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      Telehealth in the Context of COVID-19: Changing Perspectives in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States

      , BSc, MA, PhD , 1 , , MA 2 , , MSc, PhD, Dip (OHS) 3 , 4

      (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer)

      Journal of Medical Internet Research

      JMIR Publications

      telehealth, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, public health, older people, resource allocation, aged care, innovation, pandemic, telemedicine

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          On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic. On that date, there were 134,576 reported cases and 4981 deaths worldwide. By March 26, 2020, just 2 weeks later, reported cases had increased four-fold to 531,865, and deaths increased five-fold to 24,073. Older people are both major users of telehealth services and are more likely to die as a result of COVID-19.


          This paper examines the extent that Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, during the 2 weeks following the pandemic announcement, sought to promote telehealth as a tool that could help identify COVID-19 among older people who may live alone, be frail, or be self-isolating, and give support to or facilitate the treatment of people who are or may be infected.


          This paper reports, for the 2-week period previously mentioned and immediately prior, on activities and initiatives in the three countries taken by governments or their agencies (at national or state levels) together with publications or guidance issued by professional, trade, and charitable bodies. Different sources of information are drawn upon that point to the perceived likely benefits of telehealth in fighting the pandemic. It is not the purpose of this paper to draw together or analyze information that reflects growing knowledge about COVID-19, except where telehealth is seen as a component.


          The picture that emerges for the three countries, based on the sources identified, shows a number of differences. These differences center on the nature of their health services, the extent of attention given to older people (and the circumstances that can relate to them), the different geographies (notably concerned with rurality), and the changes to funding frameworks that could impact these. Common to all three countries is the value attributed to maintaining quality safeguards in the wider context of their health services but where such services are noted as sometimes having precluded significant telehealth use.


          The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing changes and may help to establish telehealth more firmly in its aftermath. Some of the changes may not be long-lasting. However, the momentum is such that telehealth will almost certainly find a stronger place within health service frameworks for each of the three countries and is likely to have increased acceptance among both patients and health care providers.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand

          The global impact of COVID-19 has been profound, and the public health threat it represents is the most serious seen in a respiratory virus since the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Here we present the results of epidemiological modelling which has informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in recent weeks. In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, we assess the potential role of a number of public health measures – so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) – aimed at reducing contact rates in the population and thereby reducing transmission of the virus. In the results presented here, we apply a previously published microsimulation model to two countries: the UK (Great Britain specifically) and the US. We conclude that the effectiveness of any one intervention in isolation is likely to be limited, requiring multiple interventions to be combined to have a substantial impact on transmission. Two fundamental strategies are possible: (a) mitigation, which focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread – reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection, and (b) suppression, which aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely. Each policy has major challenges. We find that that optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half. However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over. For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option. We show that in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members. This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures, though it should be recognised that such closures may have negative impacts on health systems due to increased absenteeism. The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package – or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission – will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing – triggered by trends in disease surveillance – may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound. Last, while experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced.
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            Personalized Telehealth in the Future: A Global Research Agenda

            As telehealth plays an even greater role in global health care delivery, it will be increasingly important to develop a strong evidence base of successful, innovative telehealth solutions that can lead to scalable and sustainable telehealth programs. This paper has two aims: (1) to describe the challenges of promoting telehealth implementation to advance adoption and (2) to present a global research agenda for personalized telehealth within chronic disease management. Using evidence from the United States and the European Union, this paper provides a global overview of the current state of telehealth services and benefits, presents fundamental principles that must be addressed to advance the status quo, and provides a framework for current and future research initiatives within telehealth for personalized care, treatment, and prevention. A broad, multinational research agenda can provide a uniform framework for identifying and rapidly replicating best practices, while concurrently fostering global collaboration in the development and rigorous testing of new and emerging telehealth technologies. In this paper, the members of the Transatlantic Telehealth Research Network offer a 12-point research agenda for future telehealth applications within chronic disease management.
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              Barriers to Use of Telepsychiatry: Clinicians as Gatekeepers


                Author and article information

                J Med Internet Res
                J. Med. Internet Res
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                JMIR Publications (Toronto, Canada )
                June 2020
                9 June 2020
                9 June 2020
                : 22
                : 6
                [1 ] De Montfort University Leicester United Kingdom
                [2 ] Global Community Resourcing Brisbane Australia
                [3 ] University Centre for Rural Health School of Medicine University of Western Sydney Lismore Australia
                [4 ] University Centre for Rural Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences University of Sydney Lismore Australia
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Malcolm Fisk malcolm.fisk@ 123456dmu.ac.uk
                ©Malcolm Fisk, Anne Livingstone, Sabrina Winona Pit. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 09.06.2020.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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