How COVID-19 Has Impacted Healthcare: Physician Sentiment and Telehealth
By Erin Fitzgerald, chief marketing officer, Sermo.
This year has presented a continuous string of unprecedented challenges around the world and in all aspects of life. Individuals, organizations and industries needed to adapt quickly to a “new normal,” which in some cases may prove to change the facets of healthcare delivery permanently.
Healthcare, typically known to be slow-moving with all of its complexities, has had to adjust rapidly to meet increasing patient cases and demands, creating problems which are hopefully only short term. For example, independent medical practices have been closing as they struggle to bring in revenue by losing patients “walking through the door.” In addition, over 1.4 million healthcare jobs have been lost since the beginning of the pandemic and the AHA estimated that America’s hospitals could lose $202.6 billion by the end of June.
Conversely, the pandemic has spurred innovation, adoption of tools and galvanized more efficient processes that actually demonstrate better success for patients and physicians. Taking a step back to look at the bigger health system, practices may never go back to their pre-pandemic ways due to this success – whether in efficiency, patient outcomes, physician workload or otherwise – revealing the lasting impact of COVID-19.
While the pandemic has significantly impacted the number of patients coming to the clinic, it has also spurred physician adoption of remote and telehealth treatment. These changes not only serve more people and provide more patient-centric care (e.g. allowing flexibility in scheduling, taking less time off work, filling out paperwork online at a person’s own convenience) but can also aid providers in maintaining a high level of care while streamlining processes and efficiency of their work. For example, telehealth systems can integrate patient records easily into a check-up and physicians can observe environmental factors of a patient’s health that they would not get in-office.
It is clear that COVID-19 is changing how medicine is practiced, such as what technology is being implemented, how patients are receiving care and figuring out adjusted treatment regimens that may be more successful. So, how will the pandemic permanently change medicine and the patient-provider relationship? How do providers feel about this time of transition and what will healthcare look like after the pandemic?
Telehealth has been an essential tool that has demonstrated its full value during this time. Physicians recognize the loss of revenue of not having patients coming into their practice, so they have used different telehealth tools to create a “virtual front door” to continue treating patients and keeping their business afloat.