How Telehealth-Care & Tele-Medicine has changed the Healthcare industry during this Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been inflicting mayhem with the healthcare industry around the world, telemedicine stepped up into the spotlight and enabled healthcare providers and primary caregivers to intervene and help citizens. Telemedicine has been making a healthy contribution to the healthcare system during the pandemic and is being utilised in a number of ways. Though there are certain telehealth technologies which come with a few constraints when it comes to primary care during the pandemic. Moreover, there is a possibility that telemedicine can be overwhelming for hospitals and caregivers if it is not used properly. Having said that, hospitals are able to adapt to telehealth during the covid crisis.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine enables medical professionals to assess, diagnose and treat patients at a long-distance with the help of telecommunication technology. The strategy has been through an impressive development in the previous decade and it is turning out to be an extremely vital part of the healthcare industry. The roots of telemedicine dates back to the 1950’s when only a few healthcare establishments and universities started to work on possibilities to share information and images using telephones.
In the beginning, telemedicine was used to unite doctors working with a patient in one destination to specialists located elsewhere. It was a great boon for rural establishments where there were no specialists available. In the following decades, the approach remained expensive and hence the use was limited. Now, due to the evolution of the internet, more changes have been welcomed with the help of telemedicine. The use of smart devices used for high-quality video transmission increased the possibilities of delivering remote healthcare to patients in their homes or in workplaces instead of in-person visits.
What is tele-healthcare?
The Health Resources Services Administration describes telehealth as the employment of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to assist long-distance healthcare, patient and health based education, public health and administration. The technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, storage and use of imaging, streaming media, terrestrial and wireless communications. As compared to telemedicines, telehealth offers a comprehensive scope of remote healthcare services. In that sense, telehealth can relate to non-clinical services too, like offering training, administrative tasks and meetings, medical education along with clinical services.
How have these two played a dynamic role for the Healthcare Industry?
Technology plays an essential role in various industries and it is the same for healthcare. Telemedicine and telehealth technology have enabled healthcare providers to diagnose, treat and monitor their patients efficiently. Telehealth is a recent technological advancement in healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us see how telemedicine and telehealth have played a crucial role for the healthcare industry.
Meeting Isolated Demand
There is an ever-increasing demand for isolated healthcare options. The evolution in the growing use of telehealth can be partially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing regulations. A recent statistics about telemedicine and millennials implicate that:
- More than 70% of millennials would prefer a remote consultation over in-person appointments.
- Around 70% of millennials look for remote booking capabilities.
- 60% support replacing in-person visits completely with telehealth.
As the millennials start having children, they will make for a significant part of the population and their wants/needs cannot be neglected. Moreover, remote care is crucial for the aging population and remote telehealthcare provides a safe option for aging individuals during the pandemic.
Accessible Solutions for Healthcare Providers
Prompt access to healthcare is not readily available specially healthcare access in a rural setting or in locations affected by a shortage of caregivers. According to a survey by HealthyPeople.gov study on access to health services, “A person’s ability to access health services has a profound effect on every aspect of his or her health, yet at the start of the decade, almost 1 in 4 Americans do not have a primary care provider (PCP) or health centre where they can receive regular medical services.” The study illustrates that by having access to reliable health services:
- Prevents diseases or disability
- Ease of detection/treatment of health conditions
- Enhance the quality of life
- Reduce the likelihood of premature death/increase life expectancy.
The latest telehealth competencies provide a swift and accessible solution to resolve rural access issues, caregiver shortage and pandemic caution.
Development of Healthcare Apps
As technology extends to intersect with more touchpoints around the healthcare industry, extra solutions and user-facing resources can assist to manage access and link patients with care providers. For example, there are multiple advantages to the use of mobile apps and digital apps in the healthcare domain but telehealth abilities have enhanced their efficiency.
A perfect example is how apps, devices and software can be utilised to remotely observe and treat patients. For instance, if a patient has a health issue which requires constant supervision. It would not be feasible to keep them in the hospital 24/7 and it would also not make sense to wait for something to happen to the person outside the hospital. Mobile applications can constantly monitor the person’s heartbeat and advise healthcare professionals about any major issues that may come up. Remote monitoring applications along with telehealth is a good option for patients that need frequent hospital visits.
Telehealth can impact healthcare access despite reducing costs. The cost savings for telemedicine is about $20 to $120 per visit to a healthcare facility. This is greatly a result of shifting patients from emergency rooms where a visit would cost around $1400 in 2017. In case you need to travel for a healthcare appointment, telehealth can curtail travel costs too. Additional cost saving can be noticed through:
- Patient retention
- Overhead cost reduction per patient per visit
- Improvement of quality care
- Legal risk minimization
- Future investments
Improving Quality of Care
As you enhance access, support remote demand needs, innovate and cut down costs, you significantly enhance the quality of care, patient satisfaction and positive patient results. This is due to the fact that:
- It concentrates on one-to-one conversation
- There are less obstacles in the way of treatment
- Greatly reduces the chances of exposure
- Makes follow-up visits easier
- Offers an option for imaging/testing results
- Provides good chronic condition monitoring
- Offers new methods for mental health treatment
- Enhances medication supervision.
Tips to Healthcare companies who are still in process to Adapt Tele-healthcare
Let us now shift our focus on health companies and what they can do to adapt Tele-healthcare.
- Speed up the development process of a consumer-integrated healthcare system. Think about an integrated healthcare product that will actually cover beyond what currently exists and integrate with what may have been previously the case in response to COVID-19.
- Categorise the patient populations and specialties whose online interactions could be updated with home-based diagnostics and equipment.
Develop the ability and incentive of the provider workforce to enable virtual care (for instance, workflow design, centralized scheduling and education), align advantage structure to drive adoption with the healthcare system.
- Gauge the value of virtual healthcare assistance by calculating the clinical outcomes, access improvement and patient satisfaction to provide continued coverage. Add the potential value from telehealth when associating with payers for various risk models to handle chronic patients.
- Think about strategies and logic to go beyond “telehealth” visit replacement to increase growth in novel markets and try to scale other apps like teleICU or acute care integration).
Just like any other implementation or technological advancement, tools, quality of care there are multiple challenges to consider in telemedicine and telehealth. It can create obstacles for both patients as well as healthcare providers. For instance, low income families or patients may not have proper access to smartphones or a computer and older patients may be technologically challenged. Similarly, for the healthcare providers they might face troubles with telehealth services payment or even troubleshooting technology issues. Moreover, some patients who would benefit from telehealth and telemedicine may be limited due to lack of internet connectivity or the high cost of mobile devices.
Dhruvil is a Writer & Marketeer for Nimblechapps, joining December 2014, based out of Sydney, Australia. He has worked briefly as a Branding and Digital Marketing Manager before moving to Australia. At Nimblechapps, he worked on Social Media Marketing, Branding, Email Marketing and Blogging. Dhruvil studies Business at University of Western Sydney, and also handles Operations for the company in Australia.