By Keli‘i Akina
Might broader use of telehealth enhance the standard of healthcare in Hawaii?
I feel so, and let me inform you why.
Telehealth — typically referred to as telemedicine — is when sufferers seek the advice of with their docs over the web through Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or another video convention program with out the numerous inconvenience of getting to make an in-person workplace go to.
The COVID-19 lockdowns elevated public consciousness of telehealth, since so many individuals had been confined to their properties throughout that seemingly limitless interval. However you will need to reinforce the message that telehealth stays an essential healthcare choice, and, in reality, has the potential to vary medication as we all know it.
For instance, telemedicine is at the moment being utilized by emergency medical technicians to make sure higher outcomes for stroke victims. At a latest briefing for the state Home Committee on Well being and Homelessness, Dr. Matthew Koenig of Queen’s Well being Programs defined how telemedicine has helped save the lives of stroke victims. He stated its use from an ambulance can let a neurologist on the hospital study the affected person, converse to witnesses and activate the hospital’s stroke workforce forward of time.
Telehealth can be utilized for extra mundane conditions as effectively, equivalent to discussing lab take a look at or X-ray outcomes, coping with prescriptions, post-surgical follow-up, bodily and occupational remedy, psychological well being therapy and pressing care points equivalent to colds, coughs and abdomen aches.
For docs, telehealth can allow them to keep in nearer contact with their sufferers, appeal to extra sufferers due to the comfort, and scale back workplace prices equivalent to front-desk assist and area for medical examination rooms.
In a state the place geographic circumstances and a scarcity of healthcare employees creates important challenges to entry, increasing telehealth is extra than simply a good suggestion, it’s a necessity.
Creating an accessible, easily working telehealth system will probably be a protracted course of. We should begin by addressing the technological limitations that stop suppliers and sufferers from making full use of telehealth choices.
For one factor, not all people in Hawaii has web entry. Applications abound which are devoted to bettering digital entry for underprivileged communities, however this problem would require ongoing assist. In the meantime, in docs’ workplaces, higher built-in know-how is required for telemedicine to take maintain.
Then there may be the query of how we are able to increase telehealth. Presently, Hawaii regulation says that solely docs with a Hawaii license can deal with sufferers in Hawaii. However in the event you dwell in Hawaii and need to speak with a medical specialist on the mainland who isn’t licensed to observe in Hawaii, you possibly can’t try this.
This can be a actual drawback for Hawaii residents whose solely choice in sure life-or-death instances has been to journey to the mainland to search out the docs they want — if they’ll even afford to try this.
The excellent news right here is that the Legislature and governor authorised laws earlier this yr permitting Hawaii to hitch the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which by 2025 will make it simpler for docs from 41 different states and Guam to acquire a Hawaii license and seek the advice of remotely with sufferers in Hawaii.
However we might do extra. Twenty-six states have particular license or telehealth registration applications that enable out-of-state docs to supply telehealth providers. Idaho, for instance, permits licensed docs to supply telehealth care to sufferers with whom they’ve a longtime relationship however are within the state solely quickly. Florida has a good higher choice. Licensed out-of-state suppliers can observe telehealth by merely registering with the state medical board and agreeing to sure circumstances equivalent to legal responsibility protection.
Hawaii’s policymakers demonstrated a willingness to take daring motion in addressing our healthcare disaster after they authorised the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact for docs. Their subsequent steps needs to be to let the state be part of extra medical compacts — equivalent to for nurses, emergency medical technicians, bodily therapists and extra — and increase telehealth.
It’s time for Hawaii to completely embrace the potential advantages of telehealth and enact insurance policies that may increase its availability and effectiveness.
Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.