As we move into May 2020, COVID-19 continues its domination of the news headlines. At the time of writing, cases of the viral infection topped 1.1 million in the US, and nearly 70,000 Americans lost their lives because of it. As with other viral infections such as influenza, the best way to sidestep infection is by avoiding the coronavirus responsible for the disease.
An important part of your success comes through minimizing contact with people who may be infected. This can be confounded by the fact that those with the coronavirus may not be symptomatic with COVID-19 for up to two weeks. It’s possible for you to catch the virus from someone who seems perfectly healthy.
The team at Sheridan Ear, Nose & Throat has turned to telemedicine to help ensure the safety of both patients and staff. By restricting direct contact with non-urgent patients, Dr. Scott Bateman helps reduce the potential spread of the virus for everyone involved with his practice. Here’s how telemedicine helps to keep you and your family safe.
Telemedicine versus telehealth
The move to virtual medicine first developed to expand the capabilities of an overworked health care system working at peak capacities. Since doctor visits must so often be one-on-one, time becomes a limiting factor. And from the patient’s standpoint, there’s also time lost from work or school to commute to the physician.
The development of mobile technology — particularly video calling — opened an avenue that’s increasingly convenient for both patients and practitioners. Two terms came to the fore, often used interchangeably, though they actually mean different things. Telehealth covers the delivery of health-related information for both consumers and healthcare professionals. It’s a general term, supporting health care infrastructure, education, and systems management.
Telemedicine is the element of telehealth that relates to clinical care — the contact between patient and doctor. Frequently used for non-critical follow-up visits, telemedicine quickly pushed to the forefront of clinical care with the pandemic to preserve isolation for patients with non-critical care needs.
What is “flattening the curve”?
Because viral infections tend to spread exponentially, without isolation measures, vast portions of the population could suffer infection quickly. This is especially true with COVID-19, since patients may be asymptomatic for up to 14 days and not know they have the disease. And because of the newness of this coronavirus and the severity of illness among vulnerable populations, an unchecked infection peak could completely overwhelm the American healthcare system.
“Flattening the curve” refers to reducing the number of active cases from one day to the next. Practices such as social isolation and thorough hand washing contribute to infection avoidance.
Telemedicine helps to flatten the curve in two important ways. First, most people who contract COVID-19 become only mildly to moderately ill. They will heal naturally, on their own, without the need for medical treatment of their symptoms. Dr. Bateman can, through a telemedicine call, help them decide if their COVID-19 symptoms require treatment.
This produces the second curve-flattening benefit. When moderately affected COVID-19 patients recover in place, with a minimum of outside contact, they reduce the chances through which they can spread the virus to others.
Dr. Bateman continues to support patients with non-COVID-19 conditions through the crisis using telemedicine as well. Contact the office by phone at 307-672-0290 or request an appointment online, regardless of the nature of your health issue. You can do your part to prevent the spread of coronavirus by staying in place.