Technology & COVID-19
Learning about how COVID-19 expedited the transition to more technology in healthcare.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact daily life, several things have become clear; the Zoom uniform equivalent of the mullet (business on the top, loungewear on the bottom) makes working from home more enjoyable, face masks can be a fun medium for artistic expression, and telemedicine, much like tele-education for most academic programs, has become the new normal for health care. Telehealth has played a vital role in giving patients access to health care despite geographic limitations. Especially during the pandemic while lockdowns were in place, mobile health care has made leaps forward in a short amount of time to provide quality patient care while minimizing exposure for patients as well as essential workers. Medical facilities quickly adopted telemedicine models to provide easily accessible services as well as virtual support for patients.
Benefits to this new virtual system are becoming more apparent with increasing use over time. For patients, this has directly translated to lower costs, convenience, and improved access to care providers. Additional benefits include improved ease of assembling multidisciplinary care teams and visits for patients, and more rapid diagnosing, treatment, and triaging of patients. With patients additionally reporting high levels of satisfaction with the telehealth model, it seems likely that this system will continue on even after the pandemic has ended (Wijesooriya, et al. 2020).
The future of telemedicine is becoming further intertwined with technology as time progresses. With health tech such as wearable ECG’s, at home pulse oximeters, and more already on the market, virtual devices such as stethoscopes, blood pressure monitors, and smart phone and watch add-ons that can aid providers with virtual at home visits may not be very far off. Even with technology rapidly advancing, we are still years away from advanced at home testing.
For those pursuing careers in health care, tele-education may also play a role in training future generations of health professionals, potentially reducing barriers to entry into these fields for students (i.e. cost, geographic location, etc.). While the Zoom education model has its limitations, some aspects of tele-education and tele-work have proven advantageous. The world may see some aspects of this new work and education dynamic stick around long after the pandemic behind us. The question of whether these are effective ways to train professionals, especially health care workers, is a question that merits investigation.
A new era of virtual health care is rapidly unfolding. During this time while telehealth use is at an all time high, researchers have volumes of new data to analyze to continue to develop and refine the telemedicine model. It’s clear that the future of medicine will be forever changed by the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is a silver lining to explore in telehealth.
Wijesooriya NR, Mishra V, Brand PLP, Rubin BK. COVID-19 and telehealth, education, and research adaptations. Paediatr Respir Rev. 2020 Sep;35:38-42. doi: 10.1016/ j.prrv.2020.06.009. Epub 2020 Jun 18. PMID: 32653468; PMCID: PMC7301824.