The Re-Emergence of Telemedicine — How Covid-19 is Taking Healthcare Online
by Tory Igoe and Cliff Robinson, Global Resilience Institute
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, virtual forums have become the primary medium for conducting society’s day-to-day operations. The most critical amongst these functions being the United States’ healthcare system. On a physical level, hospitals and healthcare professionals have been pushed to the brink of collapse. Retired medical professionals are returning to assist on the front lines, the ongoing supply shortage worsens daily, and average citizens do not know when to contact their primary caregivers. Given the lack of available COVID-19 tests within the United States, a slight deviance from commonly recorded symptoms may result in a person not receiving the test at all. This crisis, in short, prompted the re-emergence of an alternative method for healthcare communication — telemedicine.
The practice of telemedicine began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. VSee, a telemedical company, defines the practice as, “the practice of caring for patients remotely while the provider and patient are not physically present with each other…modern technology has enabled doctors to consult patients by using HIPAA compliant video-conferencing tools.” This forum offers patients and practitioners alike a safe and effective method to avoid convening in a traditional manner. In addition to respecting the emergent norm of social distancing, telemedicine, if managed successfully, may allow physicians to diagnose patients via video conference. Given the contagious nature of COVID-19, telemedicine will assist in slowing the spread of the disease. As most Governors have placed stay-at-home orders into action and banned large gatherings, circumventing unnecessary trips to the hospital adds an additional measure of safety for citizens and healthcare workers. These deductions are not without precedent, as mental health telemedicine has restructured and expanded mental healthcare within the United States for the 46.6 million recorded adults battling mental illness this past year. Therefore, expanding the virtual platform for the United States’ healthcare system would provide a mechanism for giving ill citizens a lifeline in these unprecedented times. Most importantly, telemedicine holds the potential to lay the foundation of a resilient healthcare infrastructure.
Telemedicine is a rapidly evolving necessity during the COVID-19 crisis, and will continue to play an integral role in healthcare systems following the pandemic. Its benefits range from lowering costs of care, to quicker response times, in addition to being HIPAA compliant. However, adapting the model will not be without growing pains. The transition to cyberspace creates an expanded range of security and privacy threats. The success of telemedicine amidst a pandemic is indisputable, but how will it fare against a cyberattack? Databreaches? A malicious actor listening in on appointments? These questions are a necessary evil for managing modern healthcare; however, the advancement of telemedicine remains the sole service near-guaranteed to provide the level of care necessary to reinforcing the United States’ healthcare system.