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COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of our normal daily lives, including how we receive healthcare services. As a society, we may not have been prepared for a global pandemic, but, fortunately, the healthcare field had been building basic telehealth technology infrastructure that quickly adjusted to providing care in a new, socially distanced way of life.
Virtual medical care has gained popularity in the last few years as innovative and robust telemedicine platforms have become available. You may have received advertisements from your insurance carrier offering telehealth or virtual services as an alternative to urgent care visits. Now, due to COVID-19, many other traditionally in-person areas of healthcare have been launched into the telehealth mainstream to continue to reach patients. Relaxed security and reimbursement policies have made it easier than ever before for healthcare providers to offer their services virtually. In many cases, practices made crash integration to 100% telehealth in less than 3 days.
In addition to traditional medical provider visits, ancillary services such as dentistry, physical therapy, mental health counseling, and health care education must also continue in order to maintain our population’s health. Given that COVID-19 is especially concerning to those with chronic diseases, diabetes education and support services are critical areas that have utilized telehealth to continue.
Just two months after the COVID-19 shelter in place orders and social distancing recommendations were implemented, Karna performed a survey of Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Services (DSMES) programs in Georgia. The survey found that at least 40% of Georgia DSMES programs were already offering or planning to offer telehealth services. Many programs even reported seeing greater DSMES participation when using a telehealth platform.
Although not all security and reimbursement policies have been sorted out, it is reassuring to know that telehealth platforms are a great resource that allow a variety of healthcare services to continue, despite the challenges of COVID-19.
Could the silver lining of this dark pandemic cloud be that we have accelerated a new culture of virtual healthcare services that will actually improve healthcare access for more people than ever before? The evidence is promising!