Since COVID-19 swept the world in 2020, healthcare has been at the forefront of this pandemic, and the medical community witnessed firsthand the global impact of this deadly virus. As people supported local and state policies of physical distancing, COVID-19 has ushered in an era of contact-free healthcare. The first few months of the pandemic faced unprecedented adoption and innovation of digital tools to support the new normal. Fewer patients go to clinics and hospitals, practices close down, and hospital staff reduces safety equipment usage because of looming shortages. To minimize the burden of frontline health workers, telehealth became the primary mode of connection between physicians and patients.
The widespread adoption of telehealth has forced healthcare providers to utilize a wide range of digital tools to ensure the successful implementation of telehealth services. These include videoconferencing programs, telemedicine platforms, medical coding software systems, and other tools to optimize practice revenue. Since the beginning of COVID-19, patients and healthcare providers have learned many lessons regarding the adoption of telemedicine solutions. That being said, here are some of the telehealth insights we have learned so far.
Telehealth provides quality health care at home.
During the pandemic, taking a trip to an in-person medical appointment presents safety risks. In-person visits have been a huge concern for those who can’t travel because of health reasons or those living in rural communities with limited access to specialized healthcare. The same issue also applies to those living in urban cities which are too busy to spare extra time for a doctor’s appointment. The inability to go outside also presented challenges to patients who are showing flu-like symptoms. They cannot identify between illnesses, whether it’s a flu virus or COVID-19, making it difficult what type of care and treatment they need.
Telehealth programs have addressed these pandemic-related concerns by improving healthcare quality and accessibility by expanding healthcare services. This program also enhanced rural providers’ ability to tackle various health concerns and facilitated collaboration and communication between medical practitioners with limited access to other medical community members. While promoting the patients’ safety amid physical distancing, telehealth has eliminated the barriers to achieving quality healthcare for everyone. Providers have constantly delivered better outcomes without reducing the quality of healthcare and driving up costs.
Telehealth supports the goals of the healthcare system
Telehealth follows the principles of value-based care, which resulted in an increased focus on preventative care and reduced medical costs. Patients often spend a lot of time and money to access healthcare. In normal circumstances, visiting a healthcare facility would mean considerable spending on the doctor’s fee and medicine and parking, gas, and public transportation. If you end up in the emergency room, you may expect a pile of medical bills waiting by the time the doctor discharges you. These medical bills include the use of facility, supplies, laboratory service, pharmacy, professional fees, and other miscellaneous fees.
The idea that telehealth saves more money is worth emphasizing. If providers can provide care in low-cost settings, it is possible to reduce treatment costs, especially for low-income individuals and families. According to a study published by Health Affairs, a single telehealth visit has an average cost of $79, while an on-site appointment is at $146 on average. This proves telehealth is more cost-effective when it comes to a per-visit basis.
For those who have been foregoing their routine checkups, telehealth offers affordable consultations, providing opportunities for patients to seek care for minor illnesses and injuries. Meanwhile, those who have specific health concerns can also seek the help of specialists who are not nearby. With several healthcare facilities closed and fewer patients are keen to spend money and time for consultations, telehealth fills the gap to make appointments more possible. At the same time, COVID-19 remains to be an immediate threat.
Telehealth should be as convenient and simple as possible
When medical professionals first set up their telehealth services, most of them felt proud that their platform fared better than other healthcare systems. But we should also take note that not all health systems are experiencing the same convenience offered by telehealth. Telehealth has worsened the digital divide for patients with connectivity issues, those with disabilities, and those who don’t have the skills and technology to access telehealth.
In this case, healthcare providers should learn from these challenges by redesigning the process to make telehealth simpler. A personalized digital experience with instruction and tech support can go a long way by helping patients manage their health within a virtual environment. This health crisis offers unprecedented opportunities that we shouldn’t ignore without making progress. As we wait for COVID-19 to die down, the post-pandemic new normal will further push the boundaries of technology and healthcare. Together, let’s learn from these big changes and embrace the opportunity for a better future.