Leveraging Telehealth to Combat Pandemic Coronavirus

telehealth for pandemics like coronavirus

We believe virtual care is the key to scaling infectious disease management. Learn why.

Stories continue to pour in on every news outlet around the world about the rapidly spreading Wuhan Coronavirus and growing fears of a pandemic. As of February 1, over 300 people have died from the contagious virus, with more than 14,000 confirmed cases. What started in China’s Wuhan province moved quickly to over twenty-five countries across the world, including several cases here in the United States.

Similar to previous pandemics, many lay people fear the worst from a potential exposure to someone who has recently traveled, or fear their symptoms of another acute illness may represent the deadly strain. Because of heightened awareness of coronavirus in the news cycle and its clinical resemblance to other respiratory illnesses, it can be increasingly difficult to identify true cases among the masses, thus leading to further spread.

This is a moment for global concern, but it’s also a moment that demonstrates the potential and actual benefits of leveraging virtual care resources. Many medical specialties are in short supply and infectious disease specialists are among them. In hospital settings, the use of telehealth has been leveraged to convey critically needed expertise to underserved settings. It has led to better diagnostic assessments, more appropriate resource utilization, and lower total cost1. Other studies have demonstrated infectious disease management via telemedicine can lower patient mortality, hospital length of stay, and re-admission rates. Remote monitoring services have been used to improve patient medication compliance and have been touted to reinforce the patient-doctor relationship, disproving a common refrain that telehealth exacerbates patient barriers to care2.

These systemic benefits directly translate to the current coronavirus situation as well. Timely and appropriate identification of contagious patients requires awareness and a sharp clinical acumen. Digital care and remote monitoring allow for the expertise of a relative few to be scaled to the masses in a quick, efficient, and cost-effective manner. Without additional burden, highly specialized infectious disease providers can use their skills to rapidly coordinate care across the globe.

Aside from triage and direct patient care, specialist expertise can be used to “teach the teachers” about disease states such as the Wuhan Coronavirus that are generally infrequent, exotic, and unfamiliar. Through this method, the specialists’ knowledge-base can be extrapolated even further, thereby impacting even more lives. Consider the impact of training clinicians and even civilians to identify signs and symptoms, learning about methods of containment, and preparing action plans for appropriate cases. These simple but necessary methods can have an immediate and drastic impact on keeping communities safe and diseases contained.

With the Wuhan Coronavirus, we have a clear case study demonstrating these methods of scaling existing resources via telehealth modalities to combat and contain potential pandemics. We are proud to be contributing to this digital health ecosystem as it reshapes how the health care community tackles these global challenges. More importantly, we are proud of the providers and companies on the frontlines—in the most immediate terms, this translates into countless lives saved.

For up to date information about the Wuhan Coronavirus and what providers need to know, please visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website or the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) for an overview of Wuhan Coronavirus and regular updates on the evolving situation.

Rafid Fadul, MD, MBA

Chief Medical Officer, Wheel

Want to join the next generation of digital healthcare providers? Sign up to learn more about working in telehealth with Wheel.

1Monkowski D, Rhodes LV III, Templer S, et al. A retrospective cohort study to assess the impact of an inpatient infectious disease telemedicine consultation service on hospital and patient outcomes [published online April 19, 2019] Clin Infect Dis. doi:10.1093/cid/ciz293

2Gras G. Use of telemedicine in the management of infectious diseases. Med Mal Infect. 2018 Jun;48(4):231-237. doi: 10.1016/j.medmal.2018.01.005. Epub 2018 Feb 14.