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Telehealth in the time of COVID-19
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  • Published on:
    Telehealth impact pre-COVID
    • Irwin R. Barr, Physician Medical Advisor- Veteran's Administration (VA) Clinical Contact Center Modernization

    There is no question that SARS-CoV-2 has dramatically increased the utilization of telehealth services in the US and elsewhere. However, the claim that telehealth was not a significant factor pre-COVID is simply not true. Here is the quote from the article: "Prior to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth generally had little overall engagement in the US healthcare system."

    In 2009 during the H1N1 epidemic, Kaiser Permanente-Northern California's (KP-NCAL) appointment and advice call centers (AACC) scheduled 900,000 telehealth visits. In 2010 in my capacity as Clinical Director of the KP-NCAL Sacramento AACC I organized a regional program employing telehealth to address the after hours needs of adults. That program over the next 8 years averaged 50,000 encounters per year on nights and weekends and backed up an additional 200,000+ locally managed afterhours telehealth visits per year. 24% of the total encounters in KP-NCAL's Adult and Family Medicine departments by 3.8 million adults in 2017 were delivered through virtual telehealth. I would say these efforts definitely qualify as substantial "overall engagement".

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.