By Chad Reid, vice president of marketing and communications, JotForm.
When it comes to telehealth, COVID-19 has been something of a game-changer. The popularity of telehealth has been growing steadily, but patients generally viewed it as a complementary service to their regular in-person care. Until recently, that is.
As the pandemic continues to rage across the nation, telehealth has become a necessity. According to early data, telemedicine firms have seen as much as a 50% increase in the volume of visits during the pandemic. It might seem tempting to view that statistic as a temporary spike, but it reflects a trend that was already gaining momentum.
This increase in demand has put a strain on many institutions whose telemedicine solutions were either nonexistent before the pandemic or not designed for such heavy use. It has also thrown the flaws in existing systems into plain view, making it clear that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Wherever you might have been on your telemedicine journey pre-pandemic, your position has probably changed. Regardless of past experiences, it’s time for the healthcare industry to figure out how to make telehealth work moving forward.
Navigating Telehealth Benefits and Challenges
Telehealth has the potential to revolutionize access to healthcare. In theory, it lets people in rural areas reach specialists anywhere in the country and expands affordable care options to low-income patients. Unfortunately, that potential hasn’t always become a reality. Historically, these groups have been the least likely to take advantage of all that telemedicine has to offer.
That may be changing, though. The pandemic has not only smashed through many of the existing barriers to telehealth adoption — making it more widely available and used — but it has also pushed insurance companies to increase acceptance of these visits.
Done right, telehealth services can increase access and improve quality of care through remote monitoring and more frequent check-ins. Telehealth can also save everyone money — particularly the patients with chronic conditions who account for 90% of annual healthcare costs. To achieve these benefits, though, telemedicine has to be implemented in a purposeful, cohesive way that protects patient privacy and encourages care continuity.