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April 15, 2020

Telemedicine can ensure access to health care, and safety, in a time of quarantine. As Americans so often do during times of national crisis, we’ve come together as a community—the vast majority of us taking the COVID-19 quarantine in earnest and understanding how it can flatten the curve and ultimately save lives. But while we can’t be tone deaf to the widespread suffering the illness has caused and we must remain vigilant during this pandemic, our own health can’t be forgotten.

Telemedicine can ensure access to health care, and safety, in a time of quarantine.

As Americans so often do during times of national crisis, we’ve come together as a community—the vast majority of us taking the COVID-19 quarantine in earnest and understanding how it can flatten the curve and ultimately save lives. But while we can’t be tone deaf to the widespread suffering the illness has caused and we must remain vigilant during this pandemic, our own health can’t be forgotten.

Your personal well-being—whether it’s ensuring you have the medications you need or continuing your scheduled doctor appointments—is crucial to the continuing battle against COVID-19. Although further research is still being conducted, it’s no surprise that patients with underlying conditions are at higher risk of poorer outcomes if they contract this strain of the coronavirus. And while the unpredictability of COVID-19 can be scary, we can be proactive! Let’s prioritize our own health while still remaining attentive to the ongoing crisis.

I’m sure most of you at this point are saying, “But Alex, how am I supposed to see my doctor or talk to my pharmacist while still staying true to the quarantine?” Well I’m glad you asked—the answer is through telemedicine, and we’re already seeing great strides by Congress and the Administration to make access even easier. What this means is that you don’t have to leave your house to see your health team—telemedicine allows you to (in many cases) see your clinician face-to-face simply by using your smartphone or laptop. And although it might seem like new-fangled technology, telemedicine has been around for decades—originally by telephone. Perhaps most importantly, quality of care—and certainly access to care—is just as effective as going to your local clinic or hospital. It’s even better that since you’re not going to a waiting room, you’re not potentially exposed to COVID-19.

The next step for us as patients is to learn more about what telemedicine services are offered by our doctors. Johns Hopkins Medicine has a great video explaining telemedicine at a broader level, and although your particular clinic might not offer all of the services Hopkins does, it still serves as a good introductory guide. At the end of the day, you and your healthcare providers are part of a team, and they will gladly help you learn more about telemedicine’s advantages and offerings during COVID-19.

This call-to-action of embracing telemedicine during COVID-19 is not just for patients and Americans at-large—it includes health-care providers and policymakers. Everything that we do is a piece of the larger puzzle, and patients only know about telemedicine services if they’re told about them—and not just informed but educated to its value. This can be something as simple as a local clinic or health system sending out emails to patients, or a broader national communications campaign by the federal government. We’re beyond the point of being reactive about the benefits of telemedicine—all levels of our national health ecosystem must become proactive and reach out to patients to inform and educate.

We will continue to flatten the curve and battle COVID-19 if we acknowledge our own well-being and embrace health technology that can bridge this gap during quarantine. We hear and are reminded every day—if not every hour—how these are indeed trying times. And they most certainly are. Let’s not lose focus on how we can holistically and completely battle COVID-19. Telemedicine is only one answer, but arguably a vital piece to the pandemic response puzzle.

 

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