VIDEO: Telemedicine shaped future of health care during COVID-19
In this video exclusive, Maria T. Abreu, MD, AGAF, Stephen B. Hanauer, MD, and Carol Burke, MD, leaders in the field of gastroenterology, discussed how COVID-19 impacted them professionally and personally.
Abreu, division chief of gastroenterology at University of Miami Health System, won the Lifetime Disrupter award in 2020, one of several Disruptive Innovator awards given by Healio Gastroenterology to physicians pushing the status quo toward the betterment of gastroenterology and liver diseases. Hanauer, from the Digestive Health Center Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, won the award in 2019 and Burke, from Cleveland Clinic, won in 2018.
All three physician researchers highlighted how telemedicine has really changed their practices during COVID-19 and will only continue to change health care.
“For a long time, I have wanted to do telemedicine ... and I saw so many patients from hours away, already creating stress and negative energy by the time they came to see me in my office,” Abreu told Healio Gastroenterology. “Just to be liberated from that and be able to see them through telemedicine or to follow some of the patients I don’t get to see as often as a result of telemedicine has been incredibly empowering.”
She said intimacy has increased through telemedicine by seeing patients in their own homes. She has been able to care for patients in Latin America who used to have to fly to visit her. She hopes there will be hybrid care including telemedicine and in-office visits.
Hanauer said though there are benefits to telemedicine, in the long-term telemedicine visits may miss important connections and outcomes that may be handled in-office.
Hanauer noted COVID-19 has made it difficult to recruit patients for clinical trials.
“But the counter part of that is that clinical research organizations and the sponsors of trials have become innovative in the ability to obtain information for patients including specimens from home as well as at home interviews with patients in the absence of full physical examinations as well as the distribution of study [medications] to patients at home if they are unable to come to their visits,” he said.
Hanauer said the pandemic has helped him appreciate a family–work balance, establish a better lifestyle routine and see family more.
Burke said though COVID-19 brought practices to a standstill, she saw her patients in-office. Her team sent letters to their patients telling them to still come to their visits.
“My patients continued to come in, as I hope many with chronic diseases especially, high cancer risk, did,” Burke said.
She said virtual visits allowed patients and physicians to have more access to each other and the pandemic has brought out more compassion toward patients.
“COVID has really given us pause to think about how important humanity is and to care for one another,” Burke said. “We cherish the days we can actually contact our patients and give them a handshake or give them a hug.”