Telehealth boon for care

A recent article in Scientific American is reporting that telehealth is now being used in new medical areas, such as in cancer care in the US. Although chemotherapy and immunotherapy are typically done in person, follow-up visits and medication and symptom management can be done virtually

Telehealth programs had made up less than 1 percent of all health care in the U.S. until March 2020, when the pandemic restricted personal contact, and telehealth surged. State and federal regulators relaxed rules that required doctors to see patients personally before offering care, and insurers began to cover virtual visits.

Now the use of technology such as video chats, secure messaging, and even old-school phone calls to allow clinicians and patients to communicate has settled at 10 to 30 percent of patient appointments in many large hospital systems and appears to be here to stay.

The quality-of-care results seem highest in the specialties that use telehealth most. Endocrinologists, for instance, like it because their patients get lab work done separately and then discuss results with doctors virtually; surgeons are using it to confer with patients before and after procedures. Jeremy Cauwels, chief physician at Sanford, says an endocrinologist in his organization now carves out several hours a week for video visits with diabetes patients after discovering how much information about diet and habits he could glean from observing them at home.

The goal, proponents say, is not simply to increase telehealth use but to optimize it and create a good form of hybrid care they call “clicks and mortar.”

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