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Future of Telehealth: Is it here to stay?

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Posted at 9:42 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 00:51:40-04

Now more than a year into the pandemic, telehealth has become a household term and normality, but what will happen to the platform when life starts to trend back to normal? KSBY spoke with healthcare professionals and got their thoughts on the future of telehealth.

Virtual meetings and virtual happy hours might stick around until the end of the pandemic, but what about virtual doctor’s appointments?

“I think it’ll get more intelligent and easier for the consumer to use,” said Arthur Dominguez Jr., Chief Nursing Officer for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

Telehealth has exploded over the past year with Tenet Health Central Coast going as far as creating their own tele-ER program at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

“We’ve had a patient at home who’s called in with signs and symptoms of a stroke. We recommended they came in, and sure enough, they ended up getting admitted for a stroke,” said Dominguez Jr. “We’ve also had a few patients with some abdominal pain. One was pregnant and thought it was because of their pregnancy, and another gentleman happened to be driving through, saw our billboard, and called in; both of them winded up coming in and had to get appendectomies.”

The extended reach healthcare developed with telehealth is just getting started.

“I think telehealth as a whole has increased our availability, increased our access for patients to interact with their doctor, and probably prevented a lot of disease that would have gone on if the patient had just been staying at home waiting for the pandemic to end,” said Paul Fry, Director of Ambulatory Services for Lompoc Valley Medical Center.

On the flip side, Fry says there are a few downsides to the emergence of telehealth.

“The patient may be hesitant to come in and wanting to utilize the telemedicine when the doctor is thinking, ‘I need to see this person.’ There might be a little bit of a disconnect there,” said Fry. “We'll deal with that when it comes, and hopefully the patients are reasonable enough to say, ‘My doctor wants me in his office. I better listen to him.’”

For Christina Pyo, an OBGYN at Sierra Vista, she thinks telehealth visits for to-be and new mothers are here to stay.

“I think telehealth will continue to expand. I think especially for our mothers and postpartum mothers, the convenience of telehealth has really revolutionized the way that we are able to see our patients,” said Pyo. “Our elderly mamas, they definitely can appreciate the fact that they don’t have to come in because a lot of them are strictly quarantining. This allows them to get their questions answered.”

Healthcare professionals vouching for telehealth, saying it won’t replace in-person medicine completely, but it will be a complimentary form of care for years to come.