Telemedicine in Liver Disease and Beyond: Can the COVID-19 Crisis Lead to Action?

Abstract [from journal]

Evidence strongly supports that access to specialty gastroenterology or hepatology care in cirrhosis is associated with higher adherence to guideline-recommended care and improves clinical outcomes. Presently, only about one half of acute care hospitalizations for cirrhosis-related complications result in inpatient specialty care and the current hepatology workforce cannot meet the demand of patients with liver disease nationwide, particularly in less densely populated areas and in community-based practices not affiliated with academic centers. Telemedicine, defined as the delivery of health care services at a distance using electronic means for diagnosis and treatment, holds tremendous promise to increase access to broadly specialty care. The technology is cheap and easy to use, however, is presently limited in scale by interstate licensing restrictions and reimbursement barriers. The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has, in the short-term, accelerated the growth of telemedicine delivery as a public health and social distancing measure. Herein, we examine whether this public health crisis can accelerate the national conversation about broader adoption of telemedicine for routine medical care in non-crisis situations using a case series from our telehepatology program as a pragmatic example.