At the start of 2020, the model for healthcare delivery looked similar to years past. Patient care took place primarily within the walls of clinics and hospitals, with telehealth services like Amwell and Teladoc available via consumer-facing apps and health plans, but not widely used.
In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, these dynamics have quickly changed. Telehealth has now become the preferred delivery model.
Fear of exposure to the virus in traditional care settings — from waiting rooms and exam rooms to reception desks and hallways — have made it impossible to move forward with on-site appointments. Yet at the same time, providers know they must maintain continuity of care for current patients and also seek opportunities to grow their practices and attract new patients.
Clearly, digital health adoption has reached its tipping point. The time to adopt telehealth is now. And it’s not just a short-term proposition.
Why Telehealth Is Essential to Care Delivery
Telehealth is encouraged by stakeholdersTelehealth services are in high demand, and payers are more willing to reimburse providers for virtual visits. In fact, federal regulators have even revised prevailing guidelines in light of the coronavirus pandemic to improve access to telehealth.
Telehealth ensures ongoing access to careNow that the safest thing to do is to stay at home, telehealth services have become essential. For providers, telehealth offers them a way to keep their practices open for business. They can see more patients in less time while also welcoming patients from more rural areas who would otherwise have limited access to a traditional office setting.
Telehealth allows providers to maintain care continuityTelehealth also ensures that patients with health concerns can still receive most of the routine care they need with video-based physician visits. Even healthy patients who have questions about coronavirus or are looking for ways to boost their immunity can get answers with telehealth appointments.
Telehealth delivers improved outcomesNot only does telehealth put providers in a better position to effectively manage patients while minimizing discomfort or distress related to missed appointments or potential exposure to coronavirus, it can produce better outcomes.
In a 2019 study led by inHealth, we found that health coaching delivered via video conferencing actually led to more favorable changes in weight loss (7.7%) than in-person counseling (3.4%).
These results showcase the value of telehealth, from a broader perspective, as an economical means to help patients effectively change their behavior and improve their health.
Views around telehealth have suddenly changedWhile telehealth services are delivering immediate benefits, current conditions have also reshaped views around telehealth in a larger sense.
According to a recent telehealth survey from Sykes, two-thirds of adults reported that COVID-19 has increased their willingness to use telehealth services in the future.
In this same survey, two-thirds of respondents who already had a telehealth appointment were satisfied enough to schedule more than one virtual visit. Paired with an increased openness to try telehealth in the first place, it’s easy to see how a rise in interest will have long-term positive effects on the healthcare system.
We don’t see this trend slowing down. Adoption of telehealth is only going to increase from this point forward.
Getting the Most Out of Telehealth Services
With telehealth now woven into the fabric of modern healthcare delivery, the question becomes:
How can we continue to utilize telehealth effectively to meet the demands of patients and the providers who treat them?
Patients certainly benefit from the convenience of telehealth, but so too can providers benefit from its effectiveness and efficiency. By adopting telehealth, providers can invest less time in logistics of in-person visits and keeping the office running smoothly, and more time on the essence of providing personalized care.While the spotlight may be on telehealth now, the opportunities to utilize this powerful platform in the future are endless. This is the ideal time to add telehealth to your practice and experience the benefits of caring for the hardest to treat patients in a virtual setting.