The use of telehealth and digital health platforms has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the implementation of physical distancing measures and restrictions. To address the pandemic threat, telehealth was promptly and extensively developed, implemented, and used to maintain continuity of care offered through multi-purpose technology platforms considered as virtual healthcare facilities. The aim of this paper is to define telehealth and discuss some aspects of its utilization, role, and impact, but also opportunities and future implications particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to support our reflection and consolidate our viewpoints, numerous bibliographical sources and relevant literature were identified through an electronic keyword search of four databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and ResearchGate). In this paper, we consider that telehealth to be a very interesting approach which can be effective and affordable for health systems aiming to facilitate access to care, maintain quality and safety of care, and engage patients and health professionals and users of health services. However, we also believe that telehealth faces many challenges, such as the issue of lack of human contact in care, confidentiality, and data security, also accessibility and training in the use of platforms for telehealth. Despite the many challenges it faces, we believe telehealth has enormous potential for strengthening and improving healthcare services. In this paper, we also call for and encourage further studies to build a solid and broad understanding of telehealth challenges with its short-term and long-term clinical, organizational, socio-economic, and ethical impacts.
Keywords: COVID-19; care access; care delivery; digital health; health technology; impacts; pandemic; telehealth.