The COVID-19 pandemic brought telemedicine to the forefront of healthcare. Many medical offices stopped or limited in-person visits to just high-acuity medical needs, and many patients were unwilling to leave their homes or enter a healthcare setting to expose themselves to the virus. As a result, telehealth has grown in popularity as an alternative to regular medical office visits, and sustained use has climbed dramatically compared to pre-COVID levels.
Throughout the epidemic, healthcare providers used all modes of Telehealth to care for patients, including video visits, secure messaging, remote patient monitoring (RPM), and phone calls. Despite extensive isolation, long-distance patient and practitioner contact facilitated treatment delivery, patient education, and a sense of togetherness.
The epidemic made telemedicine necessary, but it also allowed patients and doctors from throughout the country to try it out, and the majority were pleased with their results. Some treatment will return to the in-person environment in the future, but some healthcare encounters will almost probably remain virtual. This increased accessibility to digital healthcare has the potential to improve the patient experience in five significant ways.
Medical care is now more accessible than ever
While some patients had access to telehealth prior to the launch of COVID-19, the pandemic expedited the spread of such services. To put that assertion in context, McKinsey & Company claimed that use of telemedicine platforms for office visits and outpatient treatment was 78 times higher in April 2020 than it was in February of that year. While those figures did eventually level off, telemedicine utilization in February 2021 was still 38 times more than it had been prior to COVID-19.
However, telehealth extends much beyond videoconferencing. Patients can use platforms like PainScript to update their physicians on a regular basis via their smartphone, decreasing the time spent following up with doctors via email or phone conversations. Patients can also reduce the number of doctor appointments they make, saving time and money. Furthermore, telehealth has the potential to connect underserved communities, such as persons living in rural areas, with high-quality healthcare practitioners.
Reduced Healthcare Barriers
Taking time off work, paying for daycare, and working out how to travel to and from a medical appointment can all be barriers to obtaining care for many people, particularly those from low-income communities. Telehealth removes these barriers greatly. Furthermore, telemedicine may minimize patient concern in vulnerable populations such as the immunocompromised by limiting viral exposure in clinic waiting rooms, as well as for care that does not require physical examination, such as mental health services.
The New Convenience
Healthcare offered in a virtual setting reduces the need for a patient to leave their house and saves them significant time spent commuting to and waiting for a medical appointment. Convenient access to care paired with digital tools will be an essential distinction in a competitive market and a central aspect of the patient experience as healthcare consumers become more knowledgeable.
Telehealth has the ability to be used for some lower acuity urgent care requirements, medication management, remote monitoring, and other opportunities to link patients to the care they require digitally.
The entire procedure has become more efficient
For many patients, the days of calling a practitioner’s scheduler to book an appointment are long gone. Patients now have the ability to access providers thanks to digital technologies. On the provider side, machine learning algorithms are assisting providers in triaging, sorting, and prioritizing patient data. This “two-way street” strategy gives patients more access to clinicians while also allowing providers to more easily evaluate patient reactions.
Improved Care Continuity
Patients who have a chronic ailment or are recovering from a longer-term sickness or accident can benefit from telehealth check-ins when an in-person visit is not required. This additional care is especially critical for keeping conditions under control between in-person visits, especially when paired with remote patient monitoring. If a practitioner has access to vital health information, such as blood pressure measurements, both telehealth and in-person visits can be more beneficial to the patient. Instead of collecting data during the appointment, the patient and physician can concentrate on improving their health, reaching their health goals, and other matters.