By Kenny Pawlek
Special to The Outlook
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology. Telemedicine began in the 1950s and was mostly used to connect doctors working with a patient in one location to specialists somewhere else. This was especially helpful to patients residing in rural locations or for hard-to-reach populations.
The advent of internet and smart devices with high-quality video transmission now allow for the delivery of remote healthcare directly to patients in their homes. With current COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders and physical distancing recommendations, telemedicine has become an extremely powerful tool in the health care provider’s toolbox.
During a health care crisis of this magnitude, keeping our first-line responders healthy is critical. Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves need to be put on each time health care workers come into contact with a COVID positive patient, or even a patient who is under investigation.
At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, telemedicine helps our staff reduce in-person contact with patients, as well as preserve PPE. For example, when patients come into our Emergency Department with COVID symptoms, they are placed in sterile isolation bays and are screened by our physicians using iPad-to-iPad video conferencing technology. Similarly, our nurses, physicians, dietitians and physical therapists are using this same technology with our in-patient population. This allows frequent monitoring of patients, with less physical contact than under normal circumstances. This technology also helps patients, who cannot receive visitors, stay in touch with friends and loved ones. This benefits the emotional well-being of our patients while protecting the physical well-being of their family.
Outside of the hospital setting, many physicians are utilizing telemedicine for routine appointments with patients whenever possible to comply with physical distancing recommendations from the CDC, as well as devote more hospital resources for potential COVID-19 patients.
During these unprecedented times, we must use all tools at our disposal. Telemedicine has proved to be a wonderful resource for our patients and care givers alike. If you are interested in donating an iPad to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, please contact Julie.Shadpa@med.usc.edu for information and specifications.
Kenny Pawlek is chief operating officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.