has had some growing pains, including exposing a predictable divide in socioeconomic status, age, and people of color. There are also technical issues that are still being tweaked. But overall, the adoption of telemedicine has been a great opportunity.

Part of the reason for the dramatic rise in telemedicine, sparked by the pandemic, is the fact that there was so much deferred potential for its use. In other words, many healthcare offices and many patients already had the technology and capability to engage in telemedicine, all that was waiting was for the regulatory switch to be thrown. Insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, were simply not allowing the technology to be widely adopted (by simply not paying for it). The pandemic forced their hand, and once we got the green light, we were massively up and running within days.

But of course there were some rough spots, as you might imagine with any rapid adoption of new technology or procedures. In my office we are now on our third video conferencing application to use for telemedicine in the last 9 months. Along the way functionality has improved. The core application is simple, a secure video connection between health care provider and patient. Initially it was little more than that. Then we added the ability to have an assistant prep the patient beforehand, to make sure their video was working and to get basic health information related to the visit. But we realized we needed the ability for third parties to join the visit, which could be a family member, a student being trained, or a medical translator.

Article: The Evolution of Telemedicine

 

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