Dr. Shawn Tsuda, serving as Human Medical Director on Viticus Group's Board of Directors, provides all health professionals with information and resources regarding telehealth to help slow the spread of COVID-19 while still taking care of patients.
As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, human health practitioners have collaborated remarkably through rapid dissemination of scientific and practical information, often via social media. One of the first questions that arose when social distancing suddenly became a necessary part of our personal and professional lives is how we can maintain quality care with our patients while preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Telehealth is a way to ensure uninterrupted care to our new and established patients. In the human health arena, governing bodies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have quickly released guidelines and policy changes to help facilitate the interaction between physicians and patients electronically.
In veterinary medicine, governing organizations are also relaxing their requirements to make telehealth more feasible. The FDA recently announced that it intends to "temporarily not enforce certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the pandemic." These changes involve the ability to establish VCPR electronically rather than requiring that veterinarians examine their patients in person.
Two main areas needed to be addressed: privacy and payment. What has emerged are temporary measures among regulatory agencies, insurance payers, and provider facilities to waive penalties and audits for privacy issues (as long as practiced in good faith) and ensure reimbursement for telehealth visits—whether through phone, dedicated video-conferencing software, or common social platforms like Apple FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype.
A potential silver lining that may emerge from this public health crisis is greater attention, respect, and adoption of our advanced communication technologies to provide patient care. Telehealth has wide-ranging applications among veterinarians, pharmacists, therapists, physicians, nurses, and more. Both during and after this current crisis, we may find ourselves asking how we can be prepared to use telehealth for future disasters and for everyday communication with our patients when life has normalized.
For now, our safety and that of our colleagues and patients necessitate embracing telehealth technology. As a start, I've created a small list of potential telemedicine vendors for interfacing with patients:
AmWell | https://business.amwell.com/
- Telemedicine visits by video and phone
- Web and mobile apps
- Can document notes
- Pricing: Check with AmWell for pricing options
doxy.me | https://doxy.me/
- No download required—works in most popular browsers
- Live chat
- HD video visit
- Virtual waiting room
- Pricing: Free to use; $35/mo for professional features; $50/mo/practitioner for clinic
DrFirst | drfirst.com
- Compatible for desktop, tablet, and smart phones (including iOS and Android)
- No special equipment purchases required
- Content completely customizable
- Pricing: $60/user/year for collaboration backline features (provides secure text messaging, file sharing, care coordination features, etc.); $300/user/year for telehealth module (backline care collaboration platform + virtual visits)
Medici | https://medici.md/
- Secure text, voice, and video visits
- Keeps history of messages
- In-app billing
- Pricing: $150/month
SnapMD | https://snap.md/technology/
- HD video
- Platform access from a PC, Mac, or mobile device (iOs/Android platform)
- Branded to practice (like a virtual storefront)
- Pricing: Contact SnapMD for pricing options
Zoom | https://zoom.us/healthcare
- High-quality video conferencing, even in low-bandwidth environment
- Recorded session review
- Enhanced collaboration features: Collaborate with others by annotating directly on shared screen—notations are visible to all attendees.
- Pricing: Free; advanced plans start at $200/month
Visit Viticus Group's COVID-19 in Veterinary Practice web page to get more news, updates, resources, and blogs about this novel virus.
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