Positives of the Pandemic: Telehealth changing the way medicine is performed

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The landscape of healthcare may see a permanent change through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prevalence of virtual doctor visits have created convenience and opportunity for patients.

Before the pandemic, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) had several hundred thousand telehealth appointments a year, but in the first few months of COVID-19, South Carolina saw about 1.5 million virtual health visits.

“It’s been vital,” said Assistant Medical Director for the Center of Telehealth at MUSC Kathryn King.

“It exploded. It became totally part of what we do,” added Executive Medical Director for the Center of Telehealth at MUSC James McElligott.

Telehealth is the use of technology to care for patients over distance, and South Carolina is leading the way when it comes to pushing the envelope.

“Here at MUSC, we flipped our visits from almost all your regular outpatient visits happening when you go to see your provider to 2/3rds of them happening via telehealth,” mentioned McElligott.

Due to the fear of the virus, patients around the world did not receive proper medical care.

The hospital system says telehealth provided a way for the most vulnerable patients to be seen.

“My own father who has some healthcare issues was able to meet with his dermatologist which was really important for our family because an exposure likely would have been fatal for him,” commented King.

Telehealth has become a lifesaving tool for many patients, but forced medical professionals to adapt to a new way of medicine.

“It is difficult and it is unusual. On the other hand, these are well-trained health professionals that can adapt and they have. It is different, you know, your bedside manner is what we call your webside manner right,” McElligott added.

“We learned how to be creative. We learned how to say alright let’s zoom in get really close to the camera so I can see your eye,” King stated.

The pandemic has changed the way medicine is performed leaving doctors and patients hopeful for future care.

“We won’t go back to where we were. We don’t know what exactly it means but we know more telehealth will be used and you won’t hear insurance companies say otherwise. You won’t hear even the naysayer providers say otherwise. They know that something is different. This is too convenient to ignore,” said McElligott.

Telehealth was first used in the ’60s to treat astronauts in space and is now treating patients even in the most remote areas.

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