Newswise — Johns Hopkins Medicine physicians and clinicians have conducted more than 1.5 million telemedicine visits with over 420,000 patients in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Florida and across the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins Office of Telemedicine.

“I’ve said before, the adoption of telemedicine use was a dream come true in a nightmare scenario,” says Rebecca Canino, executive director of the Office of Telemedicine. “I’m just so grateful to Johns Hopkins leadership for not only foreseeing the need for this, but investing in it early so that we were ready to support the sudden demand.”

While some medical visits must be in person, approximately 60% of Johns Hopkins physicians and clinical providers have used telemedicine at least once since March 2020, according to the Office of Telemedicine.

“It's really become part of routine outpatient care two and a half years after the start of the pandemic,” says Helen Hughes, M.D., M.P.H., medical director for the Office of Telemedicine. “Now it’s our job to figure out how to make it the best that it can be and make sure that we’re offering the best clinically and technically.”

Some physicians and clinicians have performed a handful of telemedicine visits while others have done thousands. Some had never seen a patient virtually before the pandemic, while others were already practicing remote care.

Looking ahead, Hughes says the Office of Telemedicine hopes to grow its remote patient monitoring capabilities into the ambulatory and complex care space, allowing for more proactive care of patients at home. As digital health care tools are used more routinely, it is more important than ever to ensure equitable access, she says. The office, staffed by a dozen people with a combination of administrative, clinical and IT backgrounds, is working with Johns Hopkins leadership and the Baltimore mayor’s office to help make digital health tools more accessible for everyone.

Telemedicine also will be used to make specialty care more available to patients at Johns Hopkins Medicine hospitals, Hughes says, “to keep patients in the right beds, within their communities and close to their support systems, and to avoid unnecessary transfers.” The idea is to connect patients at any Johns Hopkins hospital to specialized physicians at the East Baltimore campus via video, also known as teleconsultation. A pilot project, for example, is remotely connecting patients at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit with pediatric specialists at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“The overall goal is, no matter where you go in the Johns Hopkins Health System, that you get the same high level of access to our specialty and subspecialty care,” says Canino.

Hughes and Canino are available for interviews about telemedicine and Telehealth Awareness Week, which runs through Sept. 24. Three Johns Hopkins clinicians who regularly use telemedicine also are available for interviews: