Telemedicine, the current COVID-19 pandemic and the future: a narrative review and perspectives moving forward in the USA

Fam Med Community Health. 2020 Aug;8(3):e000530. doi: 10.1136/fmch-2020-000530.

Abstract

A narrative review was conducted to examine the current state of the utilisation of telemedicine amid the current COVID-19 pandemic and to evaluate the benefits of continuing telemedicine usage in the future. A literature review was performed for articles related to telemedicine. Databases including PubMed, Google Scholar, Cochrane Library and Ovid MEDLINE were searched. Three reviewers independently performed article selection based on relevance to our topic. We included all articles between 1990 and 2020 related to telemedicine using the following keywords: 'telemedicine', 'telehealth', 'policy', 'COVID-19', 'regulation', 'rural', 'physical examination', 'future'. A total of 60 articles were identified, and through careful selection we narrowed the final number of articles to 42 based on relevance to our topic. Telemedicine has been rapidly evolving over the past several decades. Issues with regulation and reimbursement have prevented its full immersion into the healthcare system. During the current pandemic, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services have expanded access to telemedicine services. The advantages of telemedicine moving forward include its cost-effectiveness, ability to extend access to specialty services and its potential to help mitigate the looming physician shortage. Disadvantages include lack of available technological resources in certain parts of the country, issues with security of patient data, and challenges in performing the traditional patient examination. It is critically important that changes are made to fully immerse telemedicine services into the healthcare landscape in order to be prepared for future pandemics as well as to reap the benefits of this service in the future.

Keywords: family medicine; general practice; health care costs; rural health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Forecasting
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Physicians / supply & distribution
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2