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How Teleheath Provides More Efficient Healthcare for Patients and Providers – and the Role Online Communities Can Play

How did the pandemic impact your relationships with your healthcare providers? Did telehealth enable you to continue seeing or connecting with your providers to receive the care that you needed?

In this episode of Community Signal, Denzil Coleman, a telehealth coordinator, developing and maintaining digital health interventions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Center for Telehealth, discusses how the adoption of telehealth interactions and practices during the pandemic may lead to continued and more long-term improvements and efficiencies in our healthcare system.

Denzil explains that telehealth is “anything where healthcare is being impacted by a patient and an actor that are not in the same location. That includes a video, that includes transmissions of information, asynchronous messaging, [and] remote patient monitoring.” Telehealth can create efficiencies for both patients and providers –– giving patients flexibility to see their providers without the burden of travel and with the option to invite more caregivers into these interactions.

Whereas in the past, patients may have received pamphlets with details about in-person support groups or other care options, today there are online communities and support groups and insurance companies themselves even offer telehealth options. With these options come more opportunities for patients to be more engaged in the care that they receive and for providers to thoughtfully care for patients.

Denzil and Patrick also discuss how:

  • COVID, the shifting landscape of the healthcare profession, and the fact that folks are living longer, healthier lives all impacts the healthcare system
  • The flexibility of telehealth allows a patient’s support system to become more involved in their care
  • Creating efficiencies in the healthcare system should not equate to patients receiving less care
  • Value-based care could resemble a community-like investment in overall care
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Big Quotes

What exactly is telehealth? (2:01): “To put it simply, telehealth is … anything where healthcare is being impacted by a patient and an actor that are not in the same location. That includes a video, that includes transmissions of information, asynchronous messaging, [and] remote patient monitoring.” –@denzilcoleman

How the pandemic is leading to wider adoption of teleheath interactions (4:55): “Even at the Center for Telehealth at MUSC, where I work, we saw a very significant uptick in telehealth interactions of all kinds since the start of the pandemic, just because pretty much every interaction had to take place that way for patient safety. The forced adoption of the time of the emergency is really what prompted it, but we’ll take it because as people are getting more comfortable with these modalities, we’re able to push digital health forward a lot quicker.” –@denzilcoleman

Online communities can help keep patients engaged in their own care (8:10): “A lot of times, you may give an intervention or a plan of care in which the patient is not fully engaged. Having them as part of one of these [online] communities where they feel supported, encouraged to take part and advocate for their own care, and share experiences, it keeps them engaged. It keeps their focus on their health and on getting better.” –@denzilcoleman

Healthcare optimization could lead to online communities (22:51): “[Healthcare optimization means] expanding the reach of what we already do, expanding the reach of providers who are overwhelmed, overworked, and facing a mushrooming population of people who are living longer, healthier lives. Which is great, but at the same time, we are having less and less people graduate from medical school becoming doctors. Of course, those are being supplemented by what we refer to as mid-level providers and a large increase of people becoming physician assistants and nurse practitioners, which is also great, but our providers aren’t matching the rate of individuals surviving. We have to create the efficiencies. We have no choice. We have to use technology to do the best we can, and online communities are part of that.” –@denzilcoleman

Efficiencies in the healthcare ecosystem do not mean a reduction in care (30:05): “Some [existing healthcare practices] aren’t necessary, don’t add value, or may even be wasteful. … Imagine if you’re with a provider, and you’ve had a long-term condition over the past 30 years. The last 15 of them, you saw your provider every three months, no matter what. Now, in 2021, your provider tells you, ‘I’m only going to see you in person maybe one time a year instead of four, but you’re going to come see me in person. I’m going to do an exam, then I’m going to have a little remote monitoring on a monthly basis. Then we’re going to do a three-month video-only checkup. Then we’re going to do something in six months.’ You only come to the clinic and get an exam the one time. It’s not because we don’t want to care for you. It’s because we want to create efficiencies for everyone in the healthcare ecosystem.” –@denzilcoleman

About Denzil Coleman

Denzil Coleman has served as a telehealth coordinator, developing and maintaining digital health interventions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Center for Telehealth since 2017. He holds a Master of Science in Health Information Technology and is completing a Doctor of Education in Educational Practice and Innovation, both from The University of South Carolina. Denzil has worked in healthcare for nearly two decades including stints at Roper Saint Francis and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He also lectures in and facilitates healthcare management and technology education programs in the United States, United Kingdom, and India.

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