What we have learned about telehealth from COVID-19
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, many healthcare systems have turned to telehealth to continue patient care.
WeCare tlc offers a robust telemedicine program in all 54 of our health and wellness centers across the country, designed to provide additional convenience to patients as part of a complete program of patient care. Our assertion is telehealth is a good supplement, if done correctly, but not the entire answer. Our mission is to change the way healthcare is delivered in the U.S. and we can only do this with a personal, holistic approach rather than solely rely on telehealth, which can promote disconnected medicine.
Today, however, as a great portion of the population remains sequestered, telehealth has become the primary solution to connect patients with their personal care team. While this has been beneficial in helping many people seek safe treatment, we must keep in mind we can’t become complacent with telehealth or we risk softening relationships between clinicians and their patients. In fact, WeCare tlc is using this time to look for new and unique ways to expand our services to offer the quality primary care patients are in desperate need of.
We are proud of the services we provide through telehealth and are honored to help so many patients with chronic health needs at a time when going to their provider isn’t possible. While the COVID-19 pandemic is showcasing the muscle of telehealth, our position about it remains steadfast – telehealth is only a part of the solution, not the whole solution.
As conditions in America improve, and restrictions ease, you may ask, why not continue to rely on telehealth as the main portal for patient care?
Convenience and access are often discussed in the realm of primary care and are important components of a good primary care practice. But what is the tipping point where having too much of either component diminishes the return of developing true engagement and connection with a patient? We firmly believe developing strong relationships is the key to creating change and better overall health outcomes.
At WeCare tlc, we believe telehealth is a worthwhile supplement to advanced primary care medicine if it is primarily utilized to offset urgent care issues, avoiding unnecessary ER visits, or in times when you are unable to see your practitioner, such as during a pandemic. This service can only be beneficial if supported and surrounded by strong primary care relationships. The practitioners have a big-picture understanding of the patient and will be able to take his or her history into consideration when health emergencies arise and how it fits into the overall health and wellness of the patient. They will follow up accordingly with the goal of obtaining optimal outcomes.
Telehealth without the support of quality primary care can only go so far. For example:
Seconds can make all the difference in a mental health crisis. Patients sometimes need someone to speak to immediately. Telehealth can provide this service.
If patients struggling with mental health can contact their provider when they need them most, it could potentially save their life. A provider who knows these patients can contact the proper authorities, if necessary.
Telehealth cannot replace treatments for people battling mental illness. In person, providers can read body language and look their patients directly in the eye. Over video chat, doctors cannot see the scars beneath sleeves or smell that their patient has been unable to change their clothes for weeks on end. At WeCare tlc we are currently working on a program that will strengthen mental health through our quality primary care program.
Diagnosing life-threatening conditions
Getting early diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference in outcomes. Through telehealth, patients can immediately describe symptoms that could indicate serious or life-threatening conditions. Providers who know these patients can assess how serious these symptoms are in relation to the patient’s prior conditions and take action for immediate treatment.
Although telehealth patients can alert their doctors, telehealth cannot replace a physical exam, including heart rate, blood pressure and other primary care assessments. A provider can authorize a specialist visit, send a patient to a hospital or have the patient come to the health and wellness center quickly.
Telehealth is a tool, not a panacea. It’s geared towards episodic care and is not meant to be the primary source of care, and is still a developing resource in the healthcare field. When used correctly, telehealth can improve the communication between provider and patient. In a lesson that can be applied to so many emerging trends, new and flashy is not always the complete solution.
WeCare tlc is always looking for ways to improve patients’ care and though we invest in services like telehealth, primary care is always at the root of everything we do. This is our solution to changing the way healthcare is delivered across the country.