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HEALTH | 04.15.2020

Telemedicine: A containment measure in the face of mass spread

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COVID-19 has changed our lives in ways we could never have expected. Who could have imagined having family members isolated in a room within the same house? Who would have thought we would be unable to visit sick relatives in hospital or even come together in periods of mourning as is tradition in many cultures? A pandemic like this causes fundamental changes in how we conduct our relationships. This is why technology has become an essential ally in recent months.

In this regard, telemedicine has taken center stage, with many already asking whether it is here to stay or whether, when the confinement period ends, everything will return to the way things were before.

Recently, a report in The New York Times stated that the number of virtual consultations was increasing in the United States, as they are a safe and effective way to manage patients’ health while containing the spread of the virus by avoiding unnecessary visits to hospitals or clinics. In fact, this type of remote healthcare has been used in this country for the initial consultation and assessment of patients who might be carrying the virus.

This could be a turning point for digital health platforms and the work they can do in a public health crisis such as this. Until only a few months ago, telemedicine was barely taking off, but confinement measures implemented as a result of the pandemic have prompted many insurers to offer these services to their clients.

This is the case with Savia, MAPFRE’s digital health platform, which assists approximately 2,000 patients every day. These patients have access to more than 200 professionals from ten different specialties who can deal with all kinds of cases and answer any questions about COVID-19. In its first year, Savia assisted more than 120,000 clients and on March 16, 2020, the platform opened its doors to the general public. Now, anyone in need can simply register on its website or download the app.

Since then, the number of remote consultations has doubled, showing clear benefits for everyone. The more healthcare questions we can answer virtually, the less pressure there is on hospitals. However, telemedicine is nothing new; it already exists and the situation presented by COVID-19 will enable telemedicine to become common practice when dealing with health issues.

Pedro Díaz Yuste, General Director at Savia, says “I am sure that this new way of communicating with doctors, which is now necessary under confinement, will still be normal when we are able to leave our homes again, because it is convenient and immediate.”

There are many reasons why telemedicine should be at the front of our minds when thinking about our health, including having access to video consultations 24/7, being able to chat with specialists, arranging telephone appointments with the right doctor, and having a symptom checker that can tell you the steps to take as well as reports and prescriptions all available on your cellphone. This new way of thinking about medicine offers us advantages such as immediacy, mobility and flexibility.