You likely have encountered a shortage on toilet paper and disinfectant wipes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps less noticed has been a shortage in laptops, Chromebooks and tablets as much of the world moves to a work (and school) from home status. Google was struggling recently to find enough laptops and devices for new employees, CNBC reported. Schools have reported similar issues as they move to online learning. “Here’s a big aha that many don’t understand. As soon as the schools closed, school systems or parents essentially went out and bought all of the laptops and tablets in America,” Trapollo svp/gm Mike Braham told CFX.

Trapollo, a healthcare firm owned by Cox Communications, reacted by working with LifeScience Technologies to quickly repurpose a hospital for home solution and put out a “Bring Your Own Device” app on iOS and Android for physicians and COVID-positive patients. With speech-to-text capability, patients can use existing smart devices with non-connected medical devices (pulse oximeters, thermometers, etc) to keep medical staff updated on their connection. Startup MedSign has taken a different approach, launching a TV-based telehealth solution called Qortex that enables medical professional to deliver virtual medical services to patients confined to their homes. Patients need internet service, but don’t require a computer or smart device. The TV doesn’t even need to be a Smart TV, just have an HDMI cable to connect to the small Qortex box.

While CEO and inventor Tom Conroy originally created the device to keeps tabs on his 92-year-old father, he sees Qortex’s purpose expanding beyond telehealth in this coronavirus period. “Others have contacted us because they see this as a portal into the new world order, the home. People will be doing a lot more in the home, such as fitness, nutrition, education,” said Conroy. “Education is huge, especially for kids who are underprivileged and underserved.” MedSign’s solution is currently in pilot programs with hospitals on the East and West Coast and is working with major teaching hospitals and various home healthcare firms. As a startup, MedSign is looking for partners, with Conroy identifying cable as a logical fit. “I believe they can provide that they can provide this service to all of their customers as a secondary function as part of their cable package that they supply,” he said, adding that there are talks underway with two different operators.

Telehealth’s importance continues to grow. On Friday, a bipartisan group of senators, including Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Boozman (R-AK) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced the Health Care Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act. The bill directs $2bln to help healthcare providers increase their broadband capacity and expand telehealth services during the current public health crisis. It’s a companion to legislation introduced in the House that has been endorsed by NCTA, US Telecom and the Fiber Broadband Association. (Save the date: Cablefax plans to hold a virtual event on telehealth, tentatively scheduled for Aug 13. Check for more details soon)