As the COVID-19 pandemic arose and then permeated the healthcare industry, the use of Telehealth spread like wildfire. All sub-industries of the medical field had to find new ways to reach and treat their patients, while maintaining the required standards to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. What many were not expecting was the effect it would have on the industry, and those utilizing the tool. Although the pandemic will eventually slow over time, the impact of telehealth is significant and is leading many to believe that it will continue to be a viable option well into the future.
Developing Systems and Investing in Telehealth
In order for practitioners to take advantage of telehealth at the start of the pandemic, new (or new to the user) systems were developed and implemented in offices across the nation. Establishing new programs, guidelines and training for staff, as well as providing equipment to conduct meetings was a big change for many. This investment in strategy, time, training and compliance was an investment by decisionmakers but one that is more than likely to bear fruit, as telehealth is proving to be here as a long-term solution to contactless patient care.
Convenience for Staff and Patients
Practitioners and patients alike have been able to take advantage of telehealth’s flexibility. With software solutions in place, scheduling, billing and maintaining privacy is easier than ever. Meeting times and locations are easily adjustable to fit participant’s schedules and provides the opportunity to receive care in a safe and contactless environment. Whether working from home or in an office, telehealth seamlessly connects patient and provider in a convenient, safe and easily accessible manner. In fact, the Veterans Affairs office has found that they are able to accommodate patients much more efficiently through the convenience of telehealth when they meet with counselors and other staff members for scheduled appointments.
Scheduling and Keeping Appointments
With the recent buzz around telehealth, providers are more inclined to offer telehealth and patients are more eager to try this method, as it is easier to log on and be at your appointment almost simultaneously. Being able to accommodate patients and their often stressful and busy lives provides an environment of flexibility and trust that encourages them to honor their scheduled appointment.
Another factor in the rise of telehealth use is patients not having to searching for things like transportation and childcare—just a few common reasons for cancellations. The use of telehealth has been a significant win for providers who have been looking for ways to combat the issue of last-minute cancellations.
Patient Safety and is Preserved
With fewer patients regularly coming into a facility, exposure to illness is reduced significantly. In addition to generally healthy patients lessening their exposure to Covid-19, telehealth eliminates exposure to poorly sanitizes buildings, lessening medical implications for immunocompromised patients. Patients with social anxiety can benefit from taking their appointments in the comfort and familiarity of their home—reducing stress and reducing cancellations. In additional to reducing sickness and anxiety, those with physical limitations can now easily receive the care they need without having to navigate possibly difficult physical office entrances, elevators or in some instances, buildings with only stairs.
Financially & Operationally Efficient for Medical Facilities
With many facilities beginning to meet with patients virtually, fewer patients are coming into the office to receive treatment. This means executives are starting to notice a reduction in operational costs such as regular purchases of office supplies and fewer building maintenance requests. Additionally, many decisionmakers are choosing to forgo a physical office completely, as eliminating utilities and rent has such an impact on their bottom line and allows them to spend money in other areas of their business.
Increased Access to Medical Care
Because telehealth will continue to be prevalent, access to practitioners and availability of sessions will most likely increase. Patients can meet with their health care provider much quicker than before, especially since transportation and lobby wait times will be reduced or eliminated. Additionally, telehealth appointments make medical care for patients in rural areas more accessible. In many cases, some patients have hesitated making or keeping appointments due to lack of providers in their area or having to travel to the closest provider, which could be a significant distance from their home.
Maintaining the Doctor-Patient Relationship
One concern arising around the use of telehealth is a possible reduction in the quality of the patient/provider relationship due to lack of in-person treatments. Interestingly, many patients are finding increased appointment satisfaction, quality of care and efficiency. Many distractions practitioners face in the traditional office setting are no longer present, allowing their focus to be more focused and undivided, as it should be.
On the other side of this relationship, patients are showing that they are more comfortable with telehealth sessions, encouraging them to engage more with their doctors because of the comfort of their personal setting. The lack of stress caused by having to miss work or find childcare makes patients more open during their session, maximizing the quality of the overall meeting.
Telehealth Is Here to Stay
Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic launched medical facilities everywhere to pursue telehealth sessions, the benefits that these sessions have provided for both patients and providers have demonstrated that it is here to stay. While some traditional office visits are still valuable and many time necessary for certain care, telehealth offers an alternative care solution for the important mental and behavioral treatment patients rely on. If you are interested in making an integrated telehealth solution a part of your practice, contact us today!