Hospitals were at maximum capacity for weeks on end due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. While medical professionals gave their full attention to those suffering from the epidemic, patients with other health concerns were often sent home from hospitals both for their own safety and to increase available space for COVID-19 patients. Those reliant on routine medical care or in need of other emergency care were left looking for ways to access medical professionals while staying safe. Thanks to telehealth, patients were able to get the medical attention they needed from the safety and comfort of their own home.
Telehealth gained momentum quickly. In less than two weeks, Dean of School of Medicine and the CEO of Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Paul Rothman, said Johns Hopkins went “from providing a couple dozen telehealth visits a day before the pandemic to about 5,500 [telehealth visits] every day.” Dr. Rothman spoke about the effects of COVID-19 on world healthcare at the OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Conference last month.
There are clear benefits to telehealth, namely the increased accessibility to the patient regardless of physical location. With telehealth, it doesn’t matter whether the patient is in the same state or on a different continent. When asked about whether these benefits will cause telehealth to outlast the pandemic, Dr. Rothman approximated that since telehealth also limits the effectiveness of online examinations, only 30% of formerly in-person visits will be transitioned to telehealth in the future.
Dr. Rothman commented further on the precision and effectiveness of digital medicine, saying that “we’re in the midst of three revolutions: a revolution of big data; a revolution of connectivity; and a revolution of measurement.” These three revolutions all affect the world of telehealth, and with every new development, digital medicine gets more precise. Dr. Rothman hopes to bring the developments in precision of digital medicine to help treat patients who may have COVID, but medical professionals can’t win this battle alone. “We can see that areas – that could be countries or states or cities – that have a robust public health infrastructure have been able to deal with the pandemic much more effectively,” said Dr. Rothman. “We also have to realize that the world is flat. We are one world, and what could affect patients on one side of the globe will eventually come and affect us all. Investment and increased investment in public health is going to be key for us – not only for this pandemic, but other emerging infectious diseases.”