Author: Aakash Anandjiwala
In today’s pandemic climate, it is important to ensure that everyone around the world has access to healthcare, regardless of what area they live in. Telehealth can help accomplish this through an office based setting or a hospital based setting with the utilization of apps and video chat programs. A prime example of this is the ability to have a complete doctor’s appointment done over video call. Telehealth is important to furthering the outreach of medicine and providing ample care because there are many patients who cannot travel to clinics or hospitals, especially those in senior living communities. Telehealth programs also protect medical personnel while conserving PPE supplies in this pandemic era we are living in.
The first example of telehealth was seen in Pennsylvania in 1940 where radiology images were sent between two towns by telephone lines for about 24 miles. Taking this occurrence into account, a Canadian doctor established a teleradiology system in Montreal and thus made the accessibility of a physician and their expertise easier to acquire. The use of video communications was finally set up in 1959 and 1964 where video consultations were used by physicians and patients. But the history of telehealth in rural communities was notably created in a partnership between NASA and the Indian Health Services. In this partnership, microwave technology was used to transmit medical information to the Public Service Hospital to treat Native Americans; this technology was used to treat astronauts in space as well.
When I first started investigating the meaning of telehealth and how it was established, most of the articles and papers I read discussed the patient-physician relationship and the use of telehealth in delivering radiology images or discussing diagnoses. But amongst COVD-19, mental health has also come to the forefront as a topic to discuss in mainstream media. Telehealth can be used to address mental health which, according to recent polls, particularly affects women. “Over 20% of women experienced mental health concerns within the past 12 months.” (SWHR) Polls go onto show how the lives of women have been more severely impacted by the pandemic as opposed to men. “One Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted March 25-30 showed that 49% of women said their lives had been disrupted “a lot” by coronavirus compared to 40% of men.” (SWHR) Telehealth allows more physicians and patients to interact with each other from far enough away to prevent the spread of the virus while still allowing care for those who suffer from mental health issues.
Telehealth is the future of medicine as physicians and healthcare officials move towards a more efficient and cost-effective way of ensuring everyone around the nation has access to healthcare. The pandemic has allowed for telehealth to become more embraced by the healthcare system and thus, make it a viable option for the future in a post-pandemic world.
To read more about doctors' opinions regarding telehealth, read this article where one of our members conducted an original survey!