Medical Doctor Joel Arun Sursas Explores Telemedical and at Home Coronavirus Testing Options

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The coronavirus has undoubtedly generated a feeling of unease in multiple aspects of society, primarily revolving around health. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recorded from a recent poll that twenty-nine percent, or one-third, of the American population, is avoiding routine check-ups during the outbreak due to fear of catching the coronavirus [1]. However, not all deaths recorded are due to coronavirus. A large number of fatalities during the pandemic are a result of frightened individuals not pursuing care for unrelated health issues [2]. Researchers at Yale revealed that during the first period of the outbreak, from March to April, out of the fifteen thousand excess deaths recorded, only eight thousand, one-hundred and twenty-eight were coronavirus deaths [2].

Health informaticians like Dr. Joel Arun Sursas are spreading the knowledge about alternatives for COVID-19 testing and regular doctor visits that are available for those who want to avoid a trip to the doctor’s office for routine monitoring or minor symptoms.   

Below, Joel Arun Sursas takes a more in-depth look into the details revolving around at-home coronavirus testing and other telemedical options. 

This season does not mark the beginning of the telemedicine revolution. Telemedicine has been around for a few years, but its widespread usage sparked during the pandemic. More healthcare providers are covering telemedicine expenses, as well [4]. Telemedicine was mainly used separately from primary care doctors and medical specialists, but now the method is widely accepted in all areas of health practice. When physical contact with others poses health risks, telemedicine has provided a way for no-contact care with greater physician accessibility.

The online physicians’ community Sermo recently conducted a survey that reflected eighty-five percent of the study’s participants are scheduling their patients’ appointments through video chat or over the phone [3]. Sermo also discovered that seventy-seven percent of doctors embrace the telemedicine revolution, and sixty-eight percent of survey contributors believe that the switch to telehealth methods are here to stay [3].

The benefits to telemedical practices, aside from creating a solution to continue health care practices while maintaining social distancing successfully, were hoped to appear sooner by many active physicians in the field [5]. Patients now have a safe gateway to online consultations, therapy, routine check-ups, and standard diagnostic tests through telemedicine. With the widespread use of telemedicine, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services drastically increased Medicare’s coverage availability to include telemedicine engagements [5].

Telemedicine’s big boom has seeped into the entrepreneur industry as telehealth start-ups like Vault Health and him & hers have begun to produce and sell saliva-based test kits for at-home use [3]. Along with Vitagene, the DTC genetic testing organization, these three companies had their test kits observed and analyzed by Rutgers University laboratory, otherwise known as RUCDR Infinite Biologics. These tests now can be purchased for prices that range from one hundred and sixteen dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars [6].

The production waves and high demand for at-home testing options during the coronavirus have supported pre-COVID-19 expectations for its market to hold a net worth of three hundred and fifty million dollars this year [7]. Even two years before the initial pandemic outbreak, Deloitte’s research in 2018 revealed that almost half of customers were comfortable with at-home testing options [8]. However, at-home testing has already developed a list of pros and cons. The upside to being able to do testing at home is its convenience, privacy, and assistance in providing better access to healthcare for those in more remote areas [5].

On the opposing side, some doctors have expressed their doubts regarding the accuracy of at-home testing [5]. The president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Gary LeRoy, has stated that in regards to at-home testing results, the “test is only as good as the specimen” [5]. LeRoy argues that the lack of experience that the public has in collecting test samples is a massive factor in the quality of any at-home assessment result [5]. Poor samples that come back will more likely lead to false feedback.

About Joel Arun Sursas:

Joel Arun Sursas holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Bachelor’s Degree in Surgery from the National University of Singapore, and is continuing his education to obtain Certificate in Safety, Quality, Informatics and Leadership from the Harvard Medical School, and Masters in Applied Health Science Informatics from the Johns Hopkins University (both expected in 2020). His technical skills include SPSS, RevMan, and Python. Dr. Joel Arun Sursas’ most recent engagement is with a medical device start-up company Biorithm where he serves as Head of Clinical Affairs, working to take fetal surveillance out of the hospital and into the home, revolutionizing the obstetric practice globally.

References

1. American College of Emergency Physicians, Public Poll: Emergency Care Concerns Amidst COVID-19, April 20, 2020, Retrieved from https://www.emergencyphysicians.org/article/covid19/public-poll-emergency-care-concerns-amidst-covid-19

2. Healthline, Excess Deaths: People Who Are Dying Because of COVID-19- but Not from It, May 5, 2020, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/excess-deaths-from-covid19-pandemic#Overcoming-the-fear

3. AACC, COVID-19 Is a Catalyst for Remote Sampling and Telemedicine, July 1, 2020, Retrieved from https://www.aacc.org/publications/cln/articles/2020/july/covid-19-is-a-catalyst-for-remote-sampling-and-telemedicine

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic, June 10, 2020, Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/telehealth.html

5. TIME, Your Doctor’s Appointments Have Been Canceled. Are At-Home Tests a Good Solution?, March 31, 2020, Retrieved from https://time.com/5809606/covid-19-at-home-testing/?amp=true

6. MobiHealthNews, Hims & Hers, Vault Health now sell FDA-authorized home COVID-19 tests via telehealth, May 13, 2020, Retrieved from https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/hims-hers-vault-health-now-sell-fda-authorized-home-covid-19-tests-telehealth

7. MedCityNews, These are the key players in the home health testing market, January 20, 2016, Retrieved from https://medcitynews.com/2016/01/20-key-players-in-the-direct-to-consumer-lab-testing-market/

8. Deloitte, Inside the patient journey: Three key touch points for consumer engagement strategies, September 25, 2018, Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/health-care/patient-engagement-health-care-consumer-survey.html?id=us:2el:3dc:4di4632:5awa:6di:&pkid=1005423

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