Clearly it is not, we've been doing in-hospital telehealth programs well before COVID. Telestroke, TelePhyschiatry. The question becomes where can we go from here.
However, what happens after COVID? Years ago, I looked at data from my own hospital, a national center of excellence for neurological care. In the span of a single year, we treated roughly 1000 patients, about 3 per day, transferred to us from other hospitals by ambulance or helicopter that were then discharged within 48 hours. We can’t do anything in 48 hours—so that means that these patients were thought to have more serious issues by the outside provider than they actually had on arrival. These transfers reflect uncertainty and fear from less-experienced community physicians. When in doubt, transfer. From a physician’s perspective, this is the safe move. But 2 hospitalizations and a medevac can push many Americans into bankruptcy. Unfortunately, a phone call is often not enough to reassure outside providers, patients, and families that the transfer is not medically necessary. We need to bond, to look in their eyes, and tell them it will be okay—and if the patient takes a turn for the worse, we’ll be there for them.
I'd like to see us use telehealth for more hospital rounding. As an in-patient, waiting for you doctor to physically come by at the end of their day is really frustrating. Can we make clinicians more efficient with in-hosptial telehealth?
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