Telemedicine is now an integral part of our health care system. While the widespread use of telemedicine came about due to the spreading of the novel coronavirus, telemedicine’s new role will remain even after the presumed eventual resolution of COVID-19. This is because we had numerous reasons to use telehealth on a widespread basis before COVID; however, we lacked the impetus. Because of the pandemic we needed to limit the exposure of the patients, the providers, and people the patients could come into contact with in transit to their medical appointments. Additionally, we needed judicious with our resources given the strain on the already limited resources we had prior to the pandemic.
The medical world had to get creative and find new ways to use telemedicine across a broad range of specialties. Even specialties that wouldn’t necessarily come to mind as candidates for telemedicine have found uses for it. For example, in surgery, they commonly use virtual visits for follow up visits now. Initially, there were some growing pains due to the rapid expansion of the use of telemedicine. The first thing that comes to mind is the reports of telemedicine websites crashing or being inaccessible to patients as a result of the large number of simultaneous appointments being hosted over their servers.
Telemedicine without a doubt has some disadvantages and limitations such as tech issues, physical exam constraints, and security concerns. However, as long as we understand the limitations of telemedicine and use it accordingly, we can improve the medical system and our patients access to it. Telemedicine is an excellent supplement to traditional in person visits. This is especially important in underserved areas, as we can bring providers to these areas – a much more feasible and cost-effective way to provide health care access to these areas.
Telemedicine is not only helpful to patients and crucial in a pandemic, but it is a great way to expand the role of the PA. Given legislative changes, with telemedicine, the supervising physician could be anywhere. This could be huge for the field of PAs as they could expand their reach to those in need while simultaneously advancing the field of PAs. As technology advances and some of the current physician exam limitations are reduced (i.e. digital stethoscopes that can be used from a far), telemedicine will be able to safely take on a larger role in the medical world and PAs can and should capitalize on its expansion.
About the Author:
Alexandra Schroeder PA-C
Alexandra has been an APPAA contributor since 2020. Alexandra is a recent graduate from Weill Cornell.