13 March 2020 Blog Post: COVID-19 and Increasing Reliance on Telemedicine

As regular readers of these ongoing posts will know, Santa Monica Primary Care responded to #COVID-19 by employing telemedicine and video consultations early in the epidemic. At this point in time, about 50% of our patient encounters are via one of these modalities. The CDC has further recommended leveraging telemedicine technologies and self-assessment tools as a way to protect patients.

The initial intent of a telemedicine encounter is to assess a patient’s risk based on known exposure or travel. Further, it permits us to quickly identify high risk patients or those who are sick enough to need hospital care.

Given evidence in Los Angeles County of person-to-person spread we now have moved to identifying those patients with milder symptoms who can be monitored at home so as to limit the spread of this disease and not overwhelm our healthcare facilities.

Specifically, through telehealth:
1. We can increase access to care.
2. We can offer care that is commensurate with the acuity and nature of the symptoms and make referrals as needed.
3. We can help with coronavirus prevention and control.
4. We can allow patients to receive their care in the home without exposing themselves to further illness.
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Lastly, there is additional potential for telehealth to help in providing routine care for other conditions (although we have seen less of this thus far). Patients have other healthcare needs unrelated to coronavirus, but may afraid to go to healthcare settings for fear of catching the virus.
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I am sympathetic to patients who feel that telemedicine may be inadequate and not their preferred modality of receiving care. Yet, it is important to reiterate the two central points above. By effective telehealth based risk stratification, we can limit the spread of coronavirus (particularly to those most vulnerable populations) and also not overwhelm our Emergency Departments and Hospitals.
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This is an extraordinary time and requires novel approaches. Widespread application of telehealth is one such strategy

𝗦𝗢𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 π—’π˜‚π—Ώ π—‘π—²π˜„π˜€π—Ήπ—²π˜π˜π—²π—Ώ

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