We are experiencing unprecedented times, as the impact of COVID-19 has challenged our daily lives, our families, our communities, and our businesses. On behalf of My Gene Counsel, we hope you are staying well and staying home, and we especially want to thank all of the brave heroes on the front lines of this global health crisis.
As the days go by, one thing this pandemic has highlighted is the value of digital models to keep industries running – whether it’s schools transitioning to distance learning or restaurants adapting to online ordering. And this is especially true for those providing healthcare services, who must be able to make the shift quickly (whenever possible) from in-person interactions to digital, virtualized care.
Precision Oncology News recently covered this shift to virtual care in their article, Germline Genetic Testing, Counseling Move Remote as Pandemic Limits In-Person Care Capacity. One of the takeaways is that there are technology innovations available that can, and should be, leveraged for the response to COVID-19. My Gene Counsel’s own Meagan Farmer says in the article, “A silver lining in this crisis is that it has catalyzed the development and implementation of some of these virtual solutions and approaches and encouraged collaboration.”
For health systems that must embrace socially distant medical alternatives to respond effectively to COVID-19, here are a few lessons emerging about the importance of digital health tools.
Digital tools can help triage urgent and non-urgent cases
Telemedicine allows patients to be efficiently screened and evaluated before hospital transfer, protecting healthcare workers, other patients, and the community from exposure and reducing stress on precious healthcare system resources. Whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or not, it is important to keep healthy people out of hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Digital tools remove barriers and improve access to healthcare
Many non-acute care providers are converting scheduled in-office visits to telehealth appointments for their clients. This option allows patients to manage their health needs and combat isolation (particularly beneficial for teletherapy), while limiting travel and exposure to the virus. The convenience and accessibility of going remote will likely influence future healthcare delivery models.
Digital tools are essential for returning results at scale
Labs across the country do not have the personnel to provide COVID-19 test results in a timely manner, which is imperative to reduce the risk of spreading the illness. Digital solutions could play a huge role in expediting this process to help healthcare systems return results responsibly and efficiently, thus alleviating delays and uncertainty.
As a health technology company, My Gene Counsel has been dedicated to developing digital solutions to expand access to genetic testing and counseling, to enable timely return of test results at scale, and to provide notifications for patients and clinicians as the field evolves. For us, the digital health model is nothing new. While we realize it will not solve all of the challenges posed by the coronavirus, there will be strategies that come to light during this time that will leverage technology to allow health systems to more effectively respond to crises now and in the future.