By Trent S. Anderson, chief revenue officer, Bluebird Network.
Virtual services have now become the new normal with telehealth being a prime example. Now if we want an annual checkup or consultation, we can talk to a doctor from the comfort of our own home. But why haven’t we always taken advantage of this virtual alternative?
Until the pandemic highlighted the need for more digital services and flexibility, the healthcare industry had been hesitant to embrace virtual alternatives like telehealth. Traditionally, both patients and doctors have (understandably) preferred in-person visits and consultations. Patients believed in-person visits were more thorough, personal, and safe, while providing an opportunity to become more comfortable with their providers.
In the height of the pandemic, physicians and healthcare professionals worked hard to mitigate exposure by avoiding unnecessary contact with others. Sometimes, in-person follow-up appointments just weren’t necessary. Rather than risk unnecessary exposure, doctors and healthcare facilities began embracing telehealth — virtual visits leveraging telecommunications technology.
During this time, patients were also worried about their access to quality healthcare as less and less in-person visits were possible. This inevitably fostered the rise of telehealth as a safe and effective way to address patient concerns without the physical risk. Since then, many physicians have become so dedicated to telehealth that they refuse to see patients exclusively in-person. Furthermore, it has spawned an entirely new medical practice with companies like Covenant Health Virtual Care, now employing doctors solely to provide virtual telemedicine services.
However – as many physicians and patients have learned – telehealth brings new challenges, and those problems are exacerbated in underserved communities with limited and unreliable Internet infrastructure. These communities tend to be far (the edge) from major cities where hospitals and medical practices are often located (the core), resulting in an even greater need for access to reliable telehealth services.