Telemedicine: Perfect Answer to a PandemicBy Miriam Bello | Wed, 04/29/2020 - 14:17
Telemedicine has been one of the most useful technological tools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, social distancing and isolation have led patients around to world to adapt this practice at a faster speed. While telemedicine and telehealth have been around for many years, the adoption of these technologies has increased significantly.
The National Center of Technological Excellence in Health (CNETS) describes telemedicine as the provision of sanitary attention services when distance is a critical factor. Medical professionals, through information technologies, perform diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease, continuous training of healthcare professionals, as well as research and evaluation activities to improve the health of people and their communities. According to CNETS, telemedicine is an open science in constant development, adapting to the changing needs of the population and healthcare trends. As for telehealth, CNETS describes it as the incorporation of information technology and communication to healthcare systems, which allows medical services, academic activities and administrative and technical processes regarding healthcare.
In a country like Mexico, innovative tools that can boost the access to healthcare are good news as our demographic is transforming due to our complex epidemiological profile including diabetes and obesity, which worsen due to unhealthy life styles and habits. Since 2007, the Mexican government has started to encourage and implement telemedicine on traditional healthcare practices and while efforts have had fructiferous results, there is plenty to be done on the subject.
Luckily, entrepreneurs in Mexico and all over the world have taken the task of improving healthcare conditions for the general public. While some of them focus on specialties, like the app Nubix, which focuses on imagining for radiologists, there are apps like OMI-Patient, Doc.com or Meddi that offer telemedicine consultation for users.
Right now, the whole world has been encouraged to stay home and try a telemedicine consultation before going to a hospital. In Mexico, Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell constantly reminds the population that the Ministry of Health has telephone lines, chatbots and online help and guidelines in case of presenting COVID-19 symptoms or having a non-urgent healthcare situation. These tools are a way to avoid overflowing hospitals and preventing contagion.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people with COVID-19 present only slight discomfort and can recover at home, which is why resorting to telemedicine is the best option for them as it offers real-time medical attention without having to leave their home.
Telemedicine provides an easy access to medical resources and to specialties than can be harder to approach, which is a common thing in Mexico where there are 2.4 doctors per 1,000 people, lower that what the OECD stablishes. Gaceta Médica de México has published a report exposing the lack of medical specialists in the country, showing that geriatrics, allergists, pulmonologist and infectologists are among the scarcest. The latter area among the most needed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telehealth seems to be the most suited tool to deliver healthcare in the face of a crisis but also when a healthcare system still has strong areas of opportunity to guarantee universal healthcare. Companies that bet on it before the pandemic can use this time to improve their services. Telemedicine can become a usual practice after this crisis and a proper structure and use of these tools could bring very good results for patients in all specialties, while lifting a burden in terms of hospital costs.