How Telemedicine Helps 'Flatten the Curve' During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 26, 2020

First Stop Health

Slowing the spread, or “flattening the curve,” of coronavirus (COVID-19) is paramount. In pandemics, cases increase exponentially, so the more we practice responsible habits, such as social distancing, the more effectively we will manage this disease. 

With numerous states now under “shelter in place” orders, social distancing is the new norm. By staying home and avoiding public spaces, people reduce the risk of spreading the disease. This is especially important for COVID-19, which is highly contagious and may not appear until 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

When people are sick, the first place they typically turn is the doctor’s office, hospital or urgent care. But according to projections by Harvard Global Health Institute, hospitals, not to mention doctors’ offices, are unprepared for the pandemic. In fact, many hospitals could exceed capacity if 20% of Americans get seriously ill from COVID-19 — and this is a “conservative estimate” of the number who will require care, according to epidemiologists. 

The CDC advises sick people not to leave the house to avoid exposing others, such as those on public transit, rideshare drivers, other family members, neighbors or, vitaly, other sick or immunocompromised people at the hospital.  

This is where telemedicine comes in. Calling — rather than visiting — a doctor is quickly becoming recognized as the most responsible way to seek care. This is telemedicine’s important role in flattening the curve.

Sick people can simply call a licensed doctor via telemedicine and explain their symptoms. If they seem to match those of COVID-19, the doctor explains next steps, such as self-quarantine, or contacting a hospital or a local public health facility. 

Patients whose symptoms do not match COVID-19 are treated for their condition. For example, those with flu-like symptoms may be prescribed Tamiflu, and those with a sinus infection may be given an antibiotic. Others may be told to wait, rest and monitor. 

It’s important to remember that although COVID-19 dominates the headlines, patients will still get sick with other, milder conditions that may need treatment. 

Consider people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but have ear infections or skin rashes and would still like to see a doctor. Instead of exposing themselves at the doctor’s office, or exposing others to what may be a different  contagious condition, they can get treated virtually by a telemedicine doctor. 

Telemedicine allows patients to stay home and help “flatten the curve,” curbing the spread of the coronavirus. It’s an essential treatment option that all employers should consider to keep their workers and families safe and healthy during this pandemic. 

Originally published Mar 26, 2020 2:13:27 PM.