Why Telemedicine Services Are Vital in the COVID-19 Fight
By: Ernest Sampera on April 7, 2020
Healthcare providers are working day and night to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Just as the virus is sparking an unforeseen remote working revolution, the healthcare industry is finding itself forced to ramp up the capacity of telemedicine services to meet increasing demands for medical care. While these services may put pressure on existing IT infrastructures, data centers can help healthcare providers build up the capacity they need to deliver quality telemedicine for the present crisis and look ahead to future medical needs.
How Does Telemedicine Work?
Telemedicine is an exciting new development in healthcare technology that allows a physician in one location to deliver medical services to a patient located elsewhere through the use of telecommunications software. Typically facilitated through a combination of mobile applications, video chat software, and online portals, telemedicine has long had the potential to revolutionize the way people access healthcare services. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries could be rural areas with limited access to healthcare providers, as residents there could use telemedicine tools to receive care from a variety of medical specialists without having to travel long distances.
While the technology has long existed to facilitate telemedicine, the service has been relatively slow to catch on for a variety of reasons. One challenge has been the lack of sufficient infrastructure. As with any medical service, telemedicine software must fully comply with HIPAA when it comes to protecting confidential health information. Hospitals and similar healthcare practices, as well as insurance providers, are best positioned to build and deliver these compliant services. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a strong push to incentivize them to do so.
3 Ways Telemedicine Services Are Helping the Fight Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 coronavirus is placing an incredible amount of strain upon healthcare systems throughout the world. As hospital beds fill up with patients suffering from the virus, healthcare providers are faced with two interconnected problems. On the one hand, they must struggle to accommodate the needs of new coronavirus patients, but on the other hand, they must still find ways to manage patients coming in for other forms of care. And that’s to say nothing of the challenges associated with limiting the spread of the virus itself. Social distancing is difficult in many contexts, but it’s especially difficult to enforce in a healthcare environment where close proximity is often essential to treatment.
Here are just a few ways that telemedicine software can help to address these issues.
1. It Frees Up Physician Time and Facility Space
When people are suffering from an illness or minor injury, their first reaction is to seek a medical diagnosis. This could range from making an appointment with a primary care physician to visiting a local health clinic to going straight to the emergency room. Whatever they choose, these patients take up both time and space, both of which are at a premium in the current COVID-19 crisis. With telemedicine services, people can be diagnosed and prescribed treatments quickly, which allows physicians to spend more time on more critical patients. More importantly, it keeps space open in healthcare facilities so that more severe cases aren’t forced to wait as long to receive treatment.
2. It Maintains Social Distancing
With telemedicine software, patients don’t need to worry about whether or not the doctor they’re speaking to has been exposed to COVID-19 (and vice versa). Since their interaction is entirely remote, patients can even receive a diagnosis without leaving their house, which helps people to maintain the strict social distancing requirements recommended by the CDC to prevent the continued spread of coronavirus infection. There’s no need to expose patients to crowded waiting rooms or force them to be around other patients who might themselves be infected.
Telemedicine services can even go a step farther by connecting patients with pharmacy delivery services that allow them to receive prescribed medication without having to travel to the pharmacy. While driving down to the local pharmacy may not sound like a serious breach of social distancing guidelines, it could expose someone who is already suffering from an illness to greater risk.
3. It Can Provide COVID-19 Guidance
There is still a great deal of confusion over the symptoms associated with COVID-19 coronavirus (read some of the latest updates here). When people experience some of the known symptoms, such as fever or a sore throat, they want to find out quickly whether they have indeed contracted the virus or not. Although comprehensive testing services are still not available everywhere, telemedicine software can provide some guidance for people who don’t know what to do next. A brief teleconference with a doctor could help people determine whether they’re simply coming down with a cold or if they need to take additional steps to get tested or engage in self-quarantine.
Why Data Centers Will Be Essential to the Future of Telemedicine Services
The use of these services has soared in recent weeks, especially following the announcements that Medicare will cover a broader range of telehealth options during the coronavirus pandemic. This surge in demand has created some problems, however. Hospitals accustomed to receiving only a handful of telemedicine calls each day are now getting swamped with requests, which has placed a great deal of strain upon their IT infrastructure. If nothing is done to alleviate this stress, healthcare systems could fall victim to costly downtime that will impact their ability to deliver quality service to patients.
Many hospitals are still using outdated on-premises data solutions that are difficult to maintain and to scale. While this may have made sense in the early days of electronic health records and the gradual digitization of the healthcare industry, today’s providers have much more options to choose from. Colocation data centers have the rock-solid infrastructure in place to deliver high levels of uptime while also meeting the exacting demands of HIPAA compliance. Carrier-neutral facilities also make it possible for them to pick and choose what connectivity services they need to deploy services like telemedicine.
As healthcare providers expand their telemedicine services to help combat the effects of COVID-19, they will need to work closely with data centers to ensure that their infrastructure can handle the increased demand. For organizations hesitant to move out of their existing data solution, services like vXchnge’s award-winning in\site intelligent monitoring can help put their concerns at ease by offering full transparency over their colocated infrastructure. The combination of reliable uptime services and versatile connectivity will make it possible for healthcare companies to scale up their telemedicine software in a time of need.
About Ernest Sampera
Ernie Sampera is the Chief Marketing Officer at vXchnge. Ernie is responsible for product marketing, external & corporate communications and business development.