Vanderbilt flattening the curve with telehealth

Posted at 8:43 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 21:43:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Doctors and nurses at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are trying to protect themselves and their patients from COVID-19 by holding remote appointments.

It’s a practice that’s been going on for six years at the medical center - video chat visits for patients who don’t need to see a doctor in person. The practice of telehealth has several benefits according to Dr. David Charles, director of Telehealth for the hospital.

He says it allows patients in rural areas or who don’t have a lot of time, to have a doctors visit without having to travel. Also, it can reduce the spread of germs since the healthcare provider and patient don’t come into contact with each other.

“The slower that we can impact the rate of people becoming infected with the virus, it gives the healthcare system, not just Vanderbilt, but the nation’s healthcare system the ability to care for people as they become ill and to recover,” said Dr. Charles.

It's important to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19 cases to reduce the load on area hospitals. COVID-19 has caused back ups in healthcare systems in other countries. That’s what Dr. Charles wants to avoid here.

Telehealth treatment, however, hasn’t always been easily obtained. Dr. Charles said insurance companies have opposed covering telehealth doctor visits.

“Telehealth has been available for many many years, but, unfortunately, health insurance companies have actively worked to prevent the adoption of telehealth widely,” he said. “They’ve only allowed some adoption in very limited circumstances.”

Now that the federal government is utilizing telemedicine, those barriers of care have been taken down. Dr. Charles says this is good for patients in Tennessee.