Tele-health benefits and the art of medicine during Covid-19
What is tele-health? In general, it is the delivery of health through technology. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we sought ways to solve your medical needs without exposing you to more risk of the virus. This is where tele-health came in.
It allowed many of your doctors to protect you and your family while still solving and directing urgent care issues and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Before Covid-19, many physicians and patients had not seen the full value of using technology and most of us, like you, were uncomfortable with not “seeing you live”. But we learnt to adapt. We learnt to heighten our other senses to your concerns. We also got to see your “environment”, something those of us who used to do house calls valued!
It is now recognised that tele-health may increase efficiency by reduced travel time, save costs through reduced staffing and lower utility expenses. More importantly, it allows us to continue to maintain excellent outcomes — so long as we use it wisely.
Until the end of August 31, the Bermuda Health Council has provided guidance that tele-health will continue to be reimbursed by your insurer if your physicians are registered and meet the accepted criteria outlined on the BHeC website.
In some cases, video-imaging technology such as smartphones, iPads/tablets and computers has allowed face-to-face interactions on a regular visit over the usual use of telephone. Zoom, Webex, Skype, Doxy.me and Electronic Medical Record integrated applications have been more commonly used in the past few months.
However, the reassurance one gets from seeing a face that is not behind a mask cannot be underestimated. Medicine is an art that cannot be 100 per cent replaced by technology.
Some clients are less comfortable with technology and there may be certain challenges with internet access. However, the telephone remains an alternative and convenient form of tele-health. Liability and privacy issues are surfacing therefore, practitioners must be aware of the pitfalls of “over and under” advice and treatment resulting from the various modalities of tele-health.
Healthcare providers, patients, insurers and policymakers are learning quickly. One thing that is certain that some form of tele-health will stay after Covid-19 is over.
Our goal as physicians is to determine together where tele-health will best complement the traditional practices and move ahead with the times for the highest quality of healthcare in Bermuda.
• Benjamin Lau is a primary care physician and medical director of Omni Medical and Laser Clinic in Paget. He specialises in primary care, emergency medicine and is an executive of the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association
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