Graphic by Chelsea Wood

Telehealth Looks to Fill Gaps Left by Pandemic

Telehealth has a chance to make a name for itself in the US
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Telehealth has a chance to make a name for itself in the US

Many physicians and patients aren’t likely to want to or be able to do face-to-face appointments for now and into the foreseeable future. In the midst of this, a potential solution lies in telehealth.

Telehealth—also known as telemedicine—involves the interaction of medical practitioners and patients through virtual means. Doctors and other physicians can attend to more serious matters in-person while remotely prescribing and treating other, less critical patients.

“I think people are gonna be more and more open to going to the doctor full-time via telehealth if not doing a follow-up visit. I think that we’ve made more progress in the last six months than we have in the last six years and I think it’s only gonna go this way forward.”

Jacob Horn

Jacob Horn is the managing director at Vivo HealthStaff in Dublin, California. A Humboldt State University graduate, Horn now contracts with various medical clinics and offers immediate telehealth solutions for more rural communities. He projected a lot of growth for telehealth.

“Before this COVID-19, it was very meager, to say the least—it was underutilized,” Horn said in a phone interview. “I think people are gonna be more and more open to going to the doctor full-time via telehealth if not doing a follow-up visit. I think that we’ve made more progress in the last six months than we have in the last six years and I think it’s only gonna go this way forward.”

Horn detailed what he sees to be the benefits of telehealth.

“I think it will address provider burnout,” he said. “I think it will increase patient satisfaction because now they have a wider access of care. I think it will also make the insurance companies happy because follow-up visits might not cost them as much. But also, the patients will see, hopefully, a savings by seeing their doctors at home for low-acuity visits.”

Kate Schiff, a physician assistant in the HSU Student Health Center, is trying to incorporate telehealth into her practice in a multitude of ways.

“For the most part, we are utilizing the phone for triage, evaluation of new problems, and management of existing problems and conditions,” Schiff wrote via email. “We are also managing most of our medication refill requests this way.”

Schiff also uses Zoom video calls to conduct business.

“We do have the capability to have Zoom visits which we are primarily using for mental health visits at this time,” she wrote. “Counseling and Psychological Services is using the phone and Zoom to provide individual and group therapy for students.”

Dr. Caroline Connor, a local physician, wasn’t sure how regular telehealth would become in the future.

“I think it’s gonna bring more accessibility to healthcare, especially for seniors, in Humboldt County but also to the HSU students.”

Jacob Horn

“The question is—how regular it’s going to be—is gonna be a very interesting story that has not yet been written,” Dr. Connor said. “If I was still in practice, how many of my patients would still be coming in? Now, most patients, if they had the choice, would rather see you in person, I think. But you wonder—busy millennials, if they want to get an appointment, will they just start making telemedicine appointments? And how is that gonna be incorporated into the daily life of a physician? I have no idea.”

Speaking of busy millennials, HSU students are no stranger to the lack of healthcare in Humboldt County. Horn said telehealth could help fight that shortage.

“I think it’s gonna bring more accessibility to healthcare, especially for seniors, in Humboldt County but also to the HSU students,” he said. “We have a massive shortage, we have long waitlists and a lot of people are leaving the county for certain specialty care. I think in the next year, that will switch up—you’ll be able to have more resources at your disposal in Humboldt County due to telehealth.”

Connor said nursing students in HSU’s revitalized program could take advantage of telehealth to connect with remote specialists.

“Let’s say somebody is going through nursing school and they have to learn a little about the intensive care unit—there might not be enough educators in Humboldt County about nursing intensive care units,” Connor said. “So, maybe they’ll have telemedicine education.”

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