I’d like to share with you my thoughts about telemedicine and the amazing transformation I’m seeing right before my eyes.
For years I’ve advocated with others the view that in order to streamline the healthcare system we must separate between patient and diagnostics. I think telemedicine holds the key to saving our collapsing healthsystem in the 21 century; I also think the world recognized this but the process got stuck because of bureaucracy, privacy regulations and reluctance of patients.
Now comes Coronavirus and overnight it’s understood that a doctor does not have to be – indeed should not be - in the same room as the patient. Governments swiftly moved to erase boundaries to using telehealth: the U.S. government invoked national emergency to lift restrictions on telehealth services for Medicare patients, followed by U.S. states and private insurers.
In Europe, national health services moved to make telemedicine the preferred method of consultation, especially with family physicians. In Ireland it is now mandatory for all initial Coronavirus Diagnosis to be done on video or telephone. In the UK, the government and the public responded so fast, that to quote one doctor,“We’re witnessing 10 years of change in one week”, with some hospitals and practitioners reporting a 20-fold rise in telemedicine since Coronavirus erupted.
I can report from personal experience that in Israel all HMOs urged people early on not to come into clinics but instead connect remotely through the telephone, video, and chat;providing dedicated hotlines for women and children’s health and even an app that shows you your place in the virtual queue.
This is a turning point for telemedicine and it comes not a moment too soon. As one doctor put it, “the use of telemedicine is critical for management of the Coronavirus pandemic.” People,not having to visit clinics and hospitals, are preventing the spread of Coronavirus infection in transit and in the clinic and hospital, sparing other people and the health workers.
Hospitals too are using telemedicine to improve access to specialists. In New York Mount Sinai hospital,for example, when the infectious disease specialist is in another location, he provides consultation to suspected Coronavirus patients through iPad; and radiologists view lung scans of patients at other hospitals.
If you’ve followed our workin the last few years, you probably know that telehealth is at the core of ourwork with Nanox and Illumigyn.
Nanox develops extremely light and affordable medical imaging systems that can be installed in any clinic (or a retail store for that matter). So lung scans of suspected Coronavirus patients can be viewed by a radiologist without the need for the patient to travel to a specialized clinic or hospital.
The advanced colposcope that Illumigyn provides is easy to operate by a nurse of technician, so women can undergo life-saving colposcopy at a local clinic, and the OB-GYN can view the images miles away. Again, we are separating between the patient and the diagnostics
Often at times of crisis there is an unleashing of market opportunities. I’m not ashamed to say that we are happy about this opportunity and hope that it will push our technologies forward. But I also think that telehealth is the key to democratizing healthcare: bringing it to everyone who needs it no matter where they are and what their income is.
Telemedicine is here to stay. There are still challenges: creating the right infrastructure,teaching medical personnel how to use it, standardizing remote healthcare.Older patients have the enormous challenge of installing and using video apps(this is where we all could help).
However as I read in one article, “The Jeanie is out of the bottle”. After the Coronavirus crisis subsides telemedicine will still stay in mainstream medical care, used by hospitals and doctors to reach more patients and provide better care.
The revolution is here and there is no going back.