Telehealth in light of COVID19

The current focus of health systems on hospital preparedness and public health measures to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus, and flatten critical illness curves, has led to the reduction, or temporary closure, of many in-person clinical services around the world.  Despite the importance of readiness for spikes in critical illness related to COVID-19, as well as for maintaining physical distance to curb spread of disease, it is also crucial to keep in mind that many patients are currently at risk for experiencing gaps in care, as services deemed non-urgent have been put on hold.  Health care providers are finding that telemedicine may present a possible solution to the issue of continuity of care while maintaining physical distance during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

What is Telemedicine?

The World Health Organization defines telemedicine as “The delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”1  As this definition suggests, there are many potential contexts for leveraging telemedicine technologies and approaches – as well, there is a growing body of literature to support and inform the use of telemedicine in practice.

Telemedicine is currently demonstrating utility in an environment where it is necessary to maintain distance while providing optimal patient care.2,3  Lock downs or quarantines due to COVID-19 have pressed the need to move the delivery of certain health care services onto a telemedicine platform for a number of patient scenarios.  One of these is to facilitate ongoing dialogue between patients and their health care providers regarding existing and/or chronic health conditions.4 A crucial part of this dialogue is clear, sound and effective patient education.

Patient education on a telemedicine platform – to support the initiation of treatment regimens, follow-up and/or self-care at home – can be carried out in accordance to evidence-based findings for effective in-person patient education practice. One such finding is the utility of demonstrations and visual aids in order to elucidate to patients their pathology and reasons for their symptoms, and in order to explain why and how certain treatment or self-care regimens/behaviours will be effective.5,6  In the case of patient care related to spinal and musculoskeletal conditions, this could include the use of spine and intravertebral disc models.

How Spine Models by Dynamic Disc Designs could help

Spine models by Dynamic Disc Designs are anatomically accurate with features that can easily and clearly be pointed out to patients during their education sessions with their health care provider.  This is especially useful when utilizing a telemedicine platform, where the patient may need extra support to feel connected to the health care provider’s message.

Jordan van der Westhuizen is a Managing Partner and an Occupational Therapist (Hons) at Enhanced Occupational Therapy in Perth Australia.  He utilizes Dynamic Disc Designs spine models in his patient education sessions, both in-person and via telemedicine.  He notes,  “…Not only for in-person consultations but now for telehealth, our spine model allows the patient to understand their back issues and mechanisms causing pain which is a key component in the patient’s health journey.”

Telehealth - Spine Education

Dr. Robert Peace is a chiropractor in Tulsa Oklahoma who also currently utilizes Dynamic Disc Designs models for patient education sessions via telemedicine.

“The ddd spine models are an invaluable resource for the relating of findings and communicating the many causes of spine pain. The patients always seem to get a better understanding of their condition when viewing the detailed anatomy on this model.  I’m looking forward to receiving my next model – the Medial Branch Dynamic Disc Model – to even better demonstrate and educate the patients in regards to facet joint inflammation and medial branch involvement.”

We are currently experiencing a global health environment that calls for innovation in patient care on many levels. Health care provided through telemedicine offers opportunities for health care providers to safely and quickly triage patients with symptoms that may be related to COVID-19, but also provides a platform for continuity of care for patients with other illnesses, particularly those that are chronic and thus require ongoing, long-term follow-up.   The use of visual aids such as spine and disc models for patients with spinal issues can enhance the patient education that is an integral component of optimal care for patients with chronic conditions

 

References

  • World Health Organization. (1998, December 11-16). A health telematics policy in support of WHO’s health-for-all strategy for global health development: report of the WHO group consultation on health telematics. Geneva. Geneva. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/63857
  • Xiaoyun Zhou, Xiaoyun Zhou, Centaine L. Snoswell, Louise E. Harding, Matthew Bambling, Sisira Edirippulige, Xuejun Bai, and Anthony C. Smith. (2020, March 23). The Role of Telehealth in Reducing the Mental Health Burden from COVID-19. Telemedicine and e-health, 26(4). https://doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2020.0068
  • Judd E. Hollander, M.D., and Brendan G. Carr, M.D. (2020, March 11). Virtually Perfect? Telemedicine for Covid-19. New England Journal of Medicine[online]. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2003539 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2003539
  • Vivek Chauhan, Sagar Galwankar, Bonnie Arquilla, Manish Garg, Salvatore Di Somma, Ayman El-Menyar, Vimal Krishnan, Joel Gerber, Reuben Holland, Stanislaw P Stawicki.(2020) Novel coronavirus (COVID-19): Leveraging telemedicine to optimize care while minimizing exposures and viral transmission. Emerg Trauma Shock[serial online], 13(1), pp.20-24. http://www.onlinejets.org/article.asp?issn=0974-2700;year=2020;volume=13;issue=1;spage=20;epage=24;aulast=Chauhan
  • Audrey Jusko Friedman, Roxanne Cosby, Susan Boyko, Jane Hatton-Bauer & Gale Turnbull. (2010, December 16). Effective Teaching Strategies and Methods of Delivery for Patient Education: A Systematic Review and Practice Guideline Recommendations. Journal of Cancer Education volume 26, pp12-21. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13187-010-0183-x
  • Robert P. Riemsma Erik Taal  John R. Kirwan  Johannes J. Rasker. (2004, December 8). Systematic review of rheumatoid Arthritis patient education. Arthritis care & Research, 51(6), 1045-1059. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.20823

 

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