LIBERTY— The Health Resources Services Administration defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long distance health care, health-related education, public health and health administration. For doctors at Liberty Hospital, the move toward telehealth sped up with the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Dwarak Soundarraj, an interventional cardiologist, said using telehealth has been unique for him.
“We do remain accessible in the office, but I would say that the doctors who are in the office, about half a day is using this platform,” he said. “It's working out well. As an example, I have a patient with cardiomyopathy. I saw him in the office in February and we ruled out COVID-19. With the telehealth, I can assess his health. With the use of his telephone camera, I can see his leg swellings after he provided his weight, heart rate and blood pressure. I have access to his medicines.”
Neal Anson, a primary care physician, said telehealth has been an advantage to treating patients during the pandemic.
“There are those in rural communities that benefit,” he said. “However, I miss the in-person touch. That is difficult to replace. It does change the way you look at a patient.”
Anson said in the past few weeks, he has been able to help patients with dermatological issues if the camera gets a good image.
“We have also been able to treat some emotional issues as well,” he said. “There is that behavioral health I can look at as people are dealing with depression, anxiety and insomnia.”
Soundarraj said he tries to incorporate loved ones to assist on patient calls when needed.
“If I can get them to pull back and offer a full body view on the camera, I can see the entire body, plus their body language,” he said. “Patients are more comfortable at home and often with their spouse. They can share information together.”
While the coronavirus has accelerated his use of telehealth, Soundarraj said he expects the technology to continue to improve and be used more as time goes on.
“This can be convenient for patients with transportation issues,” he said. “It could come in handy in the winter. We have patients who live in Warsaw and they are not happy to drive up to Liberty. I know the technology will get better in time and will become even more user-friendly.”
Anson said telehealth will change the face of medicine.
“I think we will have to improve internet so that there is no barrier for these visits. We have to have a quality for the call and right now that is a challenge. There are positives, and I think it will be commonplace in five years,” he said. “It's not a substitute for a face-to-face physical or physical interaction, but we can see this as a tool that helps keep us in touch.”