As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on everything that surrounds us, the healthcare industry is no exception. However, one silver lining that can be seen is the acknowledgement of telehealth, which has been here since a while, but the adoption has significantly skyrocketed unlike ever before.
Contrary to a physical doctor’s checkup, telehealth eases the doctor’s checkup process by allowing for the patient and provider to have the appointment over a video or phone call, at the place of their comfort. Although, telehealth is not something entirely new, but the pandemic has made everyone realize how important it is.
According to the chief health officer of a renowned practice:
“It’s a technology and a service that was always there, but now we have a very important reason to learn how to use it. What any healthcare organization has to do is to learn and train its staff on how to conduct [a telemedicine] visit.”
The telemedicine Services providers have experienced a huge surge in demand, mostly due to the elimination of obstacles which were once there, such as the difficulty in reaching a good level of consumer awareness and the acceptance on part of care delivery personnel. Moreover, the change in policies regarding reimbursement and access have also added to the widespread adoption of this technology.
In addition, according to a patient who has used telemedicine twice:
“it’s very easy to use from the comfort of your home, and it makes check-up lesser of a hassle. Although, there are cons too, such as the inability to get a test done, but providers are still offering physical visits for those who must need them”
Here are a couple of ways that show how using the telehealth technology is aiding with the pandemic.
Balancing the supply of physicians smartly
As we all know that the supply of physicians is becoming inadequate everyday, as we continue to fight the virus. According to the CEO of a telehealth company:
“We are going to get to the point where the supply does not meet the demand,”
However, all the areas would not be affected equally, so what can be done is, by leveraging telehealth technology to areas that are facing a physician shortage, the equilibrium can be reached. These telehealth visits can be provided by many mediums ranging from tablets to telehealth carts, making it accessible for everyone, regardless of what hardware equipment one has.
As the major barriers to telehealth are removed, healthcare ventures should always make sure that the providers making use of telehealth are carrying the appropriate license to provide care in the particular state.
Letting quarantined physicians to provide care by utilizing telehealth
With the virus spreading at a rapid pace, the right kind of environment has been created for this medical approach. According to a report:
“As many as 100 health care workers at a single institution have to be quarantined at home because of exposure to COVID-19 have raised concern about workforce capacity. At institutions with [emergency department] tele-intake or direct-to-consumer care, quarantined physicians can cover those services, freeing up other physicians to perform in-person care”
Physicians can continue with the provision of care-delivery, by converting the already scheduled office visits into virtual visits. Not only would these visits be convenient, but also these would eliminate the chances of virus exposure for both the physicians and the patients.
Treating High-Risk Non COVID-19 Patients with Virtual Visits
There are many high risk patients, like the elders and seniors who are in dire need of care, but aren’t able to move to a care-delivery point because of their vulnerability to the virus. Virtual visits stand as the only viable option for them, making it easier for them to access care.
According to a physician in New York:
“We tend to forget that the virus actually does discriminate. The effect of this virus on the elder population is much worse than it is on everybody else. We tend to think of telehealth to treat patients that have the virus or who may have the virus. It also should be a strategy to protect at- risk patients from exposure and provide routine care.”
In line with the statement, if we start utilizing telehealth for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases other than the virus, not only would that help in flattening the curve, but also it would be a great aid for so many high-risk people who are in the line for medical attention, and are unable to get it.
Creating lean systems through AI and bots to handle customer load
As patients continue to create a surging demand for telehealth, this unprecedented demand has overburdened the telehealth systems, which were going underutilized since a long time.
This has led to extensive waiting periods due to the online queues, making it harder for the providers to provide adequate care.
The turnaround to this can be the creation of short questionnaires, interactive online waiting areas, chatbots that streamline patient prerequisites, and AI based technologies that make the entire process as seamless as possible.
Patients are going to pay for the virtual visits in the same way as physical visits. For the practices, many telehealth vendors are offering easily understandable guidelines on making use of the telehealth solutions that they are offering.
“From a recent survey we conducted of U.S. patients, we found that 84% are more likely to select a provider that offers telemedicine over one that doesn’t, so it’s clear this technology is something patients want”
This being said, it is the start of a new era, for not just the healthcare ventures, but for everybody. Telehealth has seen its first light, but there is still a long way down the road for it to become a viable option in the future, once we’re all done dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.