Health Life

The COVID-19 pandemic reveals the potential of telehealth to improve care

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Two new articles provide insights on the use of telehealth or virtual care in the age of COVID-19 and beyond, pointing to its value to not only prevent contagious diseases but also to provide access to effective and equitable care.

In a Nature Partner Journal’s Digital Medicine perspective, Lee H. Schwamm, MD, Director of the Center for TeleHealth at Massachusetts General Hospital and Vice President of Virtual Care at Partners Healthcare, and his colleagues stress that virtual care, by collapsing the barriers of time and distance, is ideal for providing care that is patient-centered, lower cost, more convenient and with greater productivity than traditional methods for delivering care, especially during a pandemic.

The article describes the scope and scale of the virtual care innovation introduced at Partners Healthcare and provides guidance to other health care systems on implementing virtual care tools and addressing challenges to their use during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will be important for to reap the benefits of this digital innovation to redesign inpatient and ambulatory care delivery now and in the near future, as we transition from clinical surge to a recovery phase,” said Dr. Schwamm.

In Lancet Digital Health, Dr. Schwamm and co-authors describe in greater depth two pivotal innovations in virtual care delivery for hospitalized patients: virtual rounds and a virtual intercom communication system.

Virtual rounds seek to redesign traditional medical rounds, where large numbers of are frequently huddled together around a computer screen or test result to discuss treatment options. With virtual rounds as a means of so-called medical distancing, one or two health care workers are physically present on a hospital ward, while all other multidisciplinary team members join remotely from home or other locations in the hospital.

The virtual

Health article

New options for treating type 2 diabetes in kids and teens

Helping kids with diabetes is a passion for National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical researcher Stephanie Chung, M.B.B.S. You can hear it in her voice when she talks about “my kiddos” at the clinic she runs at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

There, she and a team of specialists help children who either have type 2 diabetes or are at high risk for getting the disease.

She says, “We focus on partnering with patients and their families, empowering them from the beginning” to improve their health.

From her many years of treating minority children, Dr. Chung understands the challenges her patients can face.

“We focus on partnering with patients and their families, empowering them from the beginning.”

– Stephanie Chung, M.B.B.S.

“Minority youth can have so many additional factors that affect their health, such as the family food budget, neighborhood safety, and access to transportation,” Dr. Chung says.

For example, being physically active is important for managing diabetes. “But what if they don’t feel safe going outside? That just adds to their burden and stress,” she says.

Dr. Chung also helps lead diabetes research at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Her recent research has focused on African American youths with the disease.

These days, there’s a new urgency to her research and her clinical work. Recent studies have shown an alarming increase in type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Specifically, there are more than 5,000 new cases every year among those under 20, particularly among blacks and Hispanics.

Recent NIH-funded research adds to the growing evidence that diabetes is more aggressive in youths. It has shown that metformin, the standard drug used to control the disease in adults, is much less effective in those under 20.

The Treatment Options for Type 2