Virtual care is here to stay: Dr. Keith Brunt
TelegraphJournal, Guest opinion, April 2022.
Author: Dr. Keith Brunt
We are long overdue for an operating system upgrade in health care and have been paying a steep price in reduced services and burntout health-care workers as a result – and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Just adding more doctors to an obsolete system won’t make health care better. If we fail to shift how the system operates, then deterioration and frustration will continue, and it could cost us our lives. Virtual care is the addition of technology-enhanced operating systems for healthcare workers that streamlines services and automates administration for both patients and providers. Done well, patients feel more connected to their providers, providers have more time for their patients and both have easier access to information and spend less time and money ensuring basic needs are met.
Centralization of health care made sense from 1940 to about 1980. Then, the focus was acute disease and physical trauma – think food poisoning and farm accidents. In a centralized hospital setting, we could specialize doctors and maintain sterile working environments. Thanks in large part to modernized medicine, we added close to 20 years to our expected lifespans. Indeed, death from heart attacks alone dropped nearly 70 per cent. We also modernized our economy in this timeframe, from an agricultural-industrial era into a technological economy.
With those changes, the health-care needs of the population shifted. As such, from 1980-2020, chronic disease and eldercare became a health-care focus. In 2025, the entire “boomer generation” will be 65 years or older. A lifespan increase without healthspan increase is now an issue. The benefits initially provided by y p y centralized hospital care have shifted under our feet and we have not adapted well to our current demographic needs. Centralized hospital care will always have an important role in health care, but it alone does not meet our current needs.
Having in-person access to a primary-care provider will always be necessary, but we must evolve beyond the simplicity of either going to a doctor’s office or to a hospital. Just look at the emergency rooms and doctor waitlists: Our system is not working as it should. We sacrificed efficiency for costcontrol measures that burden everyone. Adding more and more of a good thing into such a bad system isn’t what we need, either.
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