I’ve heard from several home healthcare agency administrators that they are preparing to don their scrubs for the first time in years to enter the front lines. This is because the long-term care industry continues to face one of its greatest threats in history, a classic business crisis of supply and demand.
In a recent survey, 88% of respondents stated their home care business was negatively affected by the caregiver shortage, and another survey reported in Bloomberg Businessweek saw 85 percent of organizations in Wisconsin did not possess the necessary staff to cover the shifts scheduled.
This problem extends nationwide. Clinicians across the United States have been tasked with providing care to an increasing patient population, which will continue to grow with what is commonly cited as the “Silver Tsunami” of 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day.
As a result, the aging population is anticipated to reach 88 million in 2050. And yet, we must consider that many retiring nurses are baby boomers fated to become patients themselves. Without enough staff to meet the needs of the growing patient population, organizations are plagued by missed visits and the consequences. Fortunately, some good has come amid the pandemic, most notably that technology has been given a boost.
Technology has also become much more prominent in healthcare with secure mobile communication that enables caregivers to spend more time on patients, along with wearable devices to track activity data and artificial intelligence to predict outcomes. Telehealth and remote care monitoring have grown exponentially due to COVID-19 and can quickly address the staffing crisis by augmenting existing practices and boosting efficiency and productivity.
Benefits of Telehealth
Through its ability to maintain patient-provider relationships over a distance, even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged telehealth as an essential component in care continuity. Telehealth also eases the impact of nursing shortages in rural communities and beyond by improving efficiency, as caregivers utilizing telehealth can help remotely care for more patients in less time.
In late March 2020, ATI Physical Therapy (ATI), one of the nation’s largest providers of physical therapy (PT) services, launched its telehealth platform CONNECT. As an essential health care provider during the pandemic, the new virtual platform gave patients a viable option to safely continue with their treatments.
Taking into account all healthcare providers, telehealth adoption increased 154% during the last week of March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.1 Telehealth continues to prove itself beneficial beyond its originally intended uses and is expected to continue as a prominent means of care beyond the pandemic for the industry.
CONNECT was launched under the presumption that virtual PT sessions would be most effective for non-operative patients; patients with lower pain and disability levels; and patients further along in their recovery journey. However, after treating patients through more than 43,000 virtual visits in the year since CONNECT’s launch, ATI has learned telehealth benefits a significantly larger population of patients with a broader range of conditions and pain levels than it first anticipated. For a technology that experienced slow adoption throughout healthcare prior to the pandemic, telehealth is now widely embraced by providers in every corner of the industry.
“Patients with any diagnosis and of any age can benefit from telehealth,” said Mirette Mikhail, PT, DPT, CEIS, MTC, CertDN, clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy’s Downers Grove, Illinois clinic. “I’ve virtually treated an extremely wide range of patients this year – from young patients recovering from a sports injury to people with aches from uncomfortable work-from-home set-ups to a Medicare patient who recovered from total shoulder surgery. Telehealth is for everyone.”
The world is becoming more digitized, with technology now being used to enhance all sectors including healthcare. There are lots of developments that are evidence of this including the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, telehealth services, wearable technology, and more to offer accessible and improved healthcare services.
Telehealth services, in particular, stands out because it allows patients to consult with physicians, set appointments, and receive healthcare services wherever they may be. In this article, we are going to explore how telehealth is transforming healthcare, especially in the current pandemic.
Improved Access To Healthcare
An obvious way that telehealth has transformed healthcare is that it has helped improves access to healthcare among patients who otherwise would not have access to healthcare. These include people suffering from chronic illnesses such as heart disease and hypertension who are afraid of visiting hospitals for fear of contracting COVID-19.
Many healthcare professionals are now providing telemedicine calls and video conferences as an option to their patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this is a wonderful tool for both patients and doctors, many people have not taken full advantage of the easy access they now have to their doctors. In addition, doctors have not yet understood the full scope of benefits that this form of communication has to offer.
Unfortunately, many hospitals are fearful about the HIPAA compliance, technological advancements, and legal implications of using this form of care. There are expert lawyers that are trained to handle CA telemedicine violations if a client believes that their privacy was violated. After the legal requirements are adhered to, there are a few reasons why telemedicine will improve your pipeline of business.
1. Patient Loyalty
Often, patients visit a doctor once every few years, with little to no contact in between consultations. When you only see your doctor every few years, it is difficult to develop a trusted relationship. Without a relationship, you are likely to prospect other doctors that have more flexible schedules or cheaper services. When you provide telemedicine capabilities to your client, you can begin a loyal relationship. This relationship will help the customer develop trust for your services and loyalty to your organization.
2. Cost Savings
When you use telemedicine, both the doctor and the client save money. For patients, it is expensive to visit the physician every time you have a question or concern. For hospitals and offices, it is cumbersome to reapply hygiene essentials and conduct routine examinations for each and every patient. By having certain consultations that can be completed over video conferencing, both parties will save time and money.
Telehealth has been in practice now for over 40 years, yet in the last 5 years it is seeing considerable growth in all sectors. There are a number of reasons for this, primarily, as the use of the internet and various new technologies are becoming more and more advanced and widespread, this has meant that the cost of using this technology for such purposes has decreased significantly.
a greater understanding of how best to make use of and implement telehealth has
improved overtime, with new uses for it continually being developed. The
increase of reliance on telehealth has sparked debate between physicians
regarding the pros and cons of its usage, with particular consideration of the
role it plays in medical malpractice.
The benefits of telehealth
of the most obvious benefits of telehealth is the newfound ability to provide
healthcare to patients in remote areas who otherwise may struggle to get
access, while also being advantageous for elderly or disabled patients with
mobility or logistical issues.
has the potential also to improve patient coverage given a shortage of
physicians in relation to the number of patients in some cases. It also
provides the opportunity for patients with rare conditions to get much needed
medical advice from long distance specialists.
a healthcare systems perspective, telehealth has the potential to both decrease costs and improve outcomes, however
this needs to be weighed up against the potential risks involved.
represents a paradigm shift in medical care, changing the way that doctors operate
and deal with their patients, it could be harder for more experienced doctors
to adapt to these new ways of working as they were not trained that way, and
many want to and are used to seeing the patient in their office.
technology removes the physician’s ability to see and interact with the patient
face to face. It is natural that physicians will fear their ability to do their
job will be reduced at such a distance plus any technological change also
changes medical malpractice thresholds. It will be down to malpractice expects
such as JJS
Justice, and law courts to determine how telehealth and other new
technologies relate to the acceptable healthcare provision threshold for
patients. Doctors will need to adapt and learn to implement these technologies
within these limits.
issues involve the quality of service that is being provided using this
technology, can patients trust in this? Will they receive a quality of care equivalent
to that of a face to face consultation? It also remains to be determined how
exactly physicians will be reimbursed for their work done through this method.
The potential for medical malpractice
is still work to be done to ensure that telemedicine is controlled and
regulated effectively, to maximise its efficacy and minimise the risk of
medical malpractice. The main concerns around the potential for medical
malpractice in telehealth include issues around online prescribing, informed
consent and state licensure.
regard to online prescribing, in some cases it may be insufficient to prescribe
medication on the basis of an over the phone consultation or upon review
of a patient questionnaire submitted online. It Is therefore important that
there are crystal clear guidelines and expectations set around when a physical
examination is required.
around informed consent are different between states, physicians should
therefore be au fait with the requirements on this front for the states where
they are licensed to prescribe medication to patients.
physicians should not operate beyond their jurisdiction, a doctor needs to be
licensed in the patient’s home state in order to prescribe them medication. In
fact, most malpractice issues in relation to telemedicine involve unlicensed
malpractice litigations, it is essential that physicians are licenced, have
full knowledge of their duties and responsibilities, receive adequate
training and that they have taken a full and extensive medical history of all
the patients that they prescribe for.