By Mike Braham, CEO, Trapollo
As the number of COVID-19 cases increases and social distancing measures remain, telehealth is making an integral contribution to healthcare. You could even say it has become a lifesaver.
A great way to reduce coronavirus spread and promote social distancing, telehealth enables stable patients to stay home while communicating with healthcare providers and receiving virtual medical care. It includes everything from making online appointments to conducting primary care visits through video chat – and is being adopted with greater frequency than ever.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “leveraging telemedicine whenever possible is the best way to protect patients and staff from COVID-19.”
Clearly, telehealth is an important tool that helps protect healthcare professionals and patients alike during these times. Yet even before the recent surge, telehealth visits were changing healthcare relationships for the better.
A January 2019 study published in The American Journal of Managed Care found that telehealth visits provide numerous benefits, including convenience for both the patients and healthcare providers.
The study concluded that virtual visits rated high among most patients, with most saying they would recommend telehealth appointments to family and friends. Patients also said it saved them the time it would take to visit to and from an appointment. Most patients and physicians said communication wasn’t lost through virtual visits.
For healthcare professionals, video visits are more efficient than in-office appointments, allowing them to see more patients each day. Telehealth also gives practices the option to extend hours without staffing an office. And recently, it has allowed healthcare professionals quarantined because of COVID-19 to treat patients remotely.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported that “as many as 100 healthcare workers at a single institution have been quarantined at home before of exposure to COVID-19 have raised concern about workforce capacity.” Quarantined physicians could cover telehealth visits, thus freeing up other staff for in-person care.
Other ways telehealth is being used and benefiting everyone during the pandemic include:
- Prescreening patients with coronavirus symptoms to assure they get the help they need
- Prioritizing patient needs through chatbots
- Monitoring quarantined patients without risking the health of others
- Engaging with non-infected patients, including those with chronic conditions, while reducing their exposure
- Protecting vulnerable populations, including those with chronic disease, from post-hospitalization complications through routine, safe monitoring
Interestingly, the 2020 Cox Consumer Pulse on COVID-19 and Telehealth, found only 28% of consumers reported their primary care physician offered telehealth services prior to the Coronavirus outbreak. That number jumped to 68% with access to telehealth services amid the pandemic. And moreover, nearly half of respondents had used telehealth in the last three months.
In April, the Federal Communications Commission approved a $200 million program to fund telehealth services and devices for medical providers, giving hospitals and other health centers the ability to apply for up to $1 million to cover costs of new devices, services and personnel. Additionally, the CARES Act is helping to fund healthcare organizations to jumpstart their telehealth and remote patient monitoring capability.
For those looking to implement telehealth technology, it’s important to closely evaluate options and choose a provider with not only a strong footprint in the industry, but the ability to scale and tailor telehealth programs to individual campus needs. This will help drive success in the near term, but also allow for effective implementation of new offerings as the industry evolves.
And once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, I’m confident telehealth will remain a part of American healthcare culture – a welcome part of the new treatment norm.