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Telehealth forever? Technology, Demand Changing Health Care in Real-Time

Monday, May 18, 2020   (0 Comments)
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Written By: Marc Stewart, Heritage Health


The impact of the coronavirus on society may take years to fully understand, but many believe health care has been irrevocably changed by the global pandemic.


At the center of slowing the spread of COVID-19 is the idea of social distancing. However, people’s medical needs had to be met, virus or no virus. Fear gripped the country and most people avoided health centers, well, like the plague.


“I didn’t want to go into the clinic because of COVID,” says Donna, a North Idaho woman. “I was scared, but I needed my blood pressure medicine. I had to have it.”


Using telehealth, patients can consult with their medical professional via phone and/or computer. Donna was one of the first Heritage Health, a community health center in North Idaho, patients to access telehealth, a service designed to replicate a visit to the doctor’s office.


“Telehealth was very efficient,” she says, “It achieved what I needed without having to go to the clinic. I definitely would use it again.”


She’s not alone – Heritage Health patients have embraced telehealth with surprising enthusiasm. Does it beg the question: Is telehealth here to stay?


“It’s the next conversation on the national scale,” said Dr. Peter Purrington, Heritage Health Chief Medical Officer. “Will we able to keep telehealth as a viable method after this crisis is over? That remains to be seen.”


The battle for telehealth patients is well underway. Companies like Doctor on Demand, an online health care provider, are fighting for patients across the country.


Locally, Heritage Health was the first to implement the service, providing groundbreaking medical, mental health and dental services to North Idaho.


Telehealth is not a new concept. It’s been around for years. It was designed to serve people living in rural areas. With state-side stay at home orders, the coronavirus crisis has sparked renewed interest in it.


“It’s a great alternative when circumstances dictate a person can’t go to the doctor,” said Purrington. “We’re still trying to determine what platforms are the most effective for our patients. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.”


Technology is also allowing the general public to replicate going to the doctor from the comfort of their own homes. Medical devices for home use are being marketed and sold to eager consumers from online distributors like Amazon.


People can buy the swipe thermometers, blood pressure monitors, diabetes blood sugar testing devices, and handheld electrocardiograms, Most of these items cost $100 or less. Learning how to use the equipment is relatively easy too. YouTube offers a library of how-to-videos.


If it all sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is.


“Nothing replaces the training and education of a healthcare professional,” says Purrington. “I would urge caution that not all the answers are on the internet. There are complicated health conditions like diabetes and heart disease that require professional oversight. People still need to go see their primary care provider.”


While telehealth appears to be another important tool for providers and patients alike, there is no one size fits all solution. Instead, health care needs to be nimble and flexible to meet the complex demands of an ever-changing world.


In addition to embracing telehealth services, Heritage Health's patients have also been innovating ways to help their health center during the pandemic. One patient has been producing equipment with his 3-D printer and giving back to his community. Watch his story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iruScI0aWuY&t=1s




NWRPCA welcomes and regularly publishes white papers and articles submitted by members, partners and associates with subject matter expertise. The appearance of any guest publication in our Health Center News database represents the views of the author and does not constitute endorsement by NWRPCA of the stated opinions or perspectives, nor does it suggest endorsement of the contributor's products or services.

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