19 May Telehealth and decentralized healthcare delivery in the face of a pandemic
I’m deliberately taking a “silver lining” approach on this one, folks. Please bear with me.
The COVID-19 crisis and its economic underpinnings have changed life as we know it- possibly for a very long time. Nonetheless, I’m prouder than ever to be a nurse practitioner during such trying times.
On the heels of International Nurses Week, I’m proud to highlight what I’ve experienced. I’ve observed countless acts of compassion, selflessness, courage, and technical/professional prowess by nurses and other healthcare workers poised at the front lines of this pandemic.
People need support, guidance, reassurance, and other interventions that our existing healthcare system is currently too overwhelmed to provide. This is due to packed facilities, depleted workforces, a generally reactive approach to disease, and of course, maldistribution of resources.
paradigm shift during a pandemic
In many cases (mostly out of fear or survival instinct), people have taken their health and wellness into their own hands. This can be a double-edged sword, depending on their knowledge base, values, and access to healthcare resources.
This is where the internet and healthcare technology come into play. Access to healthcare personnel and products via the internet allows healthcare consumers spanning several gender, age, and other socioeconomic demographics to discuss their most pressing health concerns with experienced healthcare professionals.
These professionals often have their own brands, frameworks, and approaches to care that may align with the values of groups of healthcare consumers. This resulting organic “matchmaking” previously only existed in geographical pockets of society- another manifestation of the shortcomings of “traditional” healthcare.
I am what I affectionately refer to as an “elderly millennial.” My age, ethnicity, and affinity to technology wove a very unique perspective of health and healthcare that has also influenced the way I practice. I imagine that this is the case for many healthcare providers who tend to think critically and embrace the “art” of practicing medicine just as much as they do the “science.”
medical legal responses to pandemic
As recently as this past March, we’ve observed regulatory entities such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
(CMS) lifting harsh privacy guidelines on privacy and utilization of consumer telecom resources to provide healthcare under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act.
We’ve seen several states cooperating to battle the COVID-19 pandemic by gradually relaxing restrictions around recognizing healthcare licensure. These legislative measures are intended to be temporary. Even so, who really knows when the demand for a unified, empowered healthcare workforce will subside?
call to action for health and wellness
I encourage any and every healthcare professional with a technology and communications skill set to explore the option of online independent practice. I also encourage practices to think outside of the box and grant their most valued employees to do so.
Healthcare workers cannot afford to flub the opportunity that stands before us- especially when so many lives and resources are involved. The COVID-19 global pandemic and its economic underpinnings highlights a void that we can and should fill..
Providers and patients alike should research federal and local regulations around telemedicine practices. Due to the sheer vastness of the internet, I believe that there is a perfect healthcare match for us all. Therefore providers should explore this decentralized approach to healthcare delivery and patients/consumers should research providers that match their health based values. Both parties can utilize telemedicine and other contemporary forums to achieve their collective healthcare objectives.
Kayode Smith is a Family Nurse Practitioner that specializes in Family Medicine (including family/parent counseling). He has more than a decade of Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care experience. He is affiliated with Parcare Community Health Network. You can schedule an initial telemedicine (urgent walk-ins also accepted) appointment with him by dialing 718-475-1700.