It’s the start of Telehealth Awareness Week, and Ann Mond Johnson, American Telemedicine Association CEO, is beaming as she reflects on the growth of this second annual event.
“The number of endorsing partners for this second Telehealth Awareness Week has doubled (since the first),” Mond Johnson says, adding that the first had 25 endorsing partners, and this year’s has grown to 50, including organizations like Easter Seals, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. “To us, this means the messages that telehealth is important, needed, and accepted are being heard.”
After a Veteran gets milk from the dairy aisle, and some bread from the bakery section, he stops at the ATLAS pod in Walmart and has a healthcare visit with his/her mental health, specialty, or medical provider.
According to a recent study, one in five adults polled about health care during the coronavirus pandemic said that they or someone in their household delayed receiving medical care or were unable to get care, due to office closures or shutdowns.
Although the pollsters focused questions about doctor or dental appointments, providers across the board experienced disruption in their specialty areas, including Peggy Stein, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, an Occupational Therapist in Oregon.
We’ve all seen lots of reports from a variety of source documenting how telemedicine use has skyrocketed during the COVID public health emergency. There have also been many subsequent reports on the significant disparities in access to and use of telemedicine that were revealed and/or exacerbated by COVID. A simple search of Google Scholar brings up thousands of articles from around the world summarizing digital divide and related challenges that have been exposed, and many of them highlight some very creative strategies to help address and reduce barriers to telemedicine care. How can we offer a telemedicine option to someone who does not own a digital device? To someone who does but must choose between using their minutes to support their child’s remote school classes or see their doctor? Or someone who has access to the Internet but at limited bandwidth?
I don’t use a smartphone to access Telehealth. Being a “tetraplegic” I have no use of my hands, so I invented a unique way to operate different electronic devices.
I created two styles of mouth sticks.
This one I use while in bed. It’s made from a quarter inch wooden dowel with both ends covered with surgical tubing. If you notice, one end is covered two and a half inches and the other a half inch. The longer end is for biting on and the other is to cushion the tip.
The second mouth stick I use while sitting up in my wheelchair. I can drive up to the desk I designed and park myself in front of my keyboard and computer. The mouth sticks I use while in my chair has a lucite bite impression the dentists made for me. I don’t use this type of mouth stick while laying down in bed because I can’t easily swivel the stick from side to side.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has disrupted our healthcare systems and the general population worldwide in a host of ways no one could have imagined just 6 months ago. On a regular basis, we hear on the news stories about how many cases there are, how many deaths, where to get tested, hot spots, how healthcare disparities contribute to certain populations being more vulnerable than others, and how we need to social distance, wash our hands and wear masks.