Telemedicine is changing the way providers connect with patients to maintain social distancing and decrease high risk patients from having to travel to a medical office.
The COVID-19 pandemic opens the door for an increase in virtual care and could be a cost saving to healthcare systems in the future, says Dr. Stephen Morgan, senior vice president and chief medical information officer at the Carilion Clinic and a faculty member at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
“Almost every hospital system in the country is developing a virtual care program. It offers a virtual care suite of solutions to assist providers and evaluate patients remotely.”
“Virtual care can be done both in an ambulatory and inpatient setting. One key element for hospital systems is to develop the use case for virtual care and ensure that there is support both from the providers and the community for this type of care delivery. Telemedicine is a tool in our tool kit for clinicians to provide patient care. It does not replace face to face visits when needed.”
Morgan says that we still have a lot to learn about virtual care, and in what settings it should be delivered. “It is not a panacea and must be used like any other tool for patient care. Not all care can be managed virtually however we are finding more options that are both convenient for the patient and provide equal quality to a face-to-face visit.”
“There are however still times that it is more effective for a face-to-face visit in particular for chronic care management. There is also a component of how comfortable the patient feels with a virtual interaction, which needs to be considered as medical providers continue to develop virtual care programs.”
Morgan says there has been a lot of support for virtual care, but the federal and state sponsored insurance plans like Medicare and Medicaid have been slower to cover virtual care. “Over the last year both Medicare and Medicaid have started to increase their coverage for the services since the data has shown it is a more affordable option to provide virtual patient care in specific settings.”
Dr. Morgan oversees clinical informatics, and data analytics for the Carilion Clinic health system. He also co-leads Carilion’s digital health program. A board-certified physician in family medicine, Dr. Morgan still sees patients and is an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
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