Telehealth: A Temporary Fix or the Future of Health Care?
After a slow start, the pandemic forced an embrace of telehealth. Now it’s changing the way patient care takes place.
Most telehealth visits with patients are for routine care, not potentially life-changing diagnoses. Yet Dr. Albert Chan, the chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health, describes a time when a cardiology colleague met virtually with a patient who had recently undergone open heart surgery and quickly noticed one of the patient’s incisions had become infected. Surgical site infections can be uncomfortable for patients, costly for healthcare providers, and if left untreated, potentially fatal.
“Because of the ability to communicate virtually, we were able catch that infection early,” says Chan. “That’s a tremendous opportunity.”
In fact, telehealth is quickly redefining how people access, view, and receive healthcare services. Real-time virtual visits with physicians, mobile apps that let patients book appointments and pay bills, and wearable devices that remotely monitor an individual’s vital signs are enabling healthcare providers to engage with patients in a more proactive way, make services more readily available, free up precious hospital resources, and in some cases, save lives.