By Keith Algozzine, co-founder and CEO, UCM Digital Health.
An unexpected side effect of the pandemic is how the health industry quickly realized the extraordinary advantages stemming from the rapid adoption of advanced, end-to-end telehealth solutions.
In 2020, when doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other nonessential places were closed, physicians and their patients began to use telehealth solutions at a pace never seen before and not only discovered their ease and convenience, but the impact it had on their overall bottom lines.
To illustrate this point, and according to Healthcare IT News, adopting Digital health services has the potential to save $46 billion a year in health spending. Furthermore, a recent survey from the COVID-19 Health Care Coalition Telehealth Workgroup revealed that 67% of patients saw lower costs with their telehealth visits compared to in-person visits. In addition, 78% of patients believed their telehealth visit addressed their health concerns. Innovative telehealth solutions can save patients, providers, and hospitals time and money.
Now, as the pandemic hopefully continues to subside—decreased cases and providers’ offices open to in-person visits—patients will have greater freedom on doctor visits and medical care. They can schedule an appointment through traditional avenues, delve into the time-consuming check-in process via paperwork, forms, and waiting rooms, or streamline the process from familiar home surroundings with the ease and convenience of telehealth services.
Telehealth digital front doors provide patients with a seamless health journey via an array of enhanced services such as asynchronous or synchronous visits, automated symptom checkers, search tools, and even intelligent chatbots that can assist a patient in determining the best source of care based on simple question and answer surveys. Doctors can then respond by using the same platforms, creating and beginning a treatment plan for the patient.
By using a digital front door, logistics can be streamlined and made efficient by linking patients, their providers, payers, hospital systems, and electronic health records into a single connected ecosystem.
In addition, telehealth maximizes provider logistics and care to patients during moments of crisis and emergency.
A (digital) emergency
Telehealth has been used in a variety of manners since the pandemic outbreak in 2019, in particular, it has been a key tool in managing emergency care delivery.
Emergency medical services play an essential role in the prehospital management of nearly 240 million 911 calls per year. While most are not urgent, they still require the same intensive response. As a result, EMS teams risk a potential drain on resources and time allocation for non-urgent primary care patients.
Through telehealth capabilities, patients with low priority conditions can immediately and remotely receive evaluation through secure video conferencing technology instead of facing a long wait time in an emergency room. Telehealth implementation provides emergency rooms with live, real-time information to triage and treat patients accurately, meeting medical needs, and ultimately maximizing system efficiencies.
Industry Benefits and Improved Patient Care
Telehealth services helps realize one of the biggest cost reduction opportunities by providing prompt access to the right physician, at the right, time, who can offer the right medical treatment. Advancing telehealth helps eliminate travel costs, minimizes wait times, patient transfers, duplicate tests, and readmissions when patients are moved in-between facilities.
Telehealth is becoming critical for providing services to patients, benefits demonstrate its long-term potential and significant role for future use and implementation. The reality of digital health is that it helps provide access to millions of people needing medical treatment. It also increases capacity and efficiencies at a physician’s office, hospitals, and emergency rooms.
Investing, providing, and allowing access to digital health can produce a strong return on investment across the healthcare ecosystem as well as allow for improvement in patient care and effective treatment.