By Adrian Johansen, freelance writer; @AdrianJohanse18.
COVID-19 has brought a great deal of change to how we live our lives. The need to maintain safe-distance protocols has seen many industries shift to remote operations wherever possible. In healthcare spaces, this has been a significant challenge. We have been forced to adapt to achieve the delicate balance between ensuring patients get the care they need, and reducing the risk of exposure.
This is where telehealth has really come into its own. While the numbers are still up in the air, one recent study found that insurance claims for telehealth services increased 2,938% between November 2019 and November 2020. Patients and professionals alike have in some ways been forced past their personal and technological roadblocks, discovering the many benefits that utilizing care services remotely can offer. Indeed, as we start to see some light at the end of the dark tunnel that has engulfed our society over the last year or so, telehealth has become a more permanent feature of our healthcare landscape.
This raises some interesting questions and some important issues about the near future of telehealth. We’re going to take a look at what we are likely to see as we emerge from the pandemic. What tools and practices could make a difference? What problems do we still need to solve?
Remote appointments are already starting to make our lives safer. Particularly for those in rural communities who may not have immediate access to doctors, telehealth means that medical professionals can visually assess conditions and give advice. However, as we move toward the future there needs to be an emphasis on how medical professionals can treat a wider range of conditions, preventing patients from taking the unnecessary risk of exacerbating their conditions by traveling to doctors’ offices.
Part of this involves producing an infrastructure with various providers that supports collaboration. Facilities must build relationships that allow them to assess a patient remotely, then hand off to a specialist, traveling nursing staff, or pharmacist who can visit patients to undertake further care. Alongside these relationships, it’s important to build, and frequently assess, robust protocols that ensure that these collaborations are undertaken efficiently and safely, without any points at which patient welfare slips through the net.