Telehealth in the COVID-19 Era: A Balancing Act to Avoid Harm

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Feb 1;23(2):e24785. doi: 10.2196/24785.


The telehealth revolution in response to COVID-19 has increased essential health care access during an unprecedented public health crisis. However, virtual patient care can also limit the patient-provider relationship, quality of examination, efficiency of health care delivery, and overall quality of care. As we witness the most rapidly adopted medical trend in modern history, clinicians are beginning to comprehend the many possibilities of telehealth, but its limitations also need to be understood. As outcomes are studied and federal regulations reconsidered, it is important to be precise in the virtual patient encounter approach. Herein, we offer some simple guidelines that could assist health care providers and clinic schedulers in determining the appropriateness of a telehealth visit by considering visit types, patient characteristics, and chief complaint or disease states.

Keywords: COVID-19; access; coronavirus; efficiency; harm; informatics; patient safety; risk; safety; telehealth; virtual care.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Telemedicine / standards