Telehealth and RPM can shortcut this process significantly. Telehealth enables physicians and other experts to examine people who have acquired, or may have acquired, the condition without being in physical proximity. The result is that researchers at the CDC in Atlanta can speak with and look at the symptoms of quarantined patients in California, Michigan and Rhode Island in the same day, or even in the same hour, without having to leave their offices or lose access to all the tools at their disposal. Video examinations also mean those experts are not directly exposed to the virus itself.
RPM is even more powerful, because it can be used to monitor not only those who have already acquired the condition but others who may have been exposed for signs of the disease. The constant flow of data helps virologists understand the lifecycle and effects of the disease so they can better determine the public health threat and actions that should be taken as a result.
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At the local level, RPM enables physicians to monitor their patients for symptoms of the viral outbreak and react faster to stop the potential spread. The data they are gathering can be uploaded to a central repository to help with identifying the spread of the disease. This information can be used to alert local authorities to viral “hot spots” and, when combined with predictive analytics, suggest when more drastic actions (such as imposing a quarantine) are needed.
Telehealth and RPM can also be used to encourage patients who are already using these technologies to perform a self-check if they begin to exhibit known symptoms. The communication and educational pathways built into the platform can bring information to patients proactively rather than waiting for them to become informed and concerned on their own. If they suspect they may have acquired the disease, the technology can then inform them of the next steps to take (avoid unprotected contact with others, come in for a visit, contact the CDC, etc.) to address their health issues while helping to stop the potential spread.
Looking to the future
There will always be another outbreak (such as coronavirus, Ebola, Zika virus, etc.) or even a health-threatening natural or other disaster, which begs the question “How can technology be used to do an even better job in the future?”
Imagine a world where physicians are gathering reliable health information on a daily basis on all their patients, not just the sickest ones. A smartwatch could be feeding data that shows a fever coming on, a change in respiration or heart rate or other symptoms that indicate a potential issue. The physician could initiate a video chat to get a quick look and determine if more actions need to be taken.